Cannabusters myth #17: Indica and Sativa describe the effects of cannabis

Sep 28 2018, 4:55 am

Every day, in every way, cannabis legalization in Canada is getting closer. But despite all the hype, noise, and publicity, there seem to be recurring cannabis myths flying around that just won’t quit.

With 17 days to go until federal legalization, Grow’s daily Cannabusters series tackles common myths by cutting through the stigma and sensationalism to bring you the facts about cannabis.

Myth: You can describe the effects of your weed based on whether it is an Indica or Sativa.

Fact: The biochemistry of the plant is responsible for its effects, not its morphology.

For most cannabis consumers, Indica and Sativa are an easy go-to classification system when choosing your bud.

According to what turns out to be nothing more than a misnomer, Sativa refers to a tall plant with long leaves that is known for an uplifting high. Indica refers to shorter plants with broads leaves and is associated with a more sedated stone.

“When the British colonized India, they came across a plant that today we call Sativa, but being from India it should be called Indica,” Ryan Lee, founder of Chimera Genetic Resource Management and Chemovar Consulting, told Daily Hive over the phone.

Indica (as it’s called today), originating from Afghanistan, Turkestan, and Pakistan, should be referred to as Afghanica.

Ruderalis, the lesser known sub-species, should be called Sativa.

Furthermore, most plants are not entirely one sub-species or another.

“You can’t look at plant anymore and say this is 100% Indica or this is 100% Afghanica,” said Lee.

“Everything is a hybrid now in some form.”

See also

Know your terpenes

“What we’ve been calling Indica and Sativa for so long is really referring to the description of the different terpenes,” said Lee.

Terpenes are molecules in cannabis (and other plants) that contribute to taste and scent.

“Terpenes give a distinctive odour and have their own unique pharmacology,” said Lee.

For example, myrcene produces sedative effects while limonene is more invigorating.

“In a nutshell, the real difference between what we call Indica and Sativa is the different terpene combinations in the plant.”

“When we look at cannabis, everybody assumed the difference in varieties was due to cannabinoids, the ratio of CBD to THC and maybe others.”

Lee said that once the biochemistry of the plants was analyzed, “the cannabinoids were pretty consistent and the real differences came from terpenes.”

Getting informed

Health Canada’s testing and packaging requirements do not require a product’s terpene profile to be listed, although some producers are choosing to include that information.

“It becomes a new language that consumers have to learn,” said Lee.

“You’re empowering them in the decision-making process about cannabis. You’re giving them information they can grab on to.”

Lee said that aside from the incorrect naming of cannabis subspecies, we can’t conclude the effects a particular plant will produce based on its morphology. Tall plants won’t necessarily help you concentrate, and there can be differences in biochemistry from one batch to the next.

“The chemistry is important for cannabis from a consumer and medical perspective,” said Lee.

This lets people dial into a product based on specific wants and needs.

As to whether we’ll start moving away from Indica and Sativa nomenclature?

Lee said that they are already such widely used and accepted terms, it will probably be a difficult shift.

“There will be some people who want to raise their level of understanding but the people who just want to get some bud, it might not mean much to them.”

We’ll take some limonene with a β-caryophyllene chaser, please.

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