What Is a Sativa Cannabis Strain?

What Is Sativa?

‘Sativa’ is a term used to refer to cannabis strains that share certain genetic characteristics. These strains are also commonly associated with uplifting cerebral effects that are best for daytime cannabis use.

But there is more to the sativa story!

What Sativa Is and What It Isn’t: Cannabis Taxonomy

To most cannabis consumers, the term ‘sativa’ is associated with certain strains providing certain effects. However, Cannabis sativa L. is also the taxonomical name for the hemp and marijuana plant family that includes both Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica sub-types. In fact, the word sativa is derived from the Latin adjective sativum–meaning cultivated.

The counterpart of Cannabis sativa is Cannabis indica, the name given to the intoxicating cannabis plants originating from the Hindu Kush mountains in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region that are generally associated with relaxing, body-based effects.

Today the term sativa is primarily used by patients and consumers to refer to strains that produce specific uplifting effects, and not necessarily to the species or genetics of the plant itself.

Genetics (whether sativa or indica) are not the sole driver of any particular strain’s effects. Some indica strains may produce more “sativa” effects. Alternatively, you may encounter a strain with sativa genetics that feels more relaxing and calming, for example. Hybrid strains (strains that contain both sativa and indica genetics) can produce a wide range of effects.

So while the terms sativa, indica, and hybrid originate as taxonomical classifications referring to a plant’s biology and genetics, among consumers today, these terms are typically used as a shorthand for effects.


Sativa Cannabis Plants

Plants with sativa genetics look distinctly different from indica strains during the growing process. Sativa plants tend to grow much taller and lankier than their indica counterparts. Moreover, they tend to be less bushy, with longer leaves and thinner stems.

Since ancient sativa cultivars (also known as strains) originate from warmer and more equatorial parts of the world, they typically fare better in warmer climates, tend to have a longer flowering time, and thrive in longer growing seasons.

What Are Sativa Effects? 

Sativas are associated with uplifting and stimulating effects. You may hear these strains characterized as producing a ‘head high,’ as opposed to indica strains, which are associated with a ‘body high.’

Some feel that the energizing and stimulating effects of sativas boost their focus and lend themselves well to being creative, having lively conversations, or enjoying social situations. Because of these uplifting and energizing effects, many people consider sativas to be “daytime strains.”

More stimulating and less sedating than indicas, sativa strains won’t have you feeling quite as relaxed or ready for a nap as an indica is thought to do.

Note: Every human body is unique. Start with a low dose and go slowly when it comes to increasing it to learn how your body reacts to sativa-type cannabis strains.

The indica/sativa dichotomy is a convenient way to organize cannabis strains by the kinds of effects that we can expect them to produce. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that every strain classified as a sativa will produce typical sativa effects, or that every strain classified as an indica will always produce the kinds of effects usually reserved for indicas.

In fact, researchers have found that certain strains labeled sativa are often just as related to strains labeled as indica as to other sativas (and vice-versa).

In one amusing example of the extremes this scenario can reach, the supposedly sativa-dominant strain AK-47 won second prize among sativas at the 1999 Cannabis Cup, only to win second place among indicas at the 2003 Cannabis Cup just 4 years later. So is AK-47 a sativa or an indica? Looks like it depends on who you ask!

If you want to get a better idea of the effects that a specific strain produces, you can always take a moment to look it up in a strain directory like Leafly or Weedmaps. Otherwise, it’s probably best to assume that strains you see listed as sativa will produce mostly cerebral sativa effects and those listed as indica will produce mostly physical indica-like effects (with hybrids falling somewhere in the middle).

What Really Determines the Effects of Cannabis?

What actually determines the effects that a strain can produce? Ultimately, it comes down to the chemical makeup of the strain–and even more specifically–of the cannabis plant in question.

For example, the entourage effect is a theory proposing that the many different chemical compounds in cannabis—there are over 500— work together synergistically to produce the overall effects of any given strain or plant.

To complicate things even more, the exact chemical makeup of a plant is influenced by more than its genetics. Where the plant was grown and what conditions it was grown under will also affect a plant’s cannabinoid and terpene content and possibly alter its effects. Even if these factors are constant, other things like how a strain is consumed and at what dosage can further change the overall experience.

This is why grouping different strains into two convenient categories based on their effects is impractical. It’s also the main reason why the indica vs sativa dichotomy can only be so useful in helping us to predict a strain’s effects.

To get the best idea of what effects a strain will produce, it’s better to look at the compounds it contains, including cannabinoids and terpenes, rather than solely its classification.

Different Types of Sativa Strains

There are many standout sativa strains worth keeping an eye out for. Here are just a few of the best-known types of sativa for medical and recreational purposes.

Ghost Train Haze

A member of the infamous Haze strain family, this award-winning strain is known for its euphoric and uplifting effects and its high THC content. Ghost Train Haze is a fun pick-me-up sativa cultivar that many of our customers enjoy for daytime activities and social situations.

Jack Herer

Named after the famous cannabis activist, Jack Herer has prize-winning genetics that include contributions from Haze, Skunk, and Northern Lights. Jack is often described as producing a clear-headed and energizing experience.

Sour Diesel

Sour Diesel’s uplifting effects make it a go-to morning strain for anyone looking to start their day off right. People love this his West Coast classic for an instant energy boost that stimulates the mind and the body.


Trainwreck provides an immediate rush of uplifting euphoria. People often describe this high-THC California strain as providing an intense cerebral experience supported by rich flavors of citrus and spruce.


Chocolope is a delicious strain that features sweet coffee and earthy flavors while delivering an energizing, uplifting, and euphoric blend of effects. Chocolope tends to be a very stimulating strain that pairs well with physical activity and daytime tasks.

Come Explore Uplifting Strains at Takoma Today!

Come by our Takoma dispensary today or browse our online menu right now to shop a huge assortment of uplifting strains and products.

We’ve curated a great selection, including many of the best-known and most-trusted strains to get you going and brighten your day. Do you have any additional questions about sativa strains? Don’t hesitate to reach out, we’re here to help.  We look forward to seeing you!