Indica, Sativa, Ruderalis – The Essential Guide | International Highlife
Indica vs Sativa vs Ruderalis Diffrences

Indica, Sativa, Ruderalis – The Essential Guide

Indica, Sativa, Ruderalis – what are they? Well, the cannabis plant is incredibly diverse. It grows in every continent of the world except for Antarctica – and in different areas of the world, the local plants appear different, as they have evolved to deal with specific local environmental conditions. In different regions, distinct types have evolved, which have been named Cannabis indica, C. sativa and C. ruderalis.

Cannabis originally comes from Asia. It’s not known exactly where it comes from, but researchers over the years have pointed to a region of central Asia that covers parts of Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and Nepal. No surprise that some of the world’s best hashish and weed come from these areas!

Sativa vs Indica vs Ruderalis: What’s What?

In the more southerly reaches of India (as well as Thailand and much of SE Asia), where it’s hot and tropical, we find a type that we traditionally call Cannabis sativa. A thousand kilometers or so north of that, in Pakistan and Afghanistan, we find a type that we call Cannabis indica. And even further north of that, in the cold steppes of northern Kazakhstan, Russia and Mongolia, we find a type that we call Cannabis ruderalis.

Now, let’s explain a little more about those types. First off, what do they look like?



Cannabis Sativa: Child of the Tropics

Sativa Weed

Cannabis sativa is the tall, graceful sister. Often growing to a height of three meters or more, she has long, widely-spaced branches and narrow, slender leaves. Her flowers grow in clusters along her branches.

Lower-yielding varieties usually finish with small, delicate buds dotted along the branches. Higher yielders end up with massive flower clusters that can be as long and thick as your arm! This growing pattern allows airflow through branches and flowers, which helps the plant endure the hot, humid temperatures and avoid mold.

Cannabis Indica: Rugged Mountain Queen

Indica Weed

Compared to sativa, Cannabis indica is the short, thick sister – and no less attractive by any measure! She grows to just one meter or so and has tightly-spaced branches and fat, wide leaves. Her flowers grow in tight, fat nugs, and she produces a huge amount of resin – great for making hashish or cannabis extracts!

Her compact, tightly-packed structure protects her from the cold, windy conditions common in her mountainous homeland. She is aggressively seasonal and starts flowering as soon as the days become short enough to indicate that winter is approaching.

Cannabis Ruderalis: Wildling of the Frozen North

Ruderalis Weed

Lastly, Cannabis ruderalis is the wild, mysterious sister with unique hidden gifts. She is much smaller and thinner than her two big sisters, and her sparse flowers do not produce much resin at all – but her unique ability to autoflower is what makes her essential to many breeders worldwide. This ability again is an adaptation to local conditions – she lives in regions with summers so short that plants must flower automatically to finish in time.

Now that we’ve discussed the appearance of these three types of cannabis in a little more detail let’s talk about the flavors, aromas and effects they possess, and their usefulness for medicinal and recreational users.

Cannabinoids & Terpenes: Potency, Flavor & Aroma

In all varieties of cannabis – indica, sativa, ruderalis – certain compounds contribute to the strain’s aroma, flavor and potency. Arguably the most important of these compounds are the cannabinoids, including THC, CBD, CBG and so on. Also extremely fundamental are a set of molecules based on carbon and hydrogen – the terpenes, which determine the aroma and flavor.

Terpenes don’t just determine the aroma and flavor of cannabis, but may also interact with cannabinoids to produce enhanced psychoactive and medicinal effects.

One way to look at it is this: THC percentage determines how potent the strain is, while CBD works against the THC to reduce the strength of the psychoactive effect. But the subtle differences that make one cannabis strain sedative while another is uplifting may be more to do with terpene profile than with cannabinoids. Let’s see how that works…

Indica: Sedative, High in CBD & Myrcene

To begin with, Cannabis indica varieties are well-known for causing a more sedative effect in the user. They’re useful for medical users with chronic pain, insomnia, stress, and panic attacks, among other illnesses. This fact was long thought to be related to differing levels of THC, CBD and other cannabinoids – but now, research is showing that this may not be the whole story.

In very general terms, Cannabis indica strains have higher levels of CBD compared to sativa strains, which contain almost no CBD. This may indicate that CBD is responsible for the more sedative effect of THC – but in fact, research is showing it’s not so simple.

Two commercial strains with “indica” type appearance and effect may actually contain surprisingly different ratios of THC and CBD, but will often contain very similar terpene profiles. In particular, one terpene that keeps coming up in tests of indica strains is myrcene. Further tests have shown that myrcene and THC interact to produce a high that is more sedative and “couch-lock” than THC alone.

