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Scientific study confirms: Sativa an Energizer and Indica a Relaxant

A cross-sectional study of cannabis users has confirmed what most stoners know from experience: Cannabis sativa has different effects from C indica, the former generating more of an uplifting experience, the latter being more of a relaxant.

The study, published  on 19 April 2021 in Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology (Advance online publication. was conducted in US states where adult use cannabis is legal. The following is the study’s summary:

Cannabis products available for retail purchase are often marketed based on purported plant species (e.g., “indica” or “sativa”). The cannabis industry frequently claims that indica versus sativa cannabis elicits unique effects and/or is useful for different therapeutic indications. Few studies have evaluated use patterns, beliefs, subjective experiences, and situations in which individuals use indica versus sativa. A convenience sample of cannabis users (n = 179) was surveyed via Amazon Mechanical Turk (mTurk). 

Participants were asked about their prior use of, subjective experiences with, and opinions on indica versus sativa cannabis and completed hypothetical purchasing tasks for both cannabis subtypes. Participants reported a greater preference to use indica in the evening and sativa in the morning and afternoon. 

Participants were more likely to perceive feeling “sleepy/tired” or “relaxed” after using indica and “alert,” “energized,” and “motivated” after using sativa. Respondents were more likely to endorse wanting to use indica if they were going to sleep soon but more likely to use sativa at a party. Hypothetical purchasing patterns (i.e., grams of cannabis purchased as a function of escalating price) did not differ between indica and sativa, suggesting that demand was similar. 

Taken together, cannabis users retrospectively report feeling different effects from indica and sativa; however, demand generally did not differ between cannabis subtypes, suggesting situational factors could influence whether someone uses indica or sativa. Placebo-controlled, blinded studies are needed to characterize the pharmacodynamics and chemical composition of indica and sativa cannabis and to determine whether user expectancies contribute to differences in perceived indica/sativa effects. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).


Impact Statement

Cannabis users retrospectively reported feeling different effects from indica versus sativa cannabis; however, demand for the two cannabis subtypes was similar on hypothetical purchasing tasks, suggesting situational factors could influence whether someone uses indica or sativa. Controlled laboratory studies are needed to confirm whether indica and sativa cannabis does indeed elicit different subjective effects and to clarify the role of user expectancies on altering the perceived effects of these two types of cannabis. Taken together, these steps may inform future regulatory decisions regarding cannabis-related marketing nomenclatures like indica and sativa.

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