indica vs sativa vs hybrid

Indica vs Sativa vs Hybrid: What to Expect and When to Use Them

by Deb Powers

Picture this. You’re at your local dispensary, looking for something new to try. Maybe you’re heading home and want a little something to take the edge off your day. Maybe you’re picking up a little something to take to the party on Friday night. Will Sour Diesel give you the experience you’re looking for, or should you pick, say, Pineapple Express?

Common wisdom says that your first clue is whether a strain is an indica or a sativa. Every budtender — and most of your bud buddies — will tell you that a sativa will give you a head high, a popping boost of energy that will inspire your creativity, while an indica is what you want if your goal is to chill and mellow out, and if you’re looking for a nice, balanced experience, you probably want a hybrid. 

But how true is the so-called common wisdom?

In this guide, we’ll take a deep dive into the different types of weed. We’ll look at what you can expect from each one. Then we’ll do an indica vs sativa vs hybrid comparison to help you pick the one that will deliver the experience you want.

Indica vs Sativa vs Hybrid — What Does It All Mean? 

Back in the 1700s, scientists divided cannabis into two species, basing their division on what they could see and know at the time. They named them cannabis sativa — which simply means “cultivated” —  and cannabis indica, which means “cannabis from India.” Over the centuries, various botanists have split the species further, but like most plant classifications, all the divisions rely mostly on the physical characteristics of the plants. The history of cannabis taxonomy can be a fun ride if you read between the lines of dry scientific texts (If that’s your idea of a high afternoon well spent, you can learn more details in this monograph from the American Botanical Society.)

You’ll notice that they didn’t go into how your body can react differently to different species and strains of weed,  partly because those things are a whole lot harder to quantify. Those classifications got left to the people who know weed best — the people who grow it and the people who use it. They didn’t care much about botany, but they knew a whole lot about head trips, couch lock, and the finer points of the weed experience. 

You can catch the beginnings of modern cannaseur culture in 1970s-era debates about the superiority of Acapulco Gold, Maui Wowie, or Panama Red. If you don’t know, ask your grandpa if he had a preference. He may remember that Gold got you high, Maui Wowie was a ticket to an otherworldly experience, and Afghani was sweet and mellow. 

He probably didn’t know it, but Acapulco Gold and Maui Wowie are both sativa strains, and Afghani, with its mellower high, is an indica. Those terms hadn’t made it down to the consumer level yet. Growers, on the other hand, were getting deep in the weeds (pun definitely intended) as they played with different species and strains of cannabis, cross-breeding them to come up with more and more potent strains of weed.  

Your neighborhood dispensary owes a lot to those growers, who developed — and continue to develop — the huge variety of cannabis strains that we enjoy today. Those cross-breeds are all hybrids, a plant that is a cross between two different subspecies. Some hybrids are crosses between different sativa or indica strains, but many mix sativas with indicas. In fact, thanks to all that experimentation, true sativas and indicas are a very — and increasingly — rare breed. 

Is This Breakdown Helpful?

Maybe kinda? Today, scientists who study cannabis understand that using species to predict how weed will make you feel is a mixed bag. There’s some truth to it. How you experience a specific strain of weed has a lot to do with the plant’s terpene and cannabinoid profile — how much THC, how much CBD, and which other cannabinoids and terpenes are part of the plant’s blueprint. 

We know that generally, sativa strains are heavier on THC, which is the part of weed that gives you a head high. Indica strains, meanwhile, tend to have higher proportions of CBD, which can modify the effects of the THC, and also seems to have more physical effects, including muscle relaxation and easing discomfort. In addition, there are hundreds of other cannabinoids and terpenes that have been identified in cannabis, and each of them brings a little something to the party. They can affect the flavor and the aroma. They may intensify some effects and blunt others. But even that is affected by each person’s individual endocannabinoid system, their mood, and even their environment. Cannabis research is a baby science, and we still have a lot to learn about how each of those pieces of the cannabis puzzle affects your body and your mind. 

That’s all to say that a lot of what we think about how sativa, indica, and hybrids work on your body is based on a whole lot of anecdotal and population-based evidence. Based on sheer numbers alone, the sativa vs indica division is a good place to start when you’re trying to decide which vape cart to bring out tonight.

