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ANJA Presents: Understanding Indicas and Sativas

Ashley Robins
May 15, 2023

Welcome back to ANJA's blog, your trusted guide in the cannabis landscape. Today, we're debunking myths and uncovering truths about cannabis categorizations, particularly sativa, and indica. In light of recent research, these classifications seem less accurate than initially believed. Instead, the focus should shift to understanding the cannabinoid and terpene composition of each strain to ascertain its effects.


Cannabis, a multifaceted plant with a myriad of compounds, is most famously represented by the Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica strains. Over time, these strains have evolved distinct characteristics, leading to differing effects upon consumption.

Often, sativa strains are linked to stimulating and energizing highs, ideal for daytime use or creative boosts. Indica strains, conversely, are recognized for their relaxing, sedative effects, perfect for unwinding after a long day. However, the secret behind these differing effects lies within each strain's unique blend of cannabinoids and terpenes.

Cannabinoids and Terpenes:

Cannabinoids, chemical compounds in cannabis, interact with our endocannabinoid system, influencing aspects such as mood, appetite, pain perception, and sleep. The most renowned cannabinoids are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which induces the psychoactive "high," and CBD (cannabidiol), recognized for its potential therapeutic effects sans the intoxicating psychoactive high.

According to cannabis legend, both sativa and indica strains contain these cannabinoids, just in varying proportions. Sativa strains often have a higher THC content, contributing to their uplifting effects, while indica strains usually boast balanced THC and CBD levels, leading to a more calming and sedative experience.

Terpenes- aromatic compounds that provide unique scents and flavors to cannabis strains- interact with cannabinoids, enhancing or altering their effects: a phenomenon termed the "entourage effect." For instance, the terpene myrcene, often found in indica strains, is known for its sedative properties and can amplify the relaxing effects of THC and CBD.

Factors outside of Cannabinoids:

The experience and strength of a cannabis strain can be influenced by various factors, from growing conditions and cultivation techniques to the style of the final product. Here's a closer look at some of these influencing factors:

  • Growing Conditions: The quality and characteristics of a cannabis strain can be significantly influenced by the conditions in which it was grown. Factors such as lighting, temperature, humidity, and the quality of the soil or growth medium can all affect the plant's development.

  • Cultivation Techniques: Different cultivation techniques can also affect the potency and characteristics of a cannabis strain. For instance, the use of organic fertilizers may result in a different terpene profile compared to synthetic fertilizers. Techniques such as topping or low-stress training can also impact the plant's growth and the quality of its buds.

  • Harvest Time: The time at which the cannabis plant is harvested can significantly affect the potency and effects of a strain. If harvested too early, the plant may not have reached its full potential in terms of cannabinoid and terpene production. Conversely, if harvested too late, some of the THC may have converted to CBN, a cannabinoid with more sedative effects.

  • Individual Factors: Finally, the strength and experience of a cannabis strain can also be influenced by individual factors such as a person's metabolism, tolerance, and endocannabinoid system. What might be a potent strain for one person might not be as strong for another due to these individual differences.

Because growing conditions have such a monumental impact on the quality and reliability of cannabis products, ANJA takes significant care to only source from the best and most sustainable NJ cultivators and manufacturers. Your experience should be as reliable as it is unique- and we are here to make that happen.

Indicas and Sativas: Under Fire

Lately, the traditional sativa and indica classifications have been under scrutiny. Recent research, including a study by Dalhousie University and Bedrocan International, suggests that strains labeled as indica or sativa are often more similar than different. The study also revealed inconsistencies in strain names, indicating that these names and indica-sativa labels may not be the best predictors of a strain's effects.

This revelation suggests that as the legal cannabis industry grows, it's paramount to refine the labeling of cannabis strains and improve the accuracy of communicating their effects. Mislabeling can lead to user frustration and potentially undesirable health outcomes, particularly for medical cannabis users who rely on specific strains for symptom relief. It's essential to look beyond the traditional categories of sativa and indica, focusing instead on the specific cannabinoid and terpene profiles of a strain. This information offers a more reliable guide to understanding a strain's potential effects.

