The munchies, sleepiness and euphoria are the most talked-about side effects of marijuana, but different strains of pot often yield unique results. And there are two major strains from which the hundreds of others are born: indica and sativa.
The couch-surfing, brownie-eating state made famous by pop culture owes much to indica (pronounced IN-dik-ah). These plants typically are fairly short but bear fat leaves. Due to a higher concentration of cannabidiol (CBD) than tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the main compound with psychoactive properties), strains that contain mostly indica often create effects of laziness and sleepiness. They act similar to sedatives, says Natural Remedies MMJ owner Brandy Frisbee.
"Of course, every person reacts differently," Frisbee says, "but the general rule of thumb, at least for beginners, is that indica will make you tired."
For those who have to work, get out of the house or generally function throughout the day, sativa (sat-E-vah) could be the ticket. Sativa, which tends to grow taller and leaner than indica, can bring a similar euphoria, and of course, the munchies. But due to a higher THC concentration, it often lacks the drowsy effect.
"Again, it's completely dependent on the user," Frisbee says, "but for the most part sativa doesn't make you so tired, and makes it easier to get on with your day without wanting to sleep or lay around all day."
Indica and sativa are contained in most crossbreeds and hybrids, Frisbee says, but are often used together to achieve the desired effect.
For instance, combining a strain with 75 percent indica and 25 percent sativa would inspire some couch-lock, just not as severely as 100 percent indica.
The two strains show even more uniqueness when it comes to treating specific ailments.
"Indica is better for body and joint pain, for most people," says Donnie L., owner of Cannabis Therapy Center. "The most popular one we have for that is from Amsterdam — it's called Medijuana."
Sativa can be better for those desiring mood changes, or suffering from ailments like depression, Donnie says. But while the majority of CTC's clients received their license because of pain — which would seem to indicate a majority use of indica strands — the reactions vary so greatly that it's almost half and half.
"We have people who come in with such varying symptoms, and each one reacts differently," Donnie says. "Some people tell me I was way off, and actually they felt more sleepy when they took sativa."
As with most new medicines, finding something that works can be an act (or a few acts) of trial and error. When it comes to medical marijuana, though, the benefits almost always seem to outweigh the costs.