Indica vs Sativa vs Hybrid: Which One to Choose

Choosing the “best” cannabis depends on the kind of experience you want. There’s a lot more to it than just deciding between indica and sativa (which we’ll get into in more detail in the rest of this article). The terpene profile makes a difference. So does the THC/CBD profile — along with the dominant terpenes present — and your own body chemistry. That’s why this chart is just a starting point. Your best guide is your own experience, so experiment a bit and learn what works best for you.  

What You WantMajor TerpenesWhat to ChooseMistifi Rec
Relaxation, chill, winding down after a stressful day– Pinene
– Myrcene
– Humulene
– Limonene
– Valencene
– Phellandrene
Indica strainsHoudini, our relaxing indica blend
A euphoric uplift, social butterfly vibes, partying with friends, an energy boost– Carene
– Pinene
– Myrcene
– Ocimene
– Humulene
– Limonene
– Linalool
– Terpinolene
Sativa strainsOver the Rainbow, our uplifting sativa blend
Inspiration, a creative kick, calm focus– Myrcene
– Humulene
– Sabinene
– Limonene
– Pinene
– Ocimene
– Geraniol
Hybrid strainsOracle, our inspiring creative hybrid blend
Calm, serenity, a sense of well-being– Pinene
– Myrcene
– Humulene
– Limonene
– Linalool
Hybrid strainsPhantom, our balancing CBD blend

What To Expect from Indica Strains

If you’re looking for relaxation, your budtender will probably recommend an indica strain. Most people will tell you that indicas help you unwind and chill out. A lot of consumers choose indica to help them slow down and sleep at night.

Flavor and Aroma

Indica can be woody, earthy, or skunky. It may also have some flower, fruit, or grassy notes. A lot depends on the strain and the terpene profile.

Terpene Profile

These are the most common terpenes in indica strains.

  • Pinene has a sharp, herbal aroma and spicy flavor. It may help you relax and clear your mind. Scientists think it can help with anxiety and pain.
  • Limonene smells and tastes like citrus. Scientists think it may help with anxiety and stress
  • Myrcene is one of the most common terpenes in cannabis. It may help you to physically relax and sleep longer.
  • Valencene smells like oranges and fresh herbs. It may help lift your mood and make you happy.


One word: couchlock. Indica strains are relaxing. They help put you in a chill, comfortable state of mind. Indica has a reputation for affecting you physically. Your body may feel heavy, or just completely relaxed. Some people use indica to help when they’re stressed or nervous. Many people choose indica strains when they want to just zone out and enjoy their surroundings.  

Popular Indica Strains

Blueberry Bomb is a cross between Blueberry and Afghani strains, making it indica heavy. It tastes like blueberry, with a hint of earthiness and orange peel. It’s a top choice for relaxing before bed, inspiring a dreamy, float-y high that eases you into the night.

Herijuana is another Afghani cross, this one with Petrolia Headstash. The indica heavy blend has a spicy, earthy sensory experience, and will leave you feeling pleasantly, happily, numb.

Grape Ape is a cross between Afghani and Skunk #1, another indica strain. Fruity and flavorful, it produces a powerful body high and a pleasant buzz.

Max OG is a combination of Kush and Superman, with a dank, spicy, earthy aroma and flavor, and a powerful high that starts with euphoria, and eases you into a full body high, without the couch lock that often comes along with it.

Mistifi Recommendation

Our Houdini is a blend of three top indica strains, Herijuana, Blueberry Bomb, and Max OG. The smooth vape hits your senses just right, with a blend of berry, floral, and earthy aromas. You’ll be calm, focused, and totally chill.

What To Expect from Sativa Strains

Sativa is your go-to if you’re looking for creativity, inspiration, or just plain fun. Sativa strains are usually THC-dominant. That means you can expect a trippy, energetic experience when you choose cannabis sativa.

Flavor and Aroma

Sativas often taste and smell sweet and fruity. The most common flavors and aromas include juicy mango, sour cherry, and citrus fruits. Some strains may have a hint of pine or spice.

Terpene Profile

These are the most common terpenes in sativa strains.