In conclusion, the stringent categorization of cannabis strains as either indica or sativa may not consistently predict their effects accurately. A better approach lies in understanding the specific concentrations of cannabinoids and terpenes in a strain. This empirical approach equips consumers with the knowledge to make informed choices and fosters safer and more effective use of cannabis. So, stay curious, explore various strains, and relish the journey of discovering your unique relationship with cannabis.

A Quick Guide to Common Cannabinoid Effects:

Cannabinoids are the primary active compounds found in cannabis and are primarily responsible for its various effects. Please note that research, while promising, is still in its early stage and has room for growth and change. That being said, here's a brief guide categorizing some of the most common cannabinoids based on their effects:

  • THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol): This is the most well-known cannabinoid and the one primarily responsible for the psychoactive effects, or "high," associated with cannabis. THC can induce euphoria, a sense of calm, and altered sensory experiences. It also has potential therapeutic properties, such as pain relief, nausea control, and appetite stimulation. Too much THC, however, may increase feelings of anxiety for some - hence why it is important to start with a lower dosage and experiment from there. 

  • CBD (Cannabidiol): CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid known for its potential therapeutic benefits. It can help to counteract some of the psychoactive effects of THC, reducing feelings of anxiety or paranoia. CBD has been studied for its potential use in relieving pain, reducing inflammation, controlling seizures, and managing mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. Interestingly, CBD can increase eye pressure, making products high in CBD not best-suited for those with glaucoma. On the other hand, CBG can decrease eye pressure, making strains high in CBG good options for glaucoma patients.

  • CBG (Cannabigerol): CBG is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that is present in low quantities in most cannabis strains. However, it's increasingly being recognized for its potential therapeutic benefits. Preliminary research suggests that CBG might have anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and anti-nausea effects. 

  • CBN (Cannabinol): CBN is a mildly psychoactive cannabinoid that is created when THC degrades. Although it's less potent than THC, CBN is thought to enhance a sedative effect when combined with THC, making it beneficial for individuals looking for potential sleep aids or muscle relaxants.

  • CBC (Cannabichromene): CBC is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that is less well-known but shows promise in preliminary research. It might have anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects, and there's some evidence to suggest it might promote brain growth, but again - research is still in the early stages and the evidence may change with future discovery.

A Quick Guide to Common Terpene Effects:

If you're seeking an energizing, uplifting experience, opt for strains with terpenes such as pinene, limonene, and terpinolene, known for promoting alertness, memory retention, stress relief, and mood elevation.

On the other hand, for a more calming effect, choose strains with balanced THC and CBD levels, complemented by terpenes like myrcene, linalool, and caryophyllene, associated with relaxation, sedative properties, and potential pain relief.

Remember, your personal body chemistry, tolerance, and the specific chemical profile of the strain can significantly influence your experience. Always start with small doses, gradually increasing until you find your sweet spot. To help you along, here's a brief, non-exhaustive guide to the terpenes to look for based on your desired experiences:

For an Uplifting and Energizing Experience:

  • Pinene: Associated with alertness and memory retention, pinene has a pine-like aroma. It's commonly found in strains like Jack Herer and Blue Dream.

  • Limonene: Known for mood-enhancing and stress-relieving properties, limonene has a citrusy scent. It's often found in strains like Super Lemon Haze and Tangie.

  • Terpinolene: With a complex aroma of citrus, floral, and herbs, terpinolene is typically found in sativa-dominant strains and is associated with uplifting effects. Look for strains like Ghost Train Haze and Golden Goat.

For a Relaxing and Restful Experience:

  • Myrcene: Known for its sedative effects, myrcene has an earthy, herbal aroma. It's often found in strains like Granddaddy Purple and Northern Lights.

  • Linalool: Linalool, with a floral scent reminiscent of lavender, is believed to have calming and relaxing properties. It can be found in strains like Lavender and Amnesia Haze.

  • Caryophyllene: With a spicy, peppery aroma, caryophyllene interacts with the body's endocannabinoid system and may have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. Strains like Skywalker OG and Bubba Kush typically contain caryophyllene.

Please note that these recommendations are based on common terpene associations and individual experiences may vary. It's essential to explore different strains and terpene profiles to discover what suits you best. Remember, the effects of terpenes can be influenced by other factors, such as the presence of other cannabinoids in the strain.

We are here to help you on your journey; when you have questions, we have ANJA.

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