Subscribe to Entrepreneur for $5
Subscribe

How Does Sativa Make You Feel? A Primer

It's billed as the functioning cannabis consumer's strain, it makes you funny, creative...or it doesn't.

By
This story originally appeared on Emjay

Word on the street is that Sativa makes you happy. It’s billed as the functioning cannabis consumer’s strain. It’s the kind of weed you imagine comedy writers smoking when they’re slowly penning an absurd script for next summer’s awkward coming-of-age flick. It makes you happy. It makes you creative. It makes you laugh. 

Or, it totally doesn’t.

Some people swear that Sativa makes them feel anxious or paranoid. They associate Sativa with a bad high, and they won’t go anywhere near it. They can’t even conceptualize why people will come within ten feet of the stuff. So what gives?

The truth: Sativa tends to influence people in an upward trajectory, but there’s more at work than the strain. There are hundreds of cannabinoids and terpenes at play, and THC content will also take center stage in impacting the way you feel. 

RELATED: So, How Did Sativa Really Become The 'Energy Queen' Of Cannabis?

What is cannabis sativa?

All cannabis is cannabis Sativa on a technical level. Cannabis Indica used to be regarded as a subtype of cannabis Sativa. Cannabis Indica merely looks different and often contains a different THC to CBD ratio. Cannabis Sativa plants are really tall, really bushy, and produce looser, feathery buds. The iconic cannabis leaf image is of the Sativa leaf. 

How is sativa different from other cannabis?

Hemp is cannabis Sativa. It isn’t actually a different plant. It’s just been produced to adhere to a specific set of traits. We call any cannabis plant with THC at 0.30% or below a hemp plant. This is how the law separates cannabis that is legal to grow for manufacturing other products (or making CBD oil) from cannabis that is federally criminalized. 

Any cannabis plant with more than 0.30% THC is considered either cannabis Sativa or cannabis Indica, and those designations are made based on the plant’s particular traits. This excludes cannabis ruderalis, which is a strain we don’t often hear about. Ruderalis grows in Eastern Europe and North Asia like an actual weed, popping up in empty fields. These plants are tiny and usually of little interest to growers since they don’t produce many buds, and their THC content is naturally very low. 

Indica plants are short and shrubby. Their leaves are very thick and broad. If you were to place a Sativa plant and an Indica plant side by side, it would be obvious on sight that the plants were different, even though they’re both cannabis. 

Sativa strains have a reputation for being high in THC and low in CBD. Since CBD is a highly relaxing cannabinoid, the idea is that Sativa strains will give you a solid high without any sedative effects. Indica is known as a sleepy weed because it’s allegedly higher in CBD and lower in THC, but this isn’t always the case.

People want stronger versions of their favorite strains. Many growers have deliberately bred their signature strains to increase their THC, often to exclude their CBD. Some growers do the exact opposite. They want to produce a gentler plant that’s more accessible to people who want to use cannabis for its other benefits and don’t enjoy feeling high. 

These practices have changed the standard, and expectations should change to reflect that standard. Sativa strains like Harlequin are low in THC but high in CBD, making them more accessible to people who feel like high THC levels don’t agree with them. 

If it’s high THC you’re looking for, the majority of Sativa strains are going to come through for you. Sativa flower can climb close to 40% THC, where most potent Indica drops off in the high 20’s. Sativa is the weed you want if you’re looking to get seriously high. 

The cannabinoids and terpenes in sativa strains

Sour Diesel, Jack Herer, and Durban Poison are well-loved Sativas. Most people who use cannabis frequently have encountered them regularly. They’re also a great example of why Sativa strains are so interesting.

Sour Diesel usually clocks in just below 20% THC, with Jack Herer and Durban Poison climbing into the 30% range. Banjo, an underappreciated gentle strain that’s very newbie-friendly, usually tests at around 11% THC. Sativa can pull very high or very low, and this is something anyone interested in using a Sativa should consider before they grab an eighth. 

One thing that most Sativa do have in common is a lack of other cannabinoids. Except for THC-A, many Sativa contains a small fraction of a percent of each major cannabinoid. If a Sativa contains CBD, it’s usually going to be broadcasted. That’s because these Sativa are rare, and this difference is a huge selling point for people seeking CBD benefits. 

With Indica strains, you’ll find a lot of overlap in terpene profiles. Sativa doesn’t adhere to that pattern. Sour Diesel, Jack Herer, and Durban Poison have some of the same key terpenes, but their concentrations and prevalence are drastically different.

Sativa has a wider array of terpene profiles than Indica strains. Indica’s mostly contain terpenes that people associate with relaxation, like myrcene. You’re likely to find limonene terpenes in Sativa strains. Their citrusy aromas produce energizing and uplifting effects. 

The effects of sativa

Since most other cannabinoids are removed from the equation, the effects of Sativa largely rely on the presence of THC. If you aren’t after a CBD Sativa, choosing a Sativa strain depends on very few variables. 

The first is how high you want to get. Looking at the THC percentage is going to tell you everything you need to know. Since Sativa isn’t generally well balanced with relaxing cannabinoids, it’s mostly going to be a head high. You’ll be up and walking around, and you need to know that you’re going to be able to cope with that amount of THC in your system.

If you find that Sativa makes you feel anxious or paranoid, it’s usually not the Sativa that’s causing the problem. It’s the high amount of THC. Choosing a lower THC variety (like Banjo) will produce a gentler high. Lower THC weed will also prevent you from feeling “stuck” or going off on tangents. You’ll be able to get a glass of water without marveling at the mysteries of how your ice dispenser works for 45 minutes. 

The second factor is the terpenes. Your nose is going to tell you what you like and what you don’t like. Choose a Sativa that smells good to you. If you hate how it smells, you’re going to hate how it tastes. The aromatics are a part of the experience. 

Bright aromatics like limonene might make you feel happy when you smell them. Smoke the weed that makes you happy. That’s a great rule for life. 

RELATED: Finding The Secret Behind Choosing The Best Weed Strain For You

When should I use sativa?

You can use Sativa whenever you’re capable of safely being under the influence. Its heavy head high doesn’t provide any body relaxation, so you might not want to use it before you’re going to lay down for the night. 

A lot of people use Sativa before they do something creative. If you’re an artist, a writer, or a musician, using Sativa before you attempt to create something new may help you generate some ideas. The head high will make you feel a little more inspired. You might look back at those ideas the next day and be utterly baffled by what you thought was brilliant at the time, but it’s still a great starting point.

Sativa also makes boring things fun. If you have a long list of chores you’re not looking forward to, Sativa can keep your brain engaged while you’re doing simple busy work. 

Should I use indica at night?

You don’t have to use Indica at night, but it might help. If you use cannabis twice a day, a higher CBD, lower THC Indica will make it easier for you to sleep than Sativa will. The body high will help to relax you. If you don’t have any trouble falling asleep or relaxing, just wait until your Sativa wears off. 

Are you ready for some sativa?

Choose your Sativa wisely, and make sure you’re selecting a strain with a THC level that will agree with you. A terpene profile that uplifts your mood certainly won’t hurt. 

Do you want some Sativa? We’ll bring it to you. We can have it at your front door in half an hour. 

Emjay offers dozens of Sativa cannabis products, from pre-rolls to flowers to distillates to edibles. We can have a delivery driver drop off exactly what you need, including the accessories you need to enjoy it properly.  So, are you ready to get creative?