Sativa vs. Indica - What's the difference


  1. Is Medical Marijuana Legal in Australia?
  2. How does cannabis work?
  3. Difference between sativa and indica
  4. Difference between medical marijuana strains in Australia
  5. Cannabinoids - what are they?
  6. 10 most common terpenes in medical marijuana strain
  7. Best medical marijuana strains in Australia
  8. Medical Marijuana Doctor in Australia

Yes, cannabis became a legal medication in Australia in 2016. It is illegal to possess cannabis without a prescription in Australia, with the exception of the ACT.

Medical marijuana is scheduled 8 medication in Australia. This is classified as a controlled substance. Another medication that shares the same schedule includes Ritalin for ADHD.

While medical cannabis is not listed on the ARTG (Australian Registry of Therapeutic Goods), Australian doctors can prescribe cannabis to appropriate patients using the Special Access Scheme. Click here to find out if you are a suitable candidate for cannabis medications.

2. How does Medical cannabis work?

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a network of receptors and cannabinoids that helps regulate many of the body's functions. These receptors are located in the brain/nervous system and the immune system. The body naturally produces endocannabinoids that attach to these receptors. The cannabis plant contains dozens of cannabinoids that impact these same receptors. The two primary cannabinoids are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol).

There is a potential cannabis synergy called the entourage effect This is where the combination of the various cannabinoids and terpenes work synergistically together to produce a much greater effect than the sum of the compounds found within the cannabis plant.

3. Indica vs Sativa

The categories sativa and indica are commonly used to differentiate the expected effects from marijuana strains within the cannabis community. Unfortunately, they can not accurately predict the variations in effects between cannabis strains.

Most current strains in Australia are now hybrid strains (a mix of sativa and indica). While a cannabis strain may be called an indica, it may have traits that would be associated with a sativa and vice versa.

The sativa vs indica debate is no longer relevant, as we know that effects between marijuana strains' chemical compounds (cannabinoid and terpene profiles). Continue reading to explore the differences between sativa and indica.

Cannabis Sativa Information

Category Name: Cannabis Sativa

THC: Normally, high doses of THC.

CBD: Normally, with lower amounts of CBD.

Sativa effects: Sativa strains are commonly associated with energetic and uplifting effects.

Preferred administration time: Many people prefer taking an uplifting strain during the day as they have things that need to be done.

Geographic Origin: grow in warmer climates that take longer to bud/flower.

Sativa Plant Characteristics: Tall, sometimes even reaching over 6 feet. Sativa leaves are long and thin.

Cannabis Indica Information

Category Name: Cannabis Indica

THC: high doses (normally).

CBD: high amounts of CBD.

Indica effects: Are thought to be relaxing and are associated with sedative effects.

Preferred administration time: These effects can benefit people trying to relax and sleep.

Geographic Origin: Indica plants grow in colder temperatures (primarily found in the northern hemisphere).

Indica Plant Characteristics: Short and stocky, with indica leaves looking broad and dense.

Indica vs Sativa Summary:

  1. Most cannabis available in Australia (and globally) are hybrid strains, despite being called a sativa or indica.
  2. Pure sativa strains are associated with energetic effects.
  3. Pure indica strains are associated with sedative, couch-locking effects.
  4. Sativa vs Indica is not an accurate way to predict expected effects.
  5. Both Sativa and Indica strains tend to have high levels of THC.
  6. CBD levels vary among strains of sativa and indica.

The most effective way to predict the effects of a particular strain is to assess its cannabinoid profile, which includes the proportion of THC, CBD, other cannabinoids and terpenes.

4. Differences between medical marijuana strains in Australia?

We now know that the differing effects between strains are not due to the strain of marijuana being a sativa or indica. The variations in therapeutic effects result from the following:

  • The ratio of THC to CBD in the strain.
  • Quantity of CBD present in the cannabis strain.
  • Amount of THC present in the strain of cannabis.
  • Quantity of the other Cannabinoids found in the strain.
  • Quantity of each of the terpenes found in the strain
  • Flavonoids found in the strain.

While the concentration of THC and CBD within the medication plays the most significant role in the variation of effects felt by the patient, the remaining factors are not negligible. Strains of indica and sativa often both contain high levels of THC, meaning that the classification of indica and sativa is an inaccurate way to predict the effects of the medication. The prescribing doctor must consider all of the variables above to select the best strain of medical marijuana available in Australia for the patient.

All medical cannabis available in Australia is grown following Great Manufacturing Practise (GMP). These protocols ensure that various batches of medical marijuana strains have consistent concentrations of cannabinoids, including CBD and THC, and stable terpene profiles across batches.

5. Cannabinoids -

Cannabis plants contain over 60 different cannabinoids, which are chemical compounds that interact with the body's endocannabinoid system. CBD and THC are the two most well-known cannabinoids, but research is still ongoing to understand how the other cannabinoids affect the endocannabinoid system.

While there is a reasonable amount of research on CBD and THC, it is important to note that research is extremely scarce regarding the other lesser-known cannabinoids.

CBD (Cannabidiol)

  • CBD is non-impairing and does not have psychoactive effects commonly associated with cannabis, and it does not produce a “high” commonly associated with marijuana use.
  • Research suggests that CBD may reduce pain, nausea, prevent seizures, and ease migraines.
  • Category 2 cannabis flower strains are now available in Australia with a prescription. Some of which have less than 1% THC.

THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol)

  • THC is the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis and is responsible for the “highs” commonly associated with marijuana.
  • THC concentrations in strains have increased significantly over the last decades through strain cultivation.

CBN (Cannabinol)

  • Forms when THC degrades due to exposure or heat.
  • Study in rats shows that CBN could reduce muscle pain when taken with CBD. A proper human clinical study is required to verify these findings.
  • Evidence suggests that CBN could lead to a failed drug test.

CBG (Cannabigerol)

  • Research suggests that CBG can bind to CB1 And CB2 (similar to THC).
  • A survey found that a CGB dominant product helped treat anxiety and chronic pain. This is extremely weak clinical evidence!

THCA (Tetrahydrocannabinol acid)

  • Is the most abundant, non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis.
  • THCA can convert to THC when heated, some converts gradually in the drying process.
  • THCA can show up on a drug test.

6. The 10 most common terpenes in Medical Marijuana strains

There are over 100 different terpenes found in cannabis. Terpenes are primarily responsible for the taste and smell of the strain of marijuana.

Please note that the clinical evidence to support the therapeutic effects of terpenes is poor. Much of the evidence is anecdotal, with some low-quality studies on humans and others using rodents.

While in theory, the terpene profile between strains can vary significantly. Most strains of medical cannabis available with a prescription in Australia have the same few dominant terpenes (listed below), with trace amounts of the other terpenes.


Flavour profile: Floral, nutty scent with herbal undertones.

Also found in: Chamomile and sage.

Associated effects: May reduce inflammation.


Flavour profile: Spicy, musky aroma sometimes described as fuel.

Also found in: Black pepper, cloves, oregano and cumin.

Associated effects: Caryophyllene is the only terpene known to also act as a cannabinoid. It binds to the CB2 receptors within the immune system, studies have shown it to possess anti-inflammatory properties.


Flavour profile: Fresh, cool-like aroma with a minty taste.

Also found in: Eucalyptus and tee tree oil.

Associated effects: May decrease pain and improve bronchitis, sinusitis & rhinosinitis.


Flavour profile: Earthy and woody aroma

Also found in: Basil, ginger, cloves and Vietnamese coriander.

Associated effects: May produce anti inflammatory and antioxidant effects.


Flavour profile: Citrusy aroma

Also found in: The skin of citrus fruits.

Associated effects: May reduce pain, reduce stress and anxiety, boost mood, and enhance immunity. It can also help to improve digestion and fight off infection.


Flavour profile: lavender scent profile

Also found in: Lavender, basil and peanut stems.

Associated effects: used in many traditional medicines for their relaxing effects. It may help reduce pain, anxiety and feelings of depression. Linalool is commonly associated with indica strains.


Flavour profile: Fruity, earthy and musky flavour profile.

Also found in: Thyme, mango, verbena, lemongrass and citrus fruits.

Associated effects: It may improve sleep, reduce inflammation, and be an anti-oxidant.

  • Myrcerine is the most common terpene found in medical marijuana and is a dominant terpine around 40% of the time.
  • Commonly associated with indica strains that have couch-locking effects.


Flavour profile: Floral sweetness, with citrus and wood undertones.

Also found in: Basil, mangoes, parsley, orchids, hops, pepper and kumquats.

Associated effects: Potential anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and anti-fungal benefits.


Flavour profile: mells like pine trees.

Also found in: pine needles, rosemary, dill, parsley and citrus peels.

Associated effects: Potential pain relief as well as anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety properties. It may also reduce short-term memory impairment from THC.


Flavour profile: Citrus flavour profile with a floral, fresh citrusy aroma with pine undertones.

Also found in: apples, sage, tea, parsnip and cumin

Associated effects: May have antioxidant, antibacterial and anti-fungal properties.

  • Terpinolene is commonly thought to have relaxing and uplifting effects.

7. Best Medical Cannabis strains in Australia

Doctor guidance is required when selecting the best strain of cannabis cbd oil for your condition. Unfortunately, no single strain of cannabis is universally the best for people suffering from all chronic conditions. It is important to note that finding the best medical cannabis strain is also subjective, as people have different tastes.

A doctor will determine which cannabinoids and terpenes are best suited for you individual symptom relief. The doctor will also develop a treatment plan to minimise some potential side effects of the cannabis medication.

Some strains are more appropriate for daytime use when a patient may need to remain productive and focused, while other strains may be more beneficial in helping the patient sleep.

8. Medical Marijuana Doctor in Australia

Chronic Therapy doctors have been trained to safely prescribe cannabis products to Australian patients. Cannabis medications are not suited to most people, click here to find out if you are an appropriate patient for cannabis medications.

Chronic Therapy has streamlined the process for appropriate patients to access medical marijuana medications. We know that living with a chronic condition is hard, that is why we have made receiving treatment simple! Our doctors follow safe medicine, they take a start slow and increase slowly approach with cannabis medications. If you believe your condition would benefit from medical cannabis treatments, we would recommend taking our Free Online Pre-Screening and to see if you are an appropriate patient before booking a consultation with one of Chronic Therapy doctors today.