Cannabis / Culture

Which Weed Is A Downer? Examining The Indica vs Sativa Dichotomy

Which Weed Is A Downer? Examining The Indica vs Sativa Dichotomy

We spoke with some industry experts from BAS Research and Cloudponics to see there’s any truth to this age-old stoner binary: Indica or Sativa?

Jun 9, 2018 - Michelle Janikian

Which Weed Is A Downer? Examining The Indica vs Sativa Dichotomy

Which weed is a downer, you may ask? Nowadays, even your dad can tell you that indica strains make you tired, and sativa strains wake you up but is that total B.S.? We spoke with some industry experts to see there’s any truth to this age-old stoner classification.

The Origins of the Indica vs Sativa Dichotomy

Indica and sativa were used originally to describe physical characteristics of the cannabis plant. Short, bushy plants with wide leaves that excelled in cooler climates were referred to as indicas, while tall plants that were found in warmer climates with thinner, more spread out leaves and flowers were called sativas. But why do we now use these classifications regarding experience?

“Originally, it was likely thought that the morphological differences did correlate with distinct experiential differences,” says Robert Sindelar, Chief Science Officer (CSO) at BAS Research in Berkeley, CA. “As time moved on, and the genetic line between indicas and sativas became blurred, along with the expansion of understanding of the activity relationships of these plants, then I would say it has become somewhat of an artifact these days.”

Sindelar alludes to a very important point: the line between indicas and sativas is incredibly blurred because so many varieties have been bred together to create the hybrids we know and love today. In fact, a “pure” sativa or indica strain is quite rare because these landrace strains were often cultivated to improve certain characteristics, like yield, strength, and resistance.

Sindelar is already looking to the future, and told Herb he believes “the scientific community is very interested in replacing this morphological association with biological effects with a more effective and robust system, so that the general public, especially those looking for medical uses for the plant, can be properly informed.” Hopefully, a new model will arise that can also help predict effects, like say, when you’re looking for which weed is a downer to help you relax and sleep at night.

Terpenes Are More Important Than Indica Or Sativa Label

If you haven’t gotten on the terpene train yet, you’re way behind. Cannabis connoisseurs now believe these fragrant oils, also produced in the resin glands of our favorite herb, are the ones calling the shots when it comes to experience and medical benefits. Although, Sindelar warns, “There is much more anecdotal evidence than scientific when it comes to the effects of terpenes.”

We asked Sindelar when looking for which weed is a downer, were there any particular terpenes we should be looking for? Again, he warned us more scientific research is needed, but he did mention a few, like linalool, caryophyllene, and terpinolene. He also told us an interesting anecdote on the one terpene you are probably thinking he forget to mention: myrcene.

“The levels of myrcene are thought to modulate the sedative (high levels) versus stimulatory (low levels) effects of cannabis,” says Sindelar. “A funny thing is that when we test the terpene profiles of indica-dominant and sativa-dominant strains, we find that both strain types can have both kinds of levels of myrcene.” So clearly, there’s more going on.

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What About Cannabinoid Profile When Considering Which Weed Is A Downer?

Cannabinoids, like THC, CBD, and others, must come into play when trying to pick which weed is a downer, right? But it’s a bit trickier than a standard ratio or the presence of a certain cannabinoid when trying to predict experience.

“How it [cannabis] impacts… human activity depends on the balance of the cannabinoids and the balance of the endocannabinoid system of the human consuming the cannabinoids,” Sindelar explains. “If one had to generalize, CBD is known to have some sedative properties while the psychoactive effects of THC can cause stimulation; however, the synergistic effects of each of the cannabinoids along with the terpenes can make this trend difficult to identify without massive amounts of data.”

Because of the entourage effect, which is all of the hundreds of compounds in cannabis synergizing to produce different effects, looking at just a few cannabinoids won’t be able to give you a full picture.

Plus, dose also plays a big role in how cannabis will affect you and which weed is a downer or upper. Sindelar explains that using the same strain in different doses can provide two totally different experiences: “To make matters more complex, there is data to suggest that interactions with cannabis and its cannabinoids tend to be biphasic, meaning the same cannabinoid ratio or chemotype can produce opposite effects at low and high concentrations.” Cannabis’ “biphasic” effect begins to explain why many people find microdosing cannabis helps their anxiety, but using too much, especially strains high in THC, increases their anxiety.

So Indica vs Sativa Is Total B.S.?

Well not exactly, it is still a legitimate way to describe the morphology of some plants. However, when trying to decide which weed is a downer, some believe it actually depends on the person. For instance, Sindelar explains that we all have different endocannabinoid systems with their own imbalances, and so “it would be difficult to assume that the same ratios had the same effects on different people or even the same people at different concentrations.”

Others in the industry are simply unconvinced that there’s any merit to the indica vs sativa classification, like Nicolas Ruiz, Cloudponics’ Chief Product Officer. “I’m not sold on the idea that if you consume a sativa at night, you won’t be able to sleep or if you consume an indica during the day you won’t be able to be productive,” says Ruiz. “The effect will be whatever YOU want it to be.”

“My opinion is that there’s too much hype around this indica strain makes you feel like this, and that sativa strain makes you feel like that when most of it is in your head anyways. I believe that what matters is the potency and how long the effect lasts, but the effect itself depends more on the consumer,” Ruiz adds.

If you were looking for which weed is a downer, I hope this article wasn’t a total downer! Even though there may not be much scientific proof to back up the belief that indicas make you tired and sativas stimulate you, there is no denying that many people find that to be generally true for them. Check some of our coverage on the best bedtime strains here, and hopefully, you can still find what you’re looking for.


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