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Everything You Need to Know About the Different Cannabis Strains and Their Most Common Effects

There are more than 200 different strains of marijuana, which are derived from the three main species of the cannabis plant: C. indica, C. sativa, and C. ruderalis. This is without taking into consideration the many hybrids that have been developed through the years.

No matter the strain, however, the effects can be neatly grouped based on the species of the plant. Ruderalis has the lowest THC content and psychotrophic effects, and is usually used for medicinal purposes, especially in treating depression and anxiety. But it is Ruderalis that is most commonly used to develop hybrids due to its fast flowering cycle and high tolerance for the colder, northerly climates.

The other two strains – Indica and Sativa – are the ones used for recreational purposes. Indica has a more sedating, “chill out” effect. This strain is the “stoner’s favorite” as this puts the body in a state of relaxation. Sativa, on the other hand, gives an invigorating, happy, stimulating kind of high. It’s also rumored to boost creativity. 


The Indica strain is well-known as the “chiller’s bud” due to its high THC concentration, which brings about a relaxing, rather sedative effect. This effect is supported by a 2017 scientific literature review which suggests that cannabis has therapeutic potential for the treatment of insomnia. In addition to that, many strains of indica can be used for managing and relieving pain and muscles spasms, like in this 2012 study conducted by the Canadian Medical Association.

Growth and Appearance

Cannabis indica is shorter – only 3 to a maximum of 6 feet – and bushier compared to Cannabis sativa. It also has thicker leaves and thrives in colder climates in high-altitude areas like Nepal, Pakistan, Lebanon, and Afghanistan.

The Indica strain also flowers much faster; indeed, when grown indoors, the light cycle can even be adjusted to promote the Indica’s flowering phase. In addition, the flowers of the Indica plant grow closely together. They are preferred for making hashish, as well, since it contains more resin.

Popular Strains and Their Effects

Granddaddy Purple or GDP is a potent Indica strain, which can contain up to 23% THC. Its effects include a combination of euphoria and relaxation, which is why GDP is often used medicinally to treat insomnia. Besides being a strong sleep aid, GDP is also used to alleviate pain and muscle spasms. It is also popular among marijuana growers because of its high yield, apart from its quick flowering cycle and attractive, deep purple color.

Another brightly colored Indica is the Purple Kush. It tops a whopping 27.7% THC content, which, when smoked during the day, might make you want to stay glued to your couch and procrastinate. Purple Kush has a subtle earthy-sweet overtone that gives a long-lasting sense of euphoria, even as it rids the body of restlessness and stress.

For a sweet flavor and a pleasant aroma with hints of caramel, vanilla, and pineapple, you can turn to the 80-20 Indica-Sativa blend of the Pineapple Kush. It has 14% to 18% THC, which results into a rather heady kind of happiness and mental state, and not so much of a physical high.

Northern Lights is one of the most popular Indica strains of all time. It’s a 100% Indica strain with a THC content average of 18%, which is enough to make users both high and stoned – not ideal if you’re planning to work all day. Northern Lights also has a distinctly smooth flavor and leaves a pleasant aroma after use. Medicinally, it is beneficial for muscle relaxation, pain management, and stress relief. On the other hand, growers favor the Northern Light strain due to its fast flowering cycle and resilience.

As mysterious as its name, the Blue Mystic is also known as “Fruity-licious” in some circles. It is an 80% Indica hybrid of the Northern Lights and Blueberry, which grows rather bushy and tops at a height of 1 meter. Its fruity flavor and aroma, coupled with its 18% THC content, results into a completely relaxed, if rather boozy, brain and body. The Blue Mystic is effective to counteract restlessness or severe agitation.

For a hard-hitting Indica strain that still leaves you with enough cognitive ability to enjoy company, God’s Gift is your perfect choice. With THC content between 18% and 22%, this potent strain is used to deal with chronic pains, inflammations, arthritis, and even Parkinson’s disease. God’s Gift has a strong berry fragrance, with plenty of citrus, lemony after tones that is popular both for recreational and medical users.

Girl Scout Cookies is a highly popular Indica hybrid, especially with Californian medical marijuana consumers. It has a unique flavor that is reminiscent of brown sugar and pepper, with hints of nutmeg, which inspires a euphoric, full-body relaxation. This makes Girl Scout Cookies, or GSC, a popular medication for anxiety, depression, and migraine. A little goes a long way for GSC due to its high THC concentration. However, this aspect makes GSC a potent sleeping aid. Several hybrids have come from Girl Scout Cookies, including Thin Mints, Platinum Cookies, and Forum Cut.

The award-winning Sensi Star is a 90% Indica strain with 20% THC content. It’s world-famous for its uplifting, full body buzz combined with subtle mental high. It brings a lack of mental focus, however, which is why it’s better to use Sensi Star in the afternoon or evening as a muscle relaxant. The sweet, earthy-smelling Sensi Star is also used as anti-anxiety medication. Another unique characteristic of the Sensi Star is its versatility – it thrives well both indoors and outdoors, either in soil or hydroponic methods.

Those looking for a sedating effect on both body and brain will find their high with Aurora Indica. It’s an effective treatment for hyperactivity and chronic body pain due to its 15% to 20% THC content. Its almost narcotic effects make Aurora even more potent for insomnia, as it can slowly ease you to a deep sleep. It is also a flavorful bud, with a sweet, earthy aroma of mangoes and hint of lavender and a spicy aftertaste.

