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Indica – Sativa – Ruderalis

Main differences between Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis Indica and Cannabis Ruderalis.

Sativa, Indica and Ruderalis are all subspecies of one and the same species: Cannabis Sativa L(innaeus). Despite being of the same species, the effects, appearance, range and characteristics of each subspecies vary widely.
Cannabis Sativa, with finds made in China dating back to 4000 B.C. and thus the oldest cultivated plant in the world, is an incredibly diverse plant. The 3 subspecies can now at present time, be divided into thousands of different hybrid species. All kinds of Skunks, Kushes, Hazes, Cheeses, Amnesias, Cookies, Gelatos and many, many more are currently dominating the cannabis seed market.
All those different (mostly hybrid) species with all their own unique characteristics means that navigating through Wietland can be quite confusing.
Certain subspecies will be more suitable for the recreational and wellness and health market (e.g. self-medication), while others, such as hemp (contains practically no thc but cbd) are more favorable for the more commercial agricultural sectors to produce products such as fibers, tea, food supplements (cbd products), rope, paper, clothing and other textiles.
With this in mind and leaving industrial hemp aside, we can break down the three subspecies, sativa, indica and ruderalis, and describe their main characteristics and properties as well as the effect they can have when consumed.


The Sativa (dominant) strain can reach heights of more than 5 meters in optimal circumstances and is native to tropical climates where long periods of intense sunlight are the norm. Since the appearance of any wild plant is the result of optimal adaptation to its environment, this has enabled the sativa strains to develop large, many-fingered and slender, pointed leaves. Their branches are stretched by as much as 7-15 centimeters between the nodes.

Sativa strains can handle higher humidity concentrations compared to their indica counterparts. However, sativas have up to 2 weeks (and sometimes even longer) flowering time compared to indicas. Due to their size, they also need a lot of space to grow to full maturity. Keep this in mind if you plan to grow sativa strains indoors.

Sativa strains induce feelings of euphoria and a head-turning high when consumed. They are also used to boost energy levels, creativity and deviant thinking. In general, users describe a mentally stimulating and energizing effect. Sativa strains are not the first choice for medical markets, they tend more towards Indica-dominant strains, unless they have to deal with specific conditions such as the appetite-stimulating effect attributed to sativa strains – we all know too well the strong craving for eating – which is particularly beneficial for people recovering from ailments where a normal appetite is compromised. Sativa-dominant strains are an ideal choice for the recreational market for an active and energetic high.


The indica subspecies is the opposite of sativa strains in almost every way. With a height of up to 1.5 meters in length, she grows much shorter, has a denser branch structure -the distance between the nodes is smaller- and has a much shorter flowering period compared to sativas. The leaves are also generally smaller and shorter, with broad fingers. Grown properly, indica strains resemble a small Christmas tree, with the largest leaves at the base of the plant.

Indicas are less suited to humid conditions and can easily fall victim to mold unless grown in a controlled environment (indoors). For recreational growers, Indica strains are often preferred due to their shorter flowering time. Indica strains produce a body-focused effect that can be used to help relax muscles and soothe and attenuate pain. The overall effect is relaxing and soothing. Certain indica strains can also help induce sleep or treat insomnia. Because of these properties, indica-dominant strains are usually preferred for medicinal use. But the most striking and spectacular result of the use of (indica) THC is that there are now many (documented) cases where daily use has apparently led to striking regression of cancerous cells and tumors. A wonderful example of self-medication that has left the pharmaceutical industry behind for the time being!


The ruderalis, which is somewhere in between the sativa and indica subspecies, has small, thick leaves with only a few branches, fewer fingers and a fibrous stem. With a maximum height of about a little over or under 1 meter, they do not grow very tall. Native to Central- and Eastern Europe and Asia, the ruderalis subspecies has adapted to thrive in less than optimal environments. The fundamental difference between ruderalis and sativa or indica is how the subspecies blooms. Usually, a cannabis plant uses the change of seasons to encourage the transition from the vegetative phase to flowering. However, due to the lower sunlight intensity in Europe, the ruderalis subspecies has developed a built-in timer for flowering regardless of seasonal changes.

This is called AUTOFLOWERING.

Genetics determine how long the plant spends in the vegetative or growth phase, in most cases 3-4 weeks before it automatically enters the flowering phase, regardless of the length of the days. Pure ruderalis strains have very low levels of THC and produce significantly less in terms of female flower yield. They are not used in the recreational market due to poor efficiency and lack of psychoactive effect. However (and this has revolutionized the cannabis market) they can be crossed with indica or sativa strains. Not only for higher yields, but also to increase the cannabinoid levels of, for example, Delta9 THC and improve the taste. In other words, this makes it possible for outdoor growers in our regions to complete as many as 2 (or even 3!)autoflowering grow cycles in one season with both a high yield and a high THC content, which also tastes good!

The ruderalis subspecies may contain higher levels of CBD and may be useful for immune-boosting nutritional supplements. The fibrous stems also make ruderalis species more suitable for use in clothing or textiles.