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We blind-tasted cannabis strains and guessed: indica or sativa?

September 27, 2019
Sativa and indica. When you see these words, your brain is trained to see “upper weed” and “downer weed.” That’s because if you walked into a dispensary and asked the budtender for a product that will make you feel energized, sleepy, or chill, they will use these classifications as a guiding principle.


Indica vs. sativa: What’s the difference between cannabis types?

But is “sativa” and “indica” the best way to shop for a strain? To put it to the test, I had a group of consumers smoke the same strain and guess if it was a sativa or indica based on how they felt after 30 minutes.

After watching the above video, you’ll see that only one out of three smokers correctly guessed that they were smoking a sativa, and the others missed by guessing indica. Why?

What’s in a strain?

There are a few factors that influence the way a cannabis strain or product make your body feel, and day by day, we are learning more about those factors thanks to lab-sourced data.

Cannabinoids are the chemical compounds within cannabis that we associate with the plant’s benefits. The most common is THC, which gets you high, and CBD, which doesn’t cause a high.

Terpenes are the aromatic compounds that produce a plant’s flavor and aroma. Examples of common cannabis terpenes are myrcene, caryophyllene, and limonene.


What are cannabis terpenes and what do they do?

Cannabinoids, and possibly terpenes, create the effects we feel after consuming a cannabis strain or product. This is known as the entourage effect.

It is an individualistic process, so when you watch this video, the reason only one person was able to guess if the strain was a sativa or indica is because Lemon G interacted with each person’s body differently, producing different effects in each.

Lemon G is a THC-dominant strain led by the terpenes myrcene, limonene, and caryophyllene. Although it’s sold as a sativa at most cannabis shops, its chemical profile is remarkably similar to many hybrids and indicas like Kosher Kush, Bruce Banner, and Blackberry Kush. So that could have caused some confusion in a blind tasting.


Cannabis strains that are unexpectedly similar

For this reason, it’s important to educate yourself on cannabinoids, terpenes, the entourage effect, and how all affect your specific body.

It’s also important that cannabis producers get each and every cannabis product tested by accredited labs, and that they provide this information to consumers.

Dante Jordan's Bio Image

Dante Jordan

Dante Jordan is an Associate Subject Matter Expert for Leafly, where he specializes in informational and lifestyle content pertaining to cannabis strains and products. He also manages the Leafly strain database.

View Dante Jordan's articles

  • Pope O’Dope

    “Cannabinoids, and possibly terpenes, create the effects we feel after consuming a cannabis strain or product. This is known as the entourage effect.” Now you’re just making stuff up.

  • historyspeaks2019

    I can usually tell a strain by how tired I am after 30 minutes. Indica’s definitely mellow me out and put me to sleep.

    I’ve also found that some terpene profiles in certain strains will make my blood sugar crash, causing me to need a piece of chocolate in much the same way a diabetic experiences the need for an insulin shot/piece of chocolate. For the record, I am NOT diabetic. Also, Jack Herrer is not overrated and Blue Dream has been one of my faves forever.

  • Bob Delp

    Hi! Love your site! I have three plants in my covered garden. I was really just experimenting with growing it. More of just to see if I can. Now, I really like it. So, it’s already October in Ohio. Days are still warm. Buds are growing well. When do I harvest it? Do I need to hang it? And for how long? Thanks for your help

  • Hi! Indica and sativa aren’t supposed to be descriptors for the buzz. They are growth characteristics. Indica is short and bushy and sativa is tall and less bushy. They aren’t supposed to have anything to do with the feeling you get. This is the real reason people can’t figure it out. Next you’ll be telling people that THC percentage is the only thing to look for when purchasing.

  • Tom

    Three consumers is not sufficient n to draw conclusions from. Nice little clip but worthless in furthering meaningful discussion. The bud tenders at my dispensary tend to be pot enthusiasts with very little understanding of strain profiles and patient/customer response.

    Oakton Community College, Des Plaines, Illinois has developed a training curricula chaired by a practicing physician. It intends to give budtenders a more in-depth understanding of strains, terpenes, and individuals response to what they consume.

    Perhaps an article about their program would be of interest to this readership. In this new multi billion dollar industry good, science based training is surely needed.