Sativa vs indica edibles – what’s the diff?

sativa vs indica edibles

Cannabis slang and taxonomy often bleed together in the modern space. An industry sprung from the counterculture will naturally keep some lingo on its journey to the mainstream. The resulting lexicon contributes to labeling confusion of indica vs. sativa vs. hybrid strains, a distinction Dr. Ethan Russo claimed was “futile.” On a more granular level, a consumer may wonder whether sativa vs. indica edibles have any merit.

Choosing an experience using indica or sativa monikers isn’t completely futile. Though the words may not describe more than how cannabis plants grow, they’ve taken on meaning in the zeitgeist. Each label –indica, sativa, hybrid– evokes a familiar feeling or effect among consumers.

Edibles on the dispensary shelf labeled with indica, sativa, or with a specified effect promise a reliable experience to the consumer. However, stepping up to the retail counter looking for an edible may be a daunting experience, especially for newcomers.

The sheer amount of choices and vocabulary can turn a conversation with a budtender into word soup. From cannabinoids and terpenes to ratios and desired effects, there’s a lot to consider. Identifying an edible that delivers a specific experience adds an additional layer to the quest.

Let’s examine sativa vs. indica edibles from every angle.

sativa vs indica ediblesRELATED: Legal psychedelics that’ll trip you out

Key takeaways: sativa vs indica edibles

  • Most edibles are processed by the digestive system, burning off terpenes and flavonoids.
  • Many believe that terpenes and related compounds are responsible for the sativa or indica effects people feel.
  • Unless terps are added back into edibles, it’s possible eating cannabis won’t have an indica or sativa effect.
  • Brands and labs have developed formulas that go straight to the bloodstream, preserving a true-to-strain experience.

How do cannabis edibles work?

Eating cannabis edibles often feels different than smoking. These varied experiences are due to how infused foods that include terpenes, cannabinoids, and other compounds are digested into the bloodstream.

Edibles make their first stop in the stomach, where acids are waiting to break down all of the food they meet. This process helps the body absorb vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, but it also burns off most of the terpenes and flavonoids found in the cannabis plant. As cannabinoids travel through the system, delta-9 THC is converted to 11-hydroxy-THC. This accounts for how eating weed leads to a heavier, longer-lasting effect.

Dr. Ethan Russo and other cannabis experts posit theories that terpenes are responsible for how cannabis varieties make a person feel. The theory states that terpenes sway an effect more than whether a plant is a cannabis indica or cannabis sativa.

Many believe the loss of terpenes and other volatile cannabis compounds also influences edible effects. Following this theory, if those terps are lost, it could drastically change (or remove) the expected outcome.

Sativa vs indica edibles: is there a difference?

From extract methods to terpene content, some question whether edibles even carry indica or sativa effects. The answer is that some do and some don’t. Let’s find out why.

Indica strains are known for a body high that may bring on sleep and pain relief. People consume indica for sleep or to come down from a stress-filled mindset. Effects of sativa may include euphoria, focus, or reduced anxiety. Sativa strains can produce more mental stimulation than other varieties. As such, indica and sativa edibles are expected to do the same as their floral counterparts. Still, they don’t always follow through. This could be due to a few factors.

The input method, or how the plant is included in a cannabis product, could remove terpenes before it ever reaches the consumer. Distillates, for example, are made with a distillation process that uses boiling. The process reaches temperatures beyond most terpene boiling points, removing them before cannabis edibles are formulated.

Because of this, edibles made with a distillate can lack depth, as the only remaining effect comes from isolated THC. Cannabis companies can add cannabis-derived or botanical terpene blends into edible formulations, rebuilding what may have been lost in the extraction process.

Another option is to make edibles with an extract that preserves volatile compounds like terpenes. Ethanol extracts are one input that may capture indica edible effects (or sativa). Live rosin and other terp-focused concentrates may also provide a sativa or indica-dominant experience.

Cannabinoid ratios and edibles effects

Terpenes and THC are threads in the tapestry of compounds that contribute to cannabis edibles effects. Minor cannabinoids have been prominent in cannabis products. CBN is commonly added to products meant to help people sleep. Other edibles will feature CBG to promote calm and spark focus.

Certain ratios of cannabinoids are also preferred. Equal ratios of CBD and THC can create psychoactive effects without the edge of an infused treat with all THC. A combination of CBN to CBD could work together in an effective sleep product, while CBD and CBG might be preferred by someone with anxiety.

Pharmacological and scientific research is getting close to understanding the cannabinoid ratios and doses for specific symptoms and disorders. Similarly, labs are identifying technology that helps people efficiently absorb cannabis edibles.

sativa vs indica edibles

RELATED: What are trichomes? Pretty, potent, and practical

Technology is changing the sativa vs indica edibles game

Losing terpenes during digestion is less avoidable than passing on edibles made with one-note inputs, but some companies are generating solutions. Cannabis brands and research labs claim to have developed edible cannabis inputs that bypass the digestive system altogether. These products are absorbed directly into the bloodstream. Proprietary formulas produce these effects, and two companies are leading in the space.

Unlokt, crafted by Israel-based Day Three Labs, is one edibles input available from California to Colorado. The formula uses a combination of “protein” and cannabinoids. It’s an ideal product for edibles companies seeking a plug-and-play infusion option.

The blends can be created to match the composition of various strains. Brands can offer a strain-specific edibles experience leaning towards feelings consumers recognize as sativa or indica.

Former California brand Kin Slips spent years refining in-house edible technology that may bypass the digestive system. Cannabinoids and terpenes in the product traveled straight to the bloodstream.

Tommy Chong also has a sublingual strip product that claims to bypass the liver and go straight to the dome. Both offer a fast onset time of 10 to 15 minutes, though Tommy Chong’s sublingual strips aren’t explicit about terpene content.

Cannabis technology continues to advance as legalization eases research restrictions and brands focus on specific consumer needs. As the industry develops, more advancements in edible product development are imminent. For now, connoisseurs revel in the experience of a strain-specific edible high that kicks in after 15 minutes.

Sativa vs indica edibles final word

Anyone wondering whether there’s merit to edibles labeled sativa or indica should inquire how certain infused products are made. Edibles with added terpenes or an infusion method that bypasses the stomach and liver could deliver experiences commonly associated with terms like indica and sativa. However, a cannabis product made with a distillate could fall flat. The factors laid out in this article cover the gamut of circumstances that dictate the effects of an edible.

No matter what kind of edible ends up in the bag, the most important thing to do is start slowly with the dosing. Edible weed technology or not, eating weed packs a punch–and it’s never fun to overconsume. As the cannabis industry advances, consumers should remain steadfast in avoiding overconsumption, whether it’s an indica edible or not.

Cara Wietstock is Senior Content Producer of and has been working in the cannabis space since 2011. She has covered the cannabis business beat for Ganjapreneur and The Spokesman Review. You can find her living in Bellingham, Washington with her husband, son, and a small zoo of pets.