If you have any experience with cannabis, the terms Indica and Sativa are likely familiar. But if you’re new to the subject, they are oft-used classifications that simplify the complexity and variability found within the cannabis plant.
Though some debate remains, we here at Atlas hold that Cannabis sativa L. is one highly variable species as opposed to three separate groups; Cannabis Indica, Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Ruderalis.
The Indica name itself means ‘from the region of India’ and is known formally as Cannabis sativa subspecies indica. It is a wide-leaflet varietal originating from India, Nepal, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The Indica name itself means ‘from the region of India’.
Here are the following physical characteristics associated with Indica:
- Short and compact plants
- Thick leaves with broad leaflets
- Relatively short flowering period, 45 to 65 days
Cannabis stemming from equatorial regions of the planet – Africa, South America, Central America and Asia – has traditionally been known as Sativa. This is the Latin term for “domesticated seed-grown crops” and implies it has been domesticated by humankind.
Here are the following physical characteristics associated with Cannabis Sativa:
- Taller in size
- Large and narrow leaflets
- Longer flowering periods that may range from 10 to 20 weeks
Cannabis ruderalis is native to the central Asian plateau in Russia. It adapted to grow in environments with short and highly variable growing seasons. To account for these conditions, the ruderalis varieties created an “auto-flowering” system as opposed to sativas and indicas that flower based on seasonality. Ruderalis is Latin for “lump, or rough piece of bronze”, due to its short stature.
- Smallest of the varieties
- Broad leaflets, similar to an indica
- Set lifespans, “auto-flowering"
While most cannabis is technically ‘hybrid’, describing indica, sativa, and ruderalis as different species relies heavily on physical characteristics alone. As mentioned above, Atlas regards Cannabis sativa L. as one highly variable species, much like humans and canines.
As Rob Clark, ethnobotanist, put it, “All drug cannabis varieties are hybrids.”
If you are looking for the effects of “sativa” or the effects of “indica”, we advise you to look specifically at terpenes (ex. Linalool, Limonene, Caryophyllene, Humulene). These phytochemical compounds will determine how a plant interacts with you.
“The clinical effects of the cannabis chemovar [chemotype] have nothing to do with whether the plant is tall and sparse vs. short and bushy, or whether the leaflets are narrow or broad.”... Ethan Russo, neurologist and cannabis researcher.
What are Terpenes?
Terpenes are a diverse class of organic compounds produced by plants and organisms. They often have a strong odour and are responsible for the different aromas found in cannabis and all plants.
Terpenes, also known as essential oils in plants, provide aromas while influencing the physiological and psychological effects. There are more than 20,000 known terpenes in the natural world, many of which can be found in the cannabis plant.
You’ll find terpenes in a range of different flora; anything from sweet grass to durian, just as they can be found in Cannabis. This is why every variety has its own unique fragrance.
It’s theorized they serve several functions in all flora. Some are there to attract pollinating insects for reproductive purposes, while others are to repel or even kill predators. Some terpenes are developed due to external factors like extreme heat or drought.
With thousands of cultivars (strains), all having their own unique terpene and cannabinoid composition, each individual profile can be as unique as a snowflake.
Essentially what we at Atlas Growers are saying is that you want to pay less attention to the outdated classifications of indica and sativa, and more towards the plant’s chemical makeup. If you like to see which terpenes are responsible for the ‘indica’ and ‘sativa’ effect, look at the infographic below.
We are working with a large variety of cannabis cultivars in our quest to pinpoint the consumers’ needs with a more science-based approach.
That’s why at Atlas Growers, we like to say “We have got cannabis down to a science.”