Why Do Sativas Make Us Feel The Way They Do?


Sativa strains like Durban Poison, Nigerian or Hawaiian Dutch have an undeniably uplifting effect on those who smoke them. Many folks have given terpenes the credit for sativas' effects, but the key is in the cannabinoids. THCV, present in relatively high amounts in these strains, blocks memory impairment, helping you get shit done when you need to the most.

The effects may be subtle if your simply sitting on the couch getting high, but you’ll notice the difference when the time comes for actually getting shit done; you’d much rather smoke a sativa if you’re going shopping or to the bank. While terpenes do indeed dictate the difference in the fragrances between two strains, these compounds don’t do much work as far as influencing the effects of different cannabis strains. Terpenes like myrcene and terpinolene give many sativas their floral scents, while linalool and caryophyllene give indicas their heavier aromas.

Cannabinoids, compounds that are completely unique to cannabis, are almost entirely responsible the different psychoactive effects. sativas have an elevated content of tetrahydrocannabivarin, or THCV. Research done at High Times has found that sativa strains have a relatively high content of THCV, a cannabinoid that is normally present at under 0.1 %.

A study recently published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology done in Britain delved into the different subjective effects of THCV mixed with THC. While THCV isn’t psychoactive on its own, it influences the THC high through a mechanism they haven’t discovered as of yet. They found THCV decreased memory impairment induced by THC.

Cannabis slightly impairs short-term or working memory, which affects cognition and the ability to carry out certain, simple tasks. These effects are obviously mild (compared to true psychedelics like mushrooms which make getting up and turning on the TV akin to solving complex differential equations), and research has found that weed affects everyone differently depending on their genetic make-up.

A lack of memory impairment makes getting up and doing shit all the more possible if you’re high. The researchers in England also found that THC combined with THCV also decreases the total subjective effect, meaning participants were actually not as high with this combination. While this is somewhat of a paradoxical effect given that most people would say that sativas get you as high or higher than indicas, the experiment’s design wasn’t able to exactly capture the essence of smoking a joint.

Researchers had study participants take two 5 mg pills of either THCV or placebo every day for a week, and then gave them 1 mg of THC intravenously on a Friday. While they analyzed feelings of energy, happiness, distress, paranoia calmness or tiredness, they also performed memory tests. In the real life, a bowl-pack of Durban Poison, a sativa someone might smoke before going shopping, delivers about 35 mg of THC and 2 mg of THCV, quite different from the study.

So grab a sativa the next time you want to get something done that requires more mental clarity than the average stay-at-home stoner activity. You might be high as hell, with blood-shot, squinty eyes, but you bet your bottom nuggets that you’ll remember your bank account number or shopping.


Photo credit: Stephanie Curtis @stephcurtis

2 Comments Hide Comments
  • DennisT

    I got some herb a while back that amazed me and pleased the hell out of my wife. A couple of hits and I was out of my chair and working my ass off around the house. I got a lot done behind that herb, but I never did find out what the strain was. I wish I had.

  • B. Alvn

    hell, light green sativas (likely skunk-related strains floating around norcal, some actual outdoor from the triangle, got me through college…and i studied comp. sci. you wanna talk about getting shit done, and having use your memory? also good for focus. i also used to go out and socialize on the light green. for the medicinal days, of course, indicas are great, but they are useless for most productive or social activities. i could do anything on skunk, and have.

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