Medical marijuana has been all over the news recently after 33 states in the US, and many other countries around the world legalized the plant. A growing number of scientific studies backing up the use of the plant as medicine has convinced the governments of these states and countries. These experiments proved the wide range of health benefits that can be derived from cannabis. Since the legalization of this plant, you can find many health products and supplements being derived from medical cannabis.
When you shop for medical marijuana, either online or not, you might notice that the products are usually classified into three groups: sativa, indica, and hybrid. Each of these variants has a unique set of effects on the user. This article aims to clarify the differences between these three types of medical marijuana. This will give you a better understanding of the different kinds of weed, their characteristics, and the distinct therapeutic benefits that you can get from them.
Unique Traits of Sativa and Indica Plants
The term Cannabis, more commonly known as marijuana, refers to a genus of flowering plants belonging to the Cannabaceae family. It is one of the oldest crops cultivated by humans. Historians have records showing the use of this plant as early as 4,000 BC. Ancient civilizations in China and India used this plant for medicinal purposes primarily to relieve pain and to help cure other diseases.
While the exact number of species of the Cannabis genus is still disputed, two species have become popular in the scientific community: sativa and indica. They each have distinct characteristics that make them easy to distinguish from each other.
Sativa plants grow well in countries near the equator where the length of the day seldom changes during the year. This plant is cultivated in countries and regions like Thailand, southern Africa, and Mexico. This plant can grow up to 20 feet tall so is better suited to outdoor cultivation. This plant takes almost six months to fully mature and, on average, it has a flowering time of between 60 and 90 days. Its leaves are thin and narrow and light green in hue.
Indica plants, on the other hand, are best suited to the more severe climate typically found in the mountainous regions of the Indian subcontinent (hence the name indica), Central Asia and the Middle East. Compared to sativa, indica plants are shorter and bushier, specifically adapted to enable them to survive the harsher environment. They also have high resin production to protect the leaves and trunks from turbulent conditions. This plant also matures quickly but has a shorter average flowering time (45-60 days). Its shorter growth height and flowering time make it more suitable for indoor cultivation. Unlike sativa, it has thicker and wider leaves and is darker green in color.
Just like in dogs, cats, and other pets, cross-breeding is a common phenomenon in plant cultivation. After thousands of years of cultivating the plants, pure cannabis strains, either a true indica or a true sativa variety, are a rarity nowadays. Most cannabis strains these days will be a combination of the two species and be either sativa-dominant or indica-dominant, and with the advancement in agricultural science and technology, growers can cultivate hybrid strains that are customized for different uses.
- Ruderalis and Industrial Hemp: The Other Cannabis
While most medical journals only talk about sativa and indica, there is another type of cannabis known as ruderalis. It has physical features similar to indica. Aside from having thick foliage, it is also grown in harsher climates, like that found in the northern regions of the world such as Russia. It is the shortest cannabis variant, with an average height of 20-25 inches, and since it is grown in very cold areas, it matures early and has a fast flowering cycle.
Ruderalis contains harmful substances that can severely affect the brain. Hence, it is only cultivated by breeders and cultivators for experimentation and genetics.
Industrial hemp is a variety of the cannabis sativa plant. This plant is grown exclusively for industrial use. It can be processed and refined into different commercial items, including paper, clothing, textiles, paint, insulation materials, biodegradable plastics, biofuel, food ingredient, and animal feed.
Healing Properties of Sativa and Indica
Each species can affect the mind and body of a person differently. So, knowing the difference between the two will be very useful if you’re a patient seeking treatment using medical marijuana. According to research, here are some of the diseases and health conditions the two species can cure.
- Sativa for Day
Scientists discovered that sativa contains substances that can uplift the mood of a person. Moreover, this plant also has chemicals that can increase the mental capacity of a person. It has properties that can improve focus and creativity and can also make a person more alert.
Because of these qualities, medical sativa is prescribed to relieve depression and attention deficit disorder (ADD). It can also be used to fight fatigue and creative blocks. It also has pain relieving qualities and can even stimulate the production of serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for regulating mood, learning, sleep, and appetite. With these properties, sativa is often used during the day.
- Indica for Night
Indica contains compounds that induce a sedative and relaxing effect on the body. It can also calm the whole body, which makes it a perfect companion for relaxation and during meditation. It has properties that relieve stress and anxiety. Indica has a drowsy effect that can induce sleep, making this plant ideal to be used at night.
Indica can relieve insomnia and anxiety attacks, and it can also provide relief for nausea and chronic pain. What’s more, it can stimulate the appetite.
- Hybrid: Best of Both Worlds
With the help of modern science, researchers were able to produce hybrids that contain both the qualities of sativa and indica. Hybrids are classified into three types: sativa-dominant, balanced, and indica-dominant.
- With the sativa-dominant type, users can experience an active brain while experiencing a relaxed body feeling; the sativa-dominant hybrid is often used for relaxing both mentally and physically.
- The balanced type has an equal ratio of sativa and indica This is typically used to provide an overall beneficial effect for both the mind and the body.
- The indica-dominant type can put your body in a sedated state, but it only has a mild effect in your mind. Indica-dominant keeps you mentally awake while you feel a calm and relaxed sensation all over your body.
When deciding which type of medical marijuana to use, you’ll first need to establish the purpose for buying the weed. Do you want your body and mind to be stimulated for the day? Then purchase the sativa. If you want an effective sleeping aid and effective pain reliever, indica would be best for you. However, if you want the best of both worlds, pick the hybrid type.
As each of these three types has a different effect on the body, be sure to select the right strain and use according to the recommended dosage. Like any medicine, an overdose can cause harmful side effects. Since all the strains can affect the mind, experts caution users to take the correct dose of marijuana to avoid complications.
CBD: The Medical Compound from Weed
The three-type classification simplifies what effects each type has on the body. However, the effects of cannabis can be more complex and confusing in real life. As mentioned above, most cannabis strains nowadays are a mixture of sativa and indica. Thus, users cannot be sure if they will get the stimulating property of sativa or the calming property of indica. To get only the healing properties of cannabis from both species, scientists extract a substance called cannabidiol (CBD), which is present in all types of cannabis, including ruderalis, and industrial hemp.
When medical marijuana experts and researchers talk about medical marijuana, they often refer to CBD. CBD is one of at least 113 cannabinoids or substances that can be extracted from cannabis. Experts believe that this liquid is responsible for all the healing properties of weed. Just recently, CBD was declared safe for medical use by the WHO. The global body also provided a list of diseases that CBD can cure. Here are some of them:
- Treatment of pimples and other skin diseases
- Relief for chronic pain because of CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties
- Capacity to rewire, heal and protect the nerves
- Relieves symptoms of neurological diseases like epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease
- Treatment for anxiety and depression
- Can improve the functioning of the heart and the cardiovascular system
- Treatment for substance abuse
- Can ease cancer symptoms
As you can see, most of these diseases are the ones cured by either sativa or indica.
Medical marijuana is now a popular medicine in the US and other parts of the world. You can now order medicinal weed online or offline. But before self-medicating with cannabis, be sure to consult a physician first to avoid experiencing the dangerous side-effects of wrong use and overdosage.