Sativa strains are uplifting. They can boost your energy level and inspire your creativity. The high THC ratio gives you a head high, rather than the body high you get with indica strains. Many people choose sativa strains when they want to get creative or just enjoy being social with friends.  

Popular Sativa Strains

Sour Diesel is a well-known strain that’s been around since the 90s. It’s a high-potency sativa strain that delivers an energizing cerebral high that will spark your creativity to new heights. Its pungent, spicy sensory profile is reminiscent of, you might have guessed, diesel.

Acapulco Gold is another high-status strain, but one that’s becoming rare and hard to find. It has an energizing, motivating effect, and a hint of toffee aroma and flavor. 

Super Silver Haze, sometimes called SSH, is an award-winning sativa hybrid of Skunk, Northern Lights, and Haze, and is one of the most popular of all strains. Its sensory profile is spicy and skunky, with a citrus edge. You can expect a creative rush of energy, followed by blissful body relaxation.

Sweet Tangie is a sativa-heavy cross between Tangerine Dream and Skunk. Its bright citrus profile smells like fresh-squeezed orange juice with a hint of earthiness. It delivers a powerful, euphoric high with sharp focus and calm, lasting energy.

Mistifi Recommendation

Over the Rainbow is our premium blend of three top sativa strains, Electric Lemonade, Super Silver Haze, and Sweet Tangie. The citrus, pine, and tropical notes are powerfully uplifting, energizing, and inspiring.

What To Expect from Hybrid Strains

People often describe hybrids as “balanced” between body highs and head highs. Hybrids may have a more balanced ratio of THC and CBD. The flavor, aroma, and effects vary, depending on which plants went into the mix. You might have noticed that many of the most popular sativa and indica strains are, in actuality, hybrids, though they’re hybrids that lean heavily toward one or the other. 

What Is Hybrid Weed?

A hybrid strain is a cross between two different strains of weed. Most hybrids are a cross between sativas and indicas. The hybrid inherits flavors, aromas, and effects from both “parent” plants, blending them together. Some cannabis hybrids are closer to sativa strains. Others are more similar to indica strains. Others are balanced, with neither species dominating. 


Growers create hybrids to bring out the strengths and effects of each cannabis strain. They may be trying to alter the CBD:THC ratio, or promote a particular effect. The experience you have with hybrids depends on which hybrid you’re using. The best way to judge how a specific hybrid will affect you is to know which strains it combines. 

Popular Hybrid Strains

Hell’s Fire OG is a THC powerhouse that’s a cross between OG Kush and SFV OG Kush. It packs a potent, euphoric head high, and a tingly body high that will lift you up even as it eases you down into relaxation. WikiLeaf notes that this strain is definitely “not for beginners.”

Wunderdog is an indica-dominant strain with hints of citrus, earth, and tropical fruit. It delivers a smooth, mellow high that’s the perfect choice for late afternoon and evening relaxation.

Trainwreck is a heady, high-THC sativa-dominant hybrid that sparks inspiration, creativity, and a powerfully energetic euphoria. Its distinctive sensory profile combines sweet lemon and pine for an unforgettable experience.

Pineapple Express crosses Trainwreck with Hawaiian, resulting in an energetic, focused high that will keep you up and buzzing for the long haul. It’s a top choice for creatives who want a quick, long-lasting lift. The earthy pineapple, pine, and citrus aroma and flavor is a delight for the senses.

Mistifi Recommendation

Oracle is a sophisticated blend of premium hybrid strains, Hell’s Fire OG, Wunderdog, and Horchata. The citrus, woody, and juniper notes are a treat for the senses. It promotes creativity and helps you stay focused, calm, and inspired.

Phantom is our most balanced hybrid blend, with Hell’s Fire OG, Wunderdog, and Jellyfish. The 1:1 CBD to THC ratio is perfectly balanced to promote serenity and whole-body wellness. 

Final Thoughts

In the end, the cannabis product you choose depends on the kind of high you’re looking for. Understanding how the different strains — and their most common terpenes — play with your body chemistry can make your decision easier. Our expertly curated Mistifi blends are designed to deliver the most consistently powerful experience every time, making them a good way to take the guesswork out of picking a new strain. Choose the one that matches the experience you want, and enjoy!

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