What Is Sativa? The Story Behind The World’s Most Energetic Strains
One of the first things cannabis consumers learn is the dichotomy between Indica and Sativa. This is what makes stimulating sativa so different from its couch-locked cousin.
Photography by Georgia Love for Herb
One of the first things budding cannabis enthusiasts will notice is that all weed is essentially divided into two distinct groups: Indica and Sativa. Both are members of the same species of plant, though the scientific name applicable to all of them, confusingly, is Cannabis Sativa L (the “L” stands for Carl Linnaeus, the Swedish botanist who was responsible for giving cannabis the name Sativa).
While current cannabis science suggests that the difference between cannabis strains is no longer as simple as Indica vs Sativa, most people still identify their cannabis using these terms. Sativa strains, including the Haze family of strains, are generally thought to be more stimulating and accomplishment-oriented than Indica. These tall, gangly equatorial strains can reach a height of 25 feet, and were developed in hot climates including Thailand, southern Africa, Colombia, and Mexico. The sativa leaf is typically thin and resembles the iconic pot leaf we’ve all come to know. These plants are compatible with completing tasks, socializing, and creative pursuits such as making visual art, writing, or playing music.
The uplifting Sativa high is more cerebral than the Indica high, which is described as more of a body high. Its stimulation is perfect for anyone who prefers to consume cannabis during the day.
But, for some people, the soaring mental stimulation and racing thoughts associated with Sativa weed can actually increase anxiety. That’s why people who are prone to anxiety attacks often choose Indica strains instead.
Some of the pulse-pounding Sativas like Jack Herer, Trainwreck and Green Crack are beloved by their fans for those mental fireworks, while avoided by others because they find them a little too stimulating.
The mental zing associated with Sativa weed makes it ideal for creative pursuits. Those euphoric, racing thoughts enjoyed by many with the Sativa high mean that it can foster new ideas and creations.
It can also increase focus. These strains can be very helpful in fighting depression, fatigue, and mood disorders. There’s absolutely nothing like a jolt of cannabinoid-induced mental energy to get you out of the doldrums.
Sativa weed is also thought to be useful in treating Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) because of its ability to increase mental focus. While some folks may over-simplify by saying that Indica equals medical marijuana, and Sativa equals recreational marijuana, that’s not necessarily the case. Both strains have different reported benefits, although it’s important to note that more research needs to be conducted.
The sativa team has a lot of all-stars, including many of the most iconic and legendary strains in cannabis history. Panama Red and Acapulco Gold are two of the head-ringing strains which made a big splash in the 1960s. Both quickly attained mythic status among hippies for their legendary potency, with mental effects that could be almost psychedelic.
It was the Vietnam War that brought strains like Thai Stick to the United States as troops indulged in the field and brought their love of weed back with them.
Durban Poison, which emerged from South Africa, became known as one of the most potent weeds in the world in the 1970s, while Hawaiian, with its one-toke potency, quickly spread its fame beyond the islands and across the globe. Durban Poison, which will light up your brain with a euphoric electricity, remains one of the few unadulterated Sativa strains widely available.
Trainwreck offers an intense head high, and while that is prized by its devotees, it’s not recommended for anxiety-prone smokers. Cognitive effects, though, are very dependent on the individual, and some anxiety patients do like it. Jack Herer, one of the most iconic cannabis strains, is reminiscent of Trainwreck and is named to the legendary author of The Emperor Wears No Clothes, the book many consider the Bible of the hemp movement.
Modern Sativa-dominant hybrid strains include Amnesia Haze, which offers a tremendously potent Sativa high, and Girl Scout Cookies which originated on the west coast as a hybrid of the Indica OG Kush and the Sativa strain Durban Poison.
Growing Cannabis Sativa
The Sativa plant is primarily grown outdoors as there aren’t many growers who can accommodate the plants size in a grow room. The Sativa plant often increases in height very rapidly when in the vegetative phase of growth.
Another factor which leads to more outdoor growing is the long flowering time of Sativa weed. While Indicas usually finish flowering by 60 days, and often by 45 days, Sativas need a minimum of 60 days and sometimes up to 90 days to truly finish blooming. As a result, it costs a lot more to run those power-hogging grow lights for 12 weeks rather than eight.
Sativa leaf blades are generally narrower than Indica leaf blades, although the modern process of hybridization means you’re not likely to identify a Sativa vs Indica at first glance.
Since these strains were originally developed in equatorial climates, they are more naturally adapted to outdoor growing locations in places like Southern California, Arkansas, and Florida, but connoisseurs have been known to grow them around the world. The high is just so desirable, every aspiring cannabis farmer seemingly wants to try his or her hand at growing Cannabis Sativa. That’s why, despite its lanky profile and long flowering times, you can find it in greenhouses and grow rooms everywhere.