Soaring. Uplifiting. Electric. Heart-racing. Descriptions of sativa-dominant strains always emphasize the unique effects with words that imply activity and mental bliss. The signature “energetic” high of sativa-dominant cannabis varieties also treats a wide range of symptoms for medicinal marijuana patients.
The plant species of marijuana is divided into two main subspecies; Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa (another subspecies called Cannabis ruderalis contains little psychoactive material). Most buds available for consumption today are a hybrid of the two; either indica-dominant, sativa-dominant or a 50/50 split of the two combining various traits of both. It’s rare to discover pure indicas on the market and even more unlikely to encounter a pure sativa.
Sativas produce a larger percentage of THC, accounting for their clear, soaring “high” and heart-racing characteristics. Old timers who remember Panama Red, Santa Marta Gold or Thai Stick have a good idea of the psychedelic effects of these potent pot plants.
Sativas grow as tall as 20 feet, take a long time to mature and produce thin leaves and wispy buds. For this reason, most growers choose to cultivate indica-dominant plants that stay short, stocky and easier to manage with higher yields.
Sativas are native to the Indian subcontinent but also grown in Southeast Asia, South and Central America, the Caribbean and Africa. Among the many land-race sativas from Southeast Asia are Lowland and Highland Thai, Vietnamese, Burmese, Cambodian and Laotian. Central and South American sativas include Panama Red, Acapulco Gold, Oaxacan Highland, Zacatecas Purple, Santa Marta Gold, Punta Roja and Brazilian. Sativas from the African continent include Malawi Gold, Durban Poison, Nigerian, Swazi Red, Swazi Skunk and Congolese. Hawaiian varieties such as Maui Wowie and Kona Gold round out the list.
Modern-day sativa-dominant strains of note include Strawberry Cough, Jack Herer, Kali Mist, Blue Dream and anything with Haze in the name (ie. Super Silver Haze). Breeders use sativas in their crosses to provide a sweetness to the odor and flavor as well as a certain incense-like odor of sandalwood and spice. Many have found ways to add weight and girth to their sativa-dominant varieties while shortening their flowering times as well.
Medicinally, sativas work best against depression, providing a feeling of optimism and joy. It’s a “head” high instead of the body stone of an indica, and the effects are more heady and clear. Valerie Corral, Executive Director of Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM) reports that sativas work well to treat nausea experienced by patients with HIV/AIDS Wasting Syndrome. Veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome sometimes find sativas more effective, although the heart-racing effects can overwhelm some smokers if they aren’t expecting it. These same results are the reason sativas are not to be used to treat insomnia.
Sativas make up for their lanky limbs, smaller yields and wispy buds by providing a potent effect with wonderful cerebral qualities that connoisseurs and patients can truly appreciate as a daytime treat. Whether smoked, vaporized, cooked into edibles or extracted into hash or tincture, the odor, flavor and high of sativa-dominant cannabis strains are appreciated by aficionados and medical patients alike.