For too long, and even now, cannabis has been broken down into a binary of indica vs. sativa, with hybrid being thrown in to mean a bit of a mix of the two.
It’s become generally accepted as a hard truth that “indica” cannabis products are believed to produce sedative, calming effects (why some people call indicas “in da couch”), while those called “sativa” give off energizing and euphoric effects. Hybrid cannabis strains are thought to be a little of column a, and a little of column b, with a more even, smooth effect that’s neither highly energizing or sedative.
Are All Strains Hybrid Strains?
What if we told you this wasn’t truly accurate? What if we told you that there’s really no such thing as indica, sativas, and hybrids? Or at least, that all cannabis strains are hybrids?
The legalization of the cannabis plant has allowed us to finally learn more about the plant that has been a part of people’s lives for centuries. One big discovery is the realization that labeling cannabis strains as hybrid, sativa, or indica is an oversimplification of a very complex plant. We’ll explain a bit here, as at Compassionate Clinics of America, we are always concerned with giving our patients the tools of knowledge to help them in their medical cannabis journey.
Where Did Indica, Sativa & Hybrid Come From?
It wasn’t until the 18th century that scientists began to try to understand the cannabis plant, finding that it was from the Cannabinaceae family of plants, and it was given the botanical name of cannabis sativa L., In 1783, French biologist Jean Baptiste Lamark proposed that “cannabis indica” was another form of the plant.
To him, what he labeled as indica appeared to be short, with thick, stubby leaves, where what he saw as sativa were tall with thinner leaves. This led to him believing and pushing the belief that the two different kinds of cannabis plant produced different effects.
There essentially came two different viewpoints about cannabis: that it was either monotypic, as in there was only one type, or Lamark’s polytypic view, which believes there are two (or more) types of cannabis.
Over the years and decades, scientists essentially flipped-flopped on whether there was more than one type of cannabis plant. It has been settled once and for all with the rise of molecular biology, which observes the plant at the molecular level, concluding that all cannabis is cannabis sativa, and there is really no such thing as an indica plant, a hybrid plant, or a sativa. In fact, it could be argued that all cannabis plants, cultivars (“strains”), and products are hybrids. Here’s why.
Terpene Profiles for “Hybrid” Cannabis Effects
Despite us knowing that there isn’t really such a thing as indica, sativa, or hybrid, this myth is still perpetuated on the modern legal cannabis market. It’s highly likely that patients who get their medical cannabis certification card will see products at a dispensary that are labeled indica, sativa, or hybrid. Here we’ll help you understand why that is.
It all comes down to terpenes.
Terpenes are the compounds in cannabis that provide different aromas, flavors, and effects. Terpenes exist in ALL nature, not just cannabis, and we’re all surrounded by terpenes every day. When you cut into a lemon or orange peel, that citrusy smell you get is the energizing terpene limonene. When you inhale some lavender, that’s the terpene linalool, which is known to bring calm and sedation. Here is a helpful terpene chart:
Terpene profiles are the mix or blend of terpenes that are present in a specific cannabis cultivar (“strain”). Some cannabis products may have terpene profiles that when working in harmony lead to a more sedative and calming effect, while other terpene profiles may lead to energy and wanting to get up and do something. It’s these effects, not a difference in the plant structure, that determine whether a product is indica, sativa, or hybrid.
Dr. Ethan Russo, a prominent cannabis researcher offered us The Entourage Effect, which describes that cannabinoids and terpenes are much more effective when working in harmony than when they’re working alone.
The cannabis industry still uses indica, sativa, and hybrid to help people understand that certain terpene profiles will lead to different effects.
Understanding Product Labels & Classifications
When choosing your cannabis product, there is a spectrum of effects that one could experience due to terpene profile and cannabinoid content as well. Here’s a general descriptor of what to expect when looking for cannabis products and seeing certain things on their label:
Sativa – Sativa cultivars and products are known for their energizing, euphoric effects. Terpene blends in this product category are known to arouse, uplift, and get you moving.
Sativa-Dominant Hybrid – Sativa-dominant hybrid strains are known to be energizing yet contain a calming balance.
Indica-Dominant Hybrid – Indica-dominant hybrid strains and products contain blends of terpenes that are known to bring calming and relaxing effects.
Indica – Indica cultivars and products have terpene blends that are known for sedating, usually great for when you really want to sink into the couch.
Beyond Indica, Sativa & Hybrid Cannabis
At Compassionate Clinics of America, it’s our goal to keep our patients up on the knowledge as they navigate the complex plant of cannabis. We are so encouraged by the research that is finally being undertaken so that we can begin to understand the plant with precision.
We are excited to offer medical cannabis certifications in Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maine, Virginia, Texas, Louisiana, West Virginia, Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, Georgia & Minnesota and are dedicated to continuing to educate people about cannabis medicine, while ensuring that medical cannabis certifications are accessible, affordable, and efficient.
If you’re interested to explore cannabinoids, terpenes, and different types of cannabis products with the support of a medical team, connect with us to Get Your Medical Cannabis Certification and reimagine health and wellness along with us.