Health and researchscience

Is there really a difference between Indica and Sativa? Probably not anymore

Sativa and indica are two names that every Cannabis consumer knows, and they are supposed to represent two opposite ends of physical and mental effects for those who use them. But are there really two main types of cannabis as consumers claim, or is it actually a myth as researchers claim?

An interesting phenomenon in the world of cannabis is the infinite number of names given to its different varieties. "Farfel Kush", "Alaska" or "Amnesia Hayes" and others - centuries of selective enhancement have created a selection of thousands of cannabis strains, each with different effects on the body and mind.

With the increase in the use of medical cannabis in recent years, it is now necessary more than ever to distinguish clearly between different types of cannabis and the expected medical effects.

To date, the most common way to distinguish between different types of cannabis is by two main categories - sativa and indica. This division is not only the domain of 'stalinists' on the black market, but also in the medical cannabis industry, and in Israel it is also well established and officially In the Green Book - The clinical guide of the Ministry of Health for the treatment of medical cannabis.

in accordance To the new reform In the medical cannabis industry in Israel, cannabis sativa and cannabis indica are considered to be two different types of drugs, to the extent that in the case of a deficiency, a patient with a prescription for Iindica may not receive Sativa at the pharmacy - Various.

Many growers and consumers who believe that Sativa and Indica are two very different species of cannabis plant, and that all existing species fall somewhere on the continuum. For example, a certain species is called 30% Indica and 70% Sativa, or 50% Indica and 50% Sativa or 100% Sativa / Indica (what is called pure Sativa / Indica).

Sativa vs. Indica
Various influences that are associated with Sativa and Indica. From the Green Book, the clinical care guide for medical cannabis of the Ministry of Health

But while botanically it is sometimes possible to distinguish between indica (a low plant with broad leaves) and sativa (a tall plant with thin leaves), there is no evidence of the difference in effect on the sensation after smoking a flower from an indica or sativa plant.

This is the place to go briefly to the definition of "Strain" versus "Species". In the past, researchers have sorted the natural world into different species according to the differences they saw in the eye, but today it is common to define species according to the method of evolutionist Ernst Mayer, who says:

"Species are groups of natural populations that can maintain reproductive and reproductive isolation relationships from other similar populations."

In other words, if two plants can mate and produce offspring, they belong to the same species. Because cannabis sativa and cannabis indica (and also Cannabis Rodrelis For that matter) can mate, are necessarily by scientific definition belong to the same species.

Zen, however, is a much more flexible term - within one species can be included in thousands of different varieties. The term refers to the specific combination of attributes presented by a particular organism, including its physical form and its biochemical properties.

The word "Strain" technically is incorrect in English in the context of botany, but it is common in the world of cannabis. The correct concepts to describe differences within a particular species are Phenotype, Variety, or Subspecies. In Hebrew, it is also proper to use the word 'Zen' to describe differences within a particular species.

Different phenotypes (strains) of the same species of flower - Ipomoea purpurea
Different phenotypes (strains) of the same species of flower - Ipomoea purpurea

The debate over whether the cannabis plant should be classified as one or more species has been going on for several centuries, but there are some key points that most researchers agree today:

  • The division of thousands of different cannabis strains into two distinct major species, Indica and Sativa, does not correspond to the modern definition of the concept of sex.
  • Today, there is no known difference in the content of cannabinoids (the active ingredients in the plant) between species classified as indica for species classified as sativa, and there is no accepted explanation for the difference in effects between them.
  • Today there is no distinct genetic difference that distinguishes between varieties called Sativa and those called Indica.
  • To date, it has not been shown that the botanical properties associated with Sativa and indica are correlated with the effects associated with them. For example, a plant that meets the indica botanical description will not necessarily have effects associated with indica.
The many hybridizations made make the separation between Sativa and indica irrelevant. From the Green Book, the clinic's clinical care guide for cannabis
The many hybridizations made make the separation between Sativa and indica irrelevant. From the Green Book, the clinic's clinical care guide for cannabis

So what does this cause?Difference in influences Between Sativa and Indica varieties containing the same concentration of THC and CBD? Why are some of them more sleepy and some more arousing? At this point there is less agreement between the researchers.