For a purely Indica strain, the hybrid Critical Kush is the way to go. Novice tokers may find it difficult to handle this strain, as it induces a heavy, couch-locked sensation – which is no surprise considering its high average of THC at about 25%. It also contains 2.1% medical CBD, making it an ideal nighttime medication for insomnia, muscle spasms, and chronic pains. Critical Kush has an earthy aroma with a hint of citrusy spice.

Consume Cannabis As Part Of A Healthy Lifestyle


Sativa is especially popular for musicians and artists, as the energizing effect that this strain gives pair well with social and creative activities. Some even call the feeling “head high”. The consumption of sativa, just like indica, also proves to be beneficial to people who are suffering from depression and fatigue. Some sativa strains can also give users a case of the munchies, making these an effective treatment for loss of appetite

Growth and Appearance

The Sativa species of cannabis thrives in warm climates around the equator. Countries like Colombia, Mexico, and those in Southeast Asia like Thailand are ideal breeding grounds for C. sativa. Physically, the Sativa strain is tall and thin; its leaves are slender and can be rather dainty to look at, and the plant itself can reach 15 to 20 feet.

Most Sativa strains take between 9 to 15 weeks to flower, depending on environmental conditions. They also thrive best outdoors.

Popular Strains and Their Effects

More popular Sativa strains include the Jack Herer, a 55% Sativa hybrid that gives most consumers a blissful, energetic high. It’s named after “The Emperor of Hemp” Jack Herer, a cannabis activist who wrote “The Emperor Wears No Clothes”. This medical-grade strain is available in almost every dispensary in the States. It has a spicy, piney scent and is well-known for its quality and potency.

Another popular Sativa strain is Sour D or Sour Diesel. Often called the “Moet of Marijuana”, Sour Diesel gives a euphoric, uplifting high. So-named after its lemony and diesel-like scent, this strain’s fast-acting cerebral effects are legendary in the cannabis community. Medical marijuana users also prefer Sour Diesel as it provides long-lasting relief from pain and stress.

Green Crack is another well-known potent sativa strain. It is known to provide energy coupled with laser-like focus, making it ideal for daytime consumption and getting work done. Green Crack is also popular for its long-lasting buzz and a rather tropical, sour-fruity tang akin to mangoes. Medically, this strain can also be used to treat depression, fatigue, and loss of appetite.

Lemon Haze, so-named because of its scent and taste similar to freshly peeled lemons, provides a euphoric, uplifting high. This effect makes this hybrid Sativa (from Lemon Skunk and Silver Haze) a perfect choice to deal with depression or fatigue. It’s also ideal for those feeling lethargic or with a lack of appetite. It has a rather high THC (15%-20%) and CBD (0.38%) concentration, however, so users should pace themselves if they use this strain. 

As its name implies, Amnesia Haze is a potent Sativa strain that induces a long-lasting energetic, happy buzz. It has a citrusy, lemony flavor and is a staple in Amsterdam coffee shops. This award-winning strain is also a strong Sativa breed that is favored by growers due to its high yield.

Yet another fruity Sativa hybrid, the Strawberry Cough has an earthy tone and a hint of sweet strawberry fragrance and taste. However, its potency can induce a coughing fit especially for beginners.  It gives a rather relaxing, happy kind of high, but also lends itself to maintaining concentration. Medically, Strawberry Cough is used to deal with social anxieties and stress management. It’s also an effective treatment for migraines.

Those looking for a good laugh can turn to the Laughing Buddha. This cannabis strain is known for its happy, upbeat high and sweet, fruity fragrance that leave users giggling. It’s another award-winning Sativa that grows quickly, with beautiful, oversized flowers. 

Chocolope, despite its name, doesn’t have a chocolatey flavor. Rather, it has an earthy, coffee aroma that induces a rather cerebral, dreamy high that’s ideal for coping with depression, stress, and anxiety.  It is often confused with Chocolate Kush, which is an indica-dominant hybrid.

Lamb’s Bread or Lamb’s Breath is of legitimate Jamaican origin – Bob Marley himself is said to have tried this Sativa strain. Recreational users recommend this bright green marijuana for a boost of energy and positive introspection. With a soothing earthy scent and a slightly spicy flavor, Lamb’s Bread is also well-known for inducing focus and creativity. Medical uses include treatment for ADD and ADHD, as well as stress-induced depression.

Moby Dick, which originated from Amsterdam, is popular among growers due to its mold resistance, short flowering time, and high yield. Users, meanwhile, love this Sativa strain for its strong, mental stimulating buzz. Its taste has hints of vanilla, while its scent is reminiscent of sweet citrus. Moby Dick’s high THC content makes it ideal as a pain reliever and anti-inflammatory.

Discover A Transformative Cannabis Culinary Journey

A marked difference of Sativa from Indica is that the seeds of C. sativa are used to make hempseed oil, which can be used for cooking and even lamps and paints. The oil can also be used as biofuel, along with the ethanol derived from fermenting the whole plant. Sativa seeds are also rather popular among bird keepers as bird feed, as these are a moderate nutrient source for most species of birds.

Meanwhile, Sativa fibers are also used to manufacture fabrics, rope, and other textile-based products, as well as paper used for business cards, stationery, and fine art papers.

While it may be a daunting prospect to identify the hundreds of sub-strains and hybrids of cannabis, the key is to know what kind of buzz you want: if you’re looking for a stimulant, then Sativa strains are for you; if you’re looking for a relaxing, even sedating experience, then Indica strains are your best option. The actual cannabis strain will depend on personal preferences – taste, aroma, texture, among others.