Sativa: Uplifting, High in THC, Limonene & Pinene

Compared with Cannabis indica, sativa varieties have higher THC content and much less CBD. They are generally much more uplifting and cerebral than their indica sisters and are particularly useful for fatigue, depression, and many other conditions. Their uplifting nature could well be a direct result of their high THC levels – but as well as THC, sativas contain terpenes that interact with THC to produce even more stimulating effects, such as limonene and pinene.

Ruderalis: Low in Cannabinoids, Some Fragrant Terpenes

Ruderalis varieties often have higher levels of CBD and very little THC compared to their southerly sisters. But overall, they don’t have high levels of cannabinoids at all, and may not have an enjoyable taste! However, they contain relatively high levels of myrcene and caryophyllene, two aromatic, floral-smelling terpenes.

Just One Last Thing…

Within the industry, there is great confusion surrounding the names for sativa, indica and ruderalis. This probably won’t make much difference to most consumers, but it’s always good to stay up to date with the research.

According to an essential recent taxonomic analysis, the type found in India should be named Cannabis indica rather than Cannabis sativa. Cannabis indica should be named Cannabis afghanica, to reflect both countries of origin correctly.

Lastly, what we now call Cannabis ruderalis should be named Cannabis sativa. “Sativa” means “cultivated” in Latin, and it’s likely that most hemp-like populations found growing wild in Europe and Asia descend from cultivated crops.

31 responses to “Indica, Sativa, Ruderalis – The Essential Guide”

  1. Avatar Joe says:

    Very informative!

  2. Henry Mitchell says:

    Very good information I have been smoking marijuana for medicinal purposes for 30 years now since I was 13years old and I will be 43 years old on June 12th and I never knew this information about the different types of marijuana!!!!

  3. Skeeter says:

    Great article, learned a lot reading it. Will be sharing this among friends.

    • Seshata says:

      Thanks so much!! Glad you enjoyed the article 🙂

      • Shelly says:

        My son runs a dispensary in Oregon. Very proud of him . Just returned from Oregon and your article is very informative. Exactly how he explained it to me. Keep up the good work. People need to be informed on all the benefits of cannibis medically. ITS NOT A GATEWAY DRUG! ITS A MIRACLE DRUG THATS BEEN IGNORED LONG ENOUGH.

  4. Already knew this says:

    Ruderalis is actually a ditch weed and afghanic generally gets lumped with indica. Ruderalis if anything is just used to shorten flowering times and would actually not do much of anything except give you a headache. There are actually 4 strains…..indica sativa afghanica and ruderalis. Although legal it is all canabis sativa. My information was sourced from the marijuana horticulture the indoor/outdoor medical growers bible.

  5. Sonja says:

    Why are there cats in this article?

    • Seshata says:

      Cats? What are YOU smoking? =)

      • Adrian says:

        There’s a post on facebook that shows 2 cats. One is happy and dancing around, and the other is real chill and calm. It’s representing the difference between indica and sativa with cats lol. Then there’s a “learn more” button that links to this article.

    • Kelly Cole says:

      I saw the cats too and I haven’t smoked yet. In fact I was searching fir them to show my daughter cause I love them

  6. Adam says:

    Going to Amsterdam in 2 weeks. Will smoke only sativa,lots of saliva
    Thank you so much for the info

  7. Ronel says:

    Thank u…i suffer from Lupas and went off prescription meds a couple of years ago and started smoking… Indica is the best form of treatment to replace any sedative anti depressants anti anxiety seizure and sleeping medication…..🤘🤘🤘…no seizures in 2yrs

  8. HIthere says:

    totally helped me identify some plants growing. They were passed off as OG Cush seeds, but are clearly Ruderalis. Thanks much for the great info. Nice to have the knowledge.

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    Hi FAM text Me for some real good top shelf marijuana and cannabis oils and more +14373709878

  10. Ripple17 says:

    Awesome info !
    Thanks
    Join 🙂

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    pm me i sell G pen elite vaporizer for only 99euros instead of 170 euros

  12. Costea cristi says:

    Very awesome info !!!

  13. Great website! I am loving it!! Will come back again. I am taking your feeds also

  14. Sara says:

    You have mixed up sativa and indica, it’s the other way around! “Cannabis sativa ssp. indica” is the type of cannabis containing much TCH, while “Cannabis sativa” contains a lot of CBD but nearly no THC.

    You problaby wouldn’t have much fin smoking Cannabis sativa 🙂

    Get your facts straight!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannabis_indica

  15. MommaMia says:

    Great to know the difference and what to look for to meet my needs.

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