The Cannigma reports…
Anyone who’s even remotely familiar with cannabis probably knows that there are two distinct groups that strains are commonly categorized into: Sativa and Indica. Many cannabis consumers use these two distinctions as a way to predict what effects a certain strain may have on them. Many people even say that they prefer Sativa over Indica, or vice versa.
It is widely believed that Sativa strains give an uplifting and cerebral high that is ideal for activities, social gatherings, and creative projects, while Indica strains provide a relaxing full-body high better suited for unwinding at the end of the day and falling asleep.
Yet, despite this belief being deeply engraved within mainstream marijuana culture, there’s actually zero scientific evidence to support this notion. In fact, research reveals that there are a lot of other factors at play that cause a specific strain to produce certain effects — and whether it is a Sativa or Indica plant has basically no importance at all.
So what’s the real story behind Sativa and Indica? How do they really differ? And what does the science actually say about how and why strains affect us differently? Let’s dive in.
The origins of Sativa & Indica
People have been cultivating cannabis for millennia. In fact, archaeological evidence shows the Chinese and Japanese have been using the plant all the way back to the pre-Neolithic period.
But it wasn’t until the Renaissance that a German botanist named Leonardt Fuchs coined the term “Sativa”, which he used to indicate domesticated hemp.
Later, in the 18th century, Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus adopted the term Cannabis Sativa as hemp’s Latin name in his book Species Plantarum. “Sativa” simply means “cultivated” in Latin, referring to the cultivated hemp crops in Europe and western Eurasia that were grown for its fiber and seeds.
About 30 years later, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck published a description of what he considered a second species of marijuana, named Cannabis Indica. Meaning “of India” in Latin, Cannabis Indica referred to the wild-growing psychoactive variety of cannabis discovered in India, used to produce hashish.
As these two populations of marijuana were kept geographically separate from each other for centuries, natural and artificial selection allowed these two very different types of cannabis to evolve.
Yet, botanists have been arguing ever since about whether Cannabis sativa and Cannabis Indica are in fact two distinct species or whether Cannabis Indica is simply a subspecies of the plant. To this day, this is still a subject of hot debate.
To make matters even more complicated, a third cannabis species was classified by Russian botanist D. E. Janischewsky in 1924, named Cannabis ruderalis. Ruderalis basically means “rubble”, as ruderal plant varieties are the first to grow “out of the rubble” in areas that have been cleared of other vegetation. Ruderalis is an auto-flowering variety of cannabis that was found to be growing wild in eastern Europe, first being discovered in Siberia.
How we use the terms today
Now we know that the term Sativa was originally used to describe hemp, while Indica was used to describe the psychoactive medical marijuana variety. This means that almost all of the cannabis strains people ingest today actually all stem from the original Cannabis Indica breed, while the originally known Cannabis Sativa plant is largely used industrially for hemp as fiber, food, and for CBD as well.
But in the modern world, these terms have shifted to mean something completely different. Somewhere along the way — as the use of medical marijuana increased and cannabis culture spread across the globe — the terms Sativa and Indica have evolved into a new way to categorize the thousands of cannabis strains that circulate the market today.
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