Even if you’re not one of those weed geeks who can identify every strain by its THC content, taste, and aroma, you probably think you know the difference between sativa and indica.
“Sativa is energizing; indica is relaxing.”
Or, as a stoner might put it, “Sativa gets you wasted, Indica puts you to sleep.”
That’s common wisdom, and it certainly approaches the truth. But the distinctions can be a lot more subtle than that.
White Fire OG is Indica-dominant (a hybrid with more indica than sativa characteristics), but it can blow you away without putting you to sleep. On the other hand, Gorilla Glue #4 is a sativa-dominant strain, but it might have you couch-locked in no time at all.
So it’s important to put aside some of the preconceptions. (One neurologist famous for studying marijuana calls the commercial definitions of sativa and indica “nonsense.”)
The first things you need to do when looking for the “best sativa strains” are to understand what sativa means and to specify exactly what you’re hoping to experience when you spark up.
What Makes Sativa “Sativa?”
Sativa is one of two major subspecies of cannabis plants; the other, of course, is indica. (There’s a third type called ruderalis, but it doesn’t produce a lot of usable buds.) You may be surprised to learn that sativa isn’t defined by the effects of its flower but by the characteristics of the plant; sativa is tall and thin with long, pointy leaves, while indica is bushier and shorter with leaves to match.
Unless you’re a grower, though, what the plant looks like doesn’t really matter much. What you’re concerned with is what happens when you smoke or consume it.
The Different Effects of Sativa Strains
Why do sativas have the reputation of getting you high while indicas are said to sedate you? It’s because of the amount and type of cannabinoids (primarily THC and CBD) and terpenes (the oils which determine aroma and taste) they contain.
The majority of sativa strains or sativa-dominant hybrids are high in THC and low in CBD. And since THC is the psychoactive cannabinoid in a pot, that’s why most sativas have earned the reputation for delivering powerful head highs. By contrast, sativas generally have lower THC content and higher CBD, so the high isn’t as strong, and the relaxing body effects are noticeable.
However, notice that we used words like “majority” and “most” in that summary. That’s because there are some sativas with lower THC content and more CBD than you’d expect, and vice versa.
And simply looking at THC content percentages isn’t a good guide to how buzzed you’re going to get from a particular strain. The interaction between all cannabinoids (including lesser ones like CBN) and the terpenes gives every strain a different head and body effect, whether it’s sativa, indica, or a hybrid of the two.
So the “best sativa” can’t simply be judged by how much THC it has or how blasted you get after smoking it. Every strain has its unique characteristics – and its best uses.
Some sativas fit the “mind-blowing high” stereotype. Some will deliver a milder buzz or a trippy experience, some will provide a focused high that makes it easier to concentrate, and some are even mellow and relaxing.
Similarly, most sativas will let you function normally (or at least semi-normally) all day. But others will hit your body with the infamous couch lock, even though it’s “supposed to be” indicas that deliver body-numbing body relaxation. And different sativa or sativa-dominant strains will have different medical applications as well.
That’s why our list of the best sativa strains isn’t just aimed at telling you which type of weed will get you the highest. It also tells you which ones to choose for different experiences.
Best Sativa Strains
The overwhelming trend in recent years has been toward hybrids; pure sativa strains still exist, and we’ll look at one, but the majority of the “best sativa” strains are actually sativa-dominant hybrids.
Named after a prominent pot activist, Jack Herer is a much-loved sativa-dominant. It’s the best of its type for energy, as it hits fast and hits hard with its initial buzz and then morphs into a more relaxing and long-lasting “happy” high. THC levels can range from 15-25% depending on the source, and there’s low CBD content. That makes it a much better choice for enjoyment during the day than falling asleep at night.
Creativity and sociability are boosted for most users since the high leaves you energized and alert. The mellow feeling is good for helping ease depression, stress, and migraines, and it can have a minor beneficial effect on chronic pain. There are better sativas for medical use, though, and we’ll look at one shortly.
Wake and bake? This is your choice. A pure sativa strain that is highly energetic, Durban Poison normally has THC content averaging around 20% with very little CBD so that you can use it in the morning or afternoon without fear of couch lock. It’s also the choice of many parties since the active high is often best when shared with friends.
This powerful strain hits people in different ways; most find it uplifting and ideal for creativity or sociability. For some, it goes several steps further to set their mind racing and worsen anxiety. Start slowly if you’re an inexperienced user.
Our next three choices are categorized as the “best” for specific purposes, and we start with Green Crack, the best sativa for focus. This is actually a hybrid that leans sativa heavily, and it provides the initial energy boost you’d expect, combined with a striking increase in attention span. You don’t feel the complete body relaxation you’d anticipate from the indica content, though, so you can remain focused for long periods of time. In fact, you’ll probably feel wired.
The THC content in this strain can range from 15-25% and is usually in the 20% area, with very little CBD. So when you combine that with the lack of a body stone, the medicinal benefits of Green Crack are rather limited. If you’ve got a complicated project that requires time and focus, however, here’s your go-to weed.
No, despite its name, it won’t leave your brain hazy and unable to function. Haze is simply one of this sativa-dominant’s parent strains, and Amnesia Haze’s uplifting and cerebral high actually makes it the best sativa for creativity and deep thought. The high THC content (almost always over 20%, sometimes as high as 25%) makes the high long-lasting, stimulating, motivating – and if you’re smoking with friends – prone to bringing on prolonged cases of the giggles and munchies.
A secondary relaxation sets in after a while due to the strain’s indica content, so you won’t be up all night after using. The medicinal benefits are primarily for those who are depressed or suffering from attention-deficit disorders; there’s also a greater-than-normal tendency for users to freak out if they suffer from anxiety, so be cautious if that describes you.
This is the best sativa-dominant strain that combines therapeutic benefits with a terrific head high. Sour Diesel has a sativa/indica ratio that can hit 80/20, so it isn’t going to knock you out; instead, its 20%+ THC levels induce an energetic and somewhat spacy high, which can deliver a knock-out punch to depression and stress. Surprisingly, many users also feel impressive chronic pain relief despite the strain’s low CBD content. That’s likely due to its terpenes.
Again, this is a strain to avoid if you suffer from anxiety – and also if you dislike (or can’t afford to have others notice) an extremely pungent aroma. However, it’s the best sativa if you want to get blasted and feel better from top to bottom.