What do "Indica" and "Sativa" Really Mean?

What do "Indica" and "Sativa" Really Mean?

Most cannabis consumers have encountered words “indica” and “sativa” countless times, yet very few people know that those words are completely misused.

Botanical research of the cannabis plant dates back several hundred years, with the classification of Cannabis sativa established in 1753 and Cannabis indica in 1785, published by European botanists Carl Linnaeus & Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, respectively. Modern botanists still consider those to be the names of two main species of cannabis. Cannabis strains that produce tall plants with narrow leaves are categorized as sativa, whereas the shorter, bushier, broad leafed plants are categorized as indica.

According to the comprehensive research conducted by scientists at Indiana University for the American Journal of Botany, the difference between the two species has mostly to do with the geographical origin and for which purpose it has been bred. At the time of naming the species, Cannabis sativa plants that were grown in Eastern Europe and Western Asia were best suited for making ropes, sails & sturdy crop-sacks. Cannabis indica was grown throughout South and East Asia where it was used as a medicinal plant.

More recently, during the infancy of the cannabis industry in the USA, the terms indica and sativa are commonly used in an attempt to describe the effects of strains, to simplify the buying experience. Unfortunately, this attempt was not at all based on botany or any scientific research. In other words, sativa does not have anything to do with “uplifting” or “energetic” and indica does not mean “sedative”. The aforementioned effects are based strictly on the combinations and ratios of active compounds such as cannabinoids & terpenes.

In a recent interview, one of the most respected cannabis scientists on our planet, Dr. Ethan Russo, had the following request:

"I would strongly encourage the scientific community, the press, and the public to abandon the sativa/indica nomenclature and rather insist that accurate biochemical assays on cannabinoid and terpenoid profiles be available for Cannabis in both the medical and recreational markets. Scientific accuracy and the public health demand no less than this."

Even though only one term is associated with sedative effects, it's time to put both terms to bed.