The Myth of Indica and Sativa
Updated: Feb 5
One of my biggest pet peeves about the cannabis industry is hearing budtenders (and other people) ask me if I prefer Indica or Sativa. I usually cringe a little and side step the question by saying that doesn’t matter to me, I want to see and smell what you’ve got and then I’ll make my decision.
Sometimes I get irritated and I want to yell, “There is nothing substantial about that question at all!” A few years ago nobody gave a damn whether it was Indica or Sativa. Except for the growers, and now we know we didn’t have the proper understanding of Cannabis species when we spoke about it based on its growth pattern and maturation time.
A couple of weeks ago I was on The Real Dirt Podcast talking to the host, Chip Baker (who also happens to be my husband) about the taxonomy of cannabis and this myth of Indica and Sativa. It was a great episode really going deep into what botanists and ethnobotanists have come to hypothesize about Cannabis. I’m going to go into it a little here, but to hear the juicy details and personal rants, check out the The Taxonomy of Cannabis episode!
The Myth of Indica and Sativa
There is a commonly held belief that Indica are short, stout, broad leaf plants that are physically sedating or relaxing and Sativa are tall, narrow leaf plants that are invigorating and uplifting when ingested. There is actually no truth to this belief, but it continues to be perpetuated online and in dispensaries throughout the world. The (present) reality is that the myriad of cultivars that we smoke/ingest are all Indica.
After years of rigorous research from botanists and ethnobotanists, there are still different theories regarding the evolution of cannabis taxonomy, but what is widely accepted by most is that it is C. indica is the vast majority of biotypes in North America and that C. sativa includes only European hemp. In Robert C. Clarke and Mark Merlin, PhD’s comprehensive text, Cannabis Evolution & Ethnobotany, they discuss the history of cannabis biotypes from several different perspectives, the most plausible being from Karl Hillig, PhD.
CANNABIS BIOTYPES ACCORDING TO HILLIG (2005)Acronym & BiotypeBinomialEarly RangeUsesPA-
Putative AncestorC. ruderalisNorthern
Central AsiaPossible- seed and crude fiberPHA- Putative
Hemp AncestorUnrecognized or ExtinctBalkan peninsula
Caucasus MtnsPossible- seed and crude fiberNLHA- Narrow leaf
Hemp AncestorC. sativa ssp. spontaneaEastern Europe
Central AsiaSeed and crude fiberNLH- Narrow leaf HempC. sativa ssp. sativa EuropeSeed and textile fiberPDA- Putative
Drug Ancestor Unrecognized or ExtinctHengduan Mtns
Yungui PlateauPossible ritual and medicinalBLHA- Broad leaf
Hemp AncestorUnrecognized or ExtinctEastern AsiaPossible seed and crude fiberBLH- Broad leaf HempC. indica ssp. chinensisChina, Korea, Japan, Southeast AsiaSeed and textile fiberNLDA- Narrow leaf
Drug Ancestor C. indica ssp. kafiristanica Himalayan Foothills- Kashmir to MyanmarEuphoria- hashish, “marijuana”NLD- Narrow leaf DrugC. indica ssp. indica South & SE Asia,
Middle EastEuphoria- hashish, “marijuana,” fiber, seedBLD- Broad leaf DrugC. indica ssp. afghanica N. Afghanistan, PakistanEuphoria- hashish
As you can see from the chart, the only ancestor of C. sativa hails from the Balkan Peninsula. The ancestor of C. sativa ssp. spontanea is a Narrow Leaf Hemp Ancestory from Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and the modern C. sativa spp. sativa is Narrow Leaf Hemp from Europe. Both the ancestor and the modern C. sativa have been used as seed and crude fiber, not for intoxication/euphoria, as in the case of the Narrow Leaf and Broad Leaf Drug C. indica.
I know this news is hard to accept for some, but we already know that it is the cannabinoids (THC, CBD, CBC, etc) and the terpenoids (myrcene, pinene, limonene, etc) that elicit the therapeutic, invigorating, sedating, and other affects that are associated with ingestion of cannabis. Since we know that it is the cannabinoids and terpenoids that produce the favorable (and sometimes adverse) effects, why do we keep saying it is because it is an Indica or Sativa?
It is time we stopped disseminating misinformation and educate ourselves about the true properties of cannabis (or what we know so far). Remember there are well over 100 cannabinoids and we have identified only a handful. We still have a very long way to go before we truly understand what contributes to the therapeutic and euphoric effects of cannabis.
To learn more about terpenes and other aromatic and medicinal plants, watch my videos on Youtube!
You can also check out my Baker Botanica 5 Element Essential Oil blends (fyi: the Balance/Earth Element contains Hemp essential oil!)
Whether you prefer Indica or Sativa, I always appreciate your support.
when energy flows, wellness grows
Featured image: unknown (but thank you!)