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  • Writer's pictureHive Mendocino

Indica, Sativa, Hybrid: How Are They Different?

The Indica, Sativa, and Hybrid categories have acted as our cannabis compass for many years, but are these categories really the best guide to determining a cultivar's high? As more studies emerge, we're learning that other factors may contribute to how we'll feel after finishing a joint more than these three standard categories. Next time you're shopping for the perfect strain, we hope the following information will help you make your decision more accurately.

The plant's structure.

For growers, the Indica and Sativa label often refers to the structure and growth characteristics of the plant. Indicas usually have broad leaves, are shorter and more compact in size, and typically have a shorter maturity timeframe. Sativas, on the other hand, will be taller, their leaflets longer and more narrow, and the time they take to reach full maturity about a week longer than their Indica sisters.

But nowadays, nearly every cultivar out there is technically a Hybrid, a cross between Sativa/Sativa-leaning and Indica/Indica-leaning parents. While the chosen cultivar may be heavily dominated by one category, it's genotype and phenotype can create a plant that is unique in its class. This can be the case for its effects, too, leading us to dive deeper into each strain's chemical makeup when determining the possible outcome for consumers.

Cannabinoids & Terpenes

More important than the classification, cannabinoids and terpenes will give you the best idea of what kind of "high" a strain will produce. There are more than 100 different cannabinoids and 200 known terpenes found in cannabis. For cannabinoids, knowing the CBD and THC content will be the most influential. For terpenes: myrcene, caryophyllene, limonene, and terpinolene are the most likely to show up on lab results.


There is no correlation between high THC or high CBD and the "Indica" or "Sativa" classification. Regardless of the category, a strain can be high or low in THC or CBD content. One thing we know for sure is THC is responsible for the psychoactive "high" cannabis produces, and CBD is a non-psychoactive compound used for its medicinal properties. Cultivars that have high levels of THC can cause paranoia for some consumers, so if you're trying to avoid the anxious feeling that sometimes accompanies a high, rather than searching for a "Sativa" or "Indica," look for a lower THC content or a cultivar with a balanced CBD to THC ratio. Higher THC levels can also increase hunger, help patients relieve pain, alleviate depression, and tackle insomnia. Therefore, finding the right potency for you is essential to enjoying your experience. The best word of advice when it comes to THC is to start small and work your way up. If you're looking for little to no psychoactive effects but still want the medicinal value cannabis has to offer, a high-CBD strain (like Hive Mendocino's Golden Pineapple) may be perfect for you.


Terpenes are responsible for each strain's aroma and are found in many different fruits and flowers beyond cannabis.

Terpinolene is generally found in Sativas and Hybrids, giving off a piney, herbal aroma. It is commonly found in strains such as Jack Herer, Golden Goat, or Ghost Train Haze, and it is believed to offer energizing and uplifting effects. However, when combined with Linalool, a terpene known for its relaxing properties, mild sedative effects can occur.

Myrcene is the most common terpene found in cannabis, thought to induce the euphoric calm associated with cannabis strains like Hive Mendocino's OG Kush and Blue Dream.

Caryophyllene is often found in strains originating from the Cookies family, like Hive Mendocino's GSC. Its unique peppery aroma is easily detectable and is present in many hybrids known for relaxation and anxiety-reduction. Remember, though, that if the strain is high in THC, that alone can induce anxiety. So, if you're looking for a cultivar that will help calm your nerves, couple a terpene profile high in Caryophyllene with a lower THC content.

Commonly associated with fruity or citrusy aromas, Limonene is believed to lower stress levels for the consumer and offer an uplifted mood. You can find this terpene in strains like Strawberry Banana and Tahoe OG.

*Because the terpene profile can be affected by growing techniques, genetics, and curing procedures, asking to see a cultivar's lab results will be the best way to determine what terpenes are present.

Instead of asking for an Indica, Sativa, or Hybrid when shopping, ask for potency and terpene profiles to better understand each cultivar's effect. After a while, you'll start to know what families of cultivars typically work best for you or what aromas often present your desired results. You'll also learn what potency is perfect for your body based on your tolerance and personal preference. Hive Mendocino can provide our bulk buyers with terpene and cannabinoid profiles for all our available strains so you can gather a better understanding of how your consumers will enjoy them. If you have any questions, reach out to us anytime. If you're ready to reserve a batch of our bulk wholesale cannabis today, you can fill out a Wholesale Account Form on our website to get started.

Photo by: Chris Butler

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