Some argue that the reason is not the cannabinoids but the differences between Terrapens In varieties called indica to those called Sativa. The tripans are responsible for the smell and taste of cannabis and the differences in their composition create sweeter odors identified with Sativa and more earthy odors identified with indica.

But beyond Taste and smell Of Cannabis, proponents of this theory argue that transgressors also have Effects Which have not yet been learned, And preliminary studies In the field,Entourage effect'Between the cannabinoids and the trephins.

Specifically, there are researchers They recognized The Myrcene trapeze as responsible for the anesthetic effect of the Indica strains, and the trapeze 'Limonene' as responsible for the stirring effect of Zenitiva. The hypothesis Is that cannabinoids work differently when combined with different terpenes - but today's research can not confirm or refute it.

Terrapens are responsible for the taste and smell of different plants, and for the difference between the smells of Sativa and those of Indica,
Terrapens are responsible for the taste and smell of different plants, and for the difference between the smells and possibly the effects of the Sativa varieties to those of Indica species,

Another theory claims that the difference in effects between Sativa and indica strains with the same THC / CBD percentage is the difference in the dozens of other cannabinoids in the plant. Many of these cannabinoids have not yet been studied and it is unclear whether there is a constant difference between sativa and indica in their concentration, so it is not possible to confirm or refute this claim as well.

There are also those who argue that the difference in effects people attribute to the difference between sativa and indica in general is caused by cannabinoid Cannabinol (CBN). Cannabinol, which is attributed to anesthesia effects, is a product of the aging of the THC. The longer the THC is exposed to air and UV rays, the more it becomes CBN.

The more the cannabis flowers Will be harvested later, And the longer they are stored after the harvest - the lower the THC level in them and the CBN level increases accordingly. According to this theory, the anesthetic effect associated with indica strains is generally the result of late harvesting or post-harvest obsolescence, and has nothing to do with the difference between different strains.

To date, there is not enough research to determine whether these theories are correct, but familiarity with the history of cannabis research clearly shows that its distribution to two species has never been clearly defined, and has not been based on the accepted scientific criteria.

Brown curves
The trichomes become walls when the plant is harvested later. They now contain less THC and more CBN

The source of separation is two species

The first scientific text that divides cannabis into two species appeared inHerbarium Of the German botanist Hieronymus Bock in 1539, and then of the German botanist and physicist Leonhart Fuchs at 1543.

Both Fox and Bok have written that there are two types of cannabis - cannabis and wild cannabis. However, none of them has ever seen the wild type, but only the kind of staged, called cannabis sativa, so they are careful to describe only him in their writings.

The two researchers base their claim on the existence of another type of cannabis based on the prevailing view in their time that the Europeans 'domesticated' the cannabis plant, and its non-domesticated version still exists in its source country, which is probably in the region of India or Persia.

The concept of Cannabis indica

The official responsible for bringing Cannabis indica to the lexicon as an additional and separate species from Cannabis Sativa is French biologist Jean-Baptiste de Lamarque. Lamarck is best known as the thinker of the first evolutionary theory that bears his name, "Lamarckism Theory," which actually preceded Darwin's theory of evolution and served as its basis.

Jean-Baptiste de Lamarque - the first to separate Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis indica
Jean-Baptiste de Lamarque - the first to separate Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis indica

In 1785 he published the Botany Encyclopedia In which he proposed a new kind of cannabis that he identified in samples sent to him from India. The reason Mark determined that this is a different species is the differences in the leaves, branches, and reproductive organs of plants he received from India. For the new species he discovered he called Indian cannabis, or in Latin - 'cannabis indica'

But the differences in the appearance of the plant were not the only thing Mark noticed in the new species. At the end of his botanical description, he adds a personal account of the far more powerful effects of Indian cannabis than its European counterpart, which produced little cannabinoids and was more suitable for industrial use.

"The effect of this plant is one that goes to the head, producing a kind of drunkenness in the brain that causes a person to forget his sadness and feel a strong sense of joy," he wrote.

Lamarck's definition became accepted, but with the beginning of the medical study of cannabis in the West in the 19 century, researchers have already questioned it. The first studies on the medicinal effects of cannabis were published by the renowned Irish doctor William O'Shaughnessy, Who used the term cannabis indica to describe psychoactive cannabis and cannabis sativa to describe cannabis. He did not agree that it was a different kind of plant. He argued that the difference in effect between them is simply due to the different climate in India and Asia, which causes the plant to produce more trichomes.

In 1843 he wrote: "There are many conflicting views about whether the common cannabis in Europe is different from that common in Asia and India. The unusual symptoms that the latter causes in its users are the result of its increased secretion of resin, which is almost non-existent in European cannabis. The two plants are completely identical and even identical in every physical characteristic, and I do not think there is any difference between them except for the climate in which they grew. "

William O'Shaughnessy, the first cannabis researcher in modern Western medicine
William O'Shaughnessy, the first cannabis researcher in modern Western medicine

Sativa vs. Indica Today - Is there a difference?

There are two methods to distinguish cannabis sativa and cannabis indica today - one by psychoactive effects and the other by botanical characteristics.

At the consumer or patient level, classification is done according to the effects observed in practice - also the classification method in the medical cannabis industry. In contrast, cannabis growers tend to differentiate between indica and sativa plants according to the botanical characteristics observed during the growing stage.

It is very important to emphasize that the latest research in the field Have not proved that there is correlation Between these two classification methods. For example, cannabis, which according to all botanical characteristics meets the definition of indica, will not necessarily have psychoactive effects associated with indica.

The classification of sativa and indica categories according to botanical characteristics is based on morphological differences (in plant structure): indica plants are lower in height, with wider leaves with fewer fingers, while Sativa plants are taller with long leaves and have more 'fingers' And thinner.

Indica plants mature more quickly than Sativa plants, and the two species also have different odors caused by different trapezoidal content.

Indica Sativa - Cannabis strains
On the right is Indica. On the left is Sativa

The method of classifying sativa and indica by effects, both in the black and legal markets and even in the medical market, is more art than science. The process is simple - consuming cannabis and checking whether the effects are more than anesthesia or arousal, and accordingly label it.

Sean Miles, an expert on agricultural diversity research at Dalhousie University in Canada, Says That the most prominent botanists in history would "roll in their graves" if they knew that this is how cannabis is classified today into different species.

The division into 'species' Sativa and indica is based solely on the effects of cannabis in practice. From the Green Book, the clinical care guide for cannabis in the Ministry of Health
The division into 'species' Sativa and indica is based solely on the effects of cannabis in practice. From the Green Book, the clinical care guide for cannabis in the Ministry of Health

For Miles and researchers like him, Cannabis's classification today is a misuse of medical indications that are supposed to have real meaning. BResearch Its published in 2015 is analyzed in samples of 81 and different strains of psychoactive cannabis from as many different sources in the world, which were sold of course according to the classification of Sativa and Indica. In addition, 43 is also analyzed in different strains of cannabis and Hemp from around the world.

His team mapped the genomes of the various cannabis samples and found that the division into Sativa and indica strains was not backed by significant genetic differences, nor by differences in the concentration of cannabinoids. The genetic difference that is found, as found also In other studies, Was between psychoactive cannabis and industrial cannabis, because one has been praised for centuries for fiber production and the other for cannabinoids.

Gene Analysis of Different Cannabis Varieties - Genetic Differences Between Psychoactive Cannabis and Hemp but Not Between Indica and Sativa
Gene Analysis of Different Cannabis Varieties - Genetic Differences Between Psychoactive Cannabis and Hemp but Not Between Indica and Sativa

According to Miles, such a thing would not pass quietly in the wine industry, for example. "You can not write about the bottle we're talking about noir and push some grapes we want to bottle," he says.

Most cannabis researchers Agree With Miles that today there is no scientific basis for the division between Sativa and indica. As to the question of whether there have ever been two distinct main types of cannabis (some of which Lamarck called 'species') - some researchers believe that it is, but these have been so closely intertwined that today there is no difference between them.

In contrast, some researchers argue that the cannabis strain has never been grouped into two major superpowers, and that the various effects people experience from cannabis stem from the different species, which contain a slightly different chemical composition.

In conclusion, there are many more we do not know about cannabis plant and the differences between its different varieties. Research in the field has been accelerating in recent years, and it is likely that it will eventually answer some of the unresolved questions that remain.

But until that happens, it is time for us to start distinguishing between Cannabis strains according to scientific criteria, such as the content of their cannabinoids and their predators, rather than the sight of an eye or a gut feeling.

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