Article written by
Dipak HemrajHead of Research and Education
Content reviewed by
Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
Table of contents
It is generally thought that indica cannabis strains (cultivars) are sedating, whereas sativa strains are more stimulating. However, this is not strictly true, and an indica can have more uplifting effects.
The main two things that determine how sleepy a cannabis strain makes you feel are how much of the terpene myrcene and how much of the cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) it contains. It is not unusual for a myrcene-dominant sativa strain to be labeled an indica based on a person’s subjective experiences.
Myrcene, the dominant terpene found in indica-type cannabis strains hailing from the Afghan region or Kush mountains, has sedative properties. But this is not necessarily a pattern found in all indicas. Many indicas contain moderate to high levels of THC, which can have sedative effects. Indicas from the Afghan, Hindu Kush, and Tibetan regions also tend to contain more cannabidiol (CBD) than Equatorial sativa varieties, and CBD has sedative properties in high doses.
The presence of other terpenes and cannabinoids, like cannabidiol (CBD), cannabigerol (CBG), tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), terpinolene (alpha-terpinene), limonene, and linalool, also make a difference in the effect a particular strain of cannabis has. Individual differences in a person’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) also affect how one reacts to a particular strain (cultivar).
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Everyone has their own unique endocannabinoid system. This means one person can react to cannabis differently, even if the same strain or product is used. One person’s body may break down cannabinoids like THC faster or slower than another. Another person may have different concentrations of cannabinoid receptors in their brain or immune system, meaning that uptake of THC, CBD, or any other cannabinoid could be faster or slower than in another medical marijuana user.
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Cannabinoids with more sedative effects include:
- THC in moderate or high doses.
- CBD in high doses.
- Cannabinol (CBN), a byproduct formed from the aging of THC, has been shown to have sedative properties, although this still needs to be determined.
Cannabinoids that can have more uplifting effects include:
- Although considered a sedative, some people may find low doses of THC stimulating, especially if they are new to cannabis.
- Low doses of CBD can reduce THC’s sedative properties and provide more stimulating positive effects.
- Many strains high in CBG have been reported as having energizing effects instead of being a sleep aid.
- Low doses of THCV have anti-psychoactive effects through 5HT1A receptors, and THCV also blocks THC’s ability to bind to CB1 receptors. Higher doses of THCV have psychoactive effects but not necessarily the same level of psychoactivity as THC, and THCV has been described as having a more “uplifting” effect than THC. High doses of THCV combined with high amounts of THC may have sedative effects.
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Just as with cannabinoids, terpenes can have both sedative and stimulating properties. The mixture of terpenes and the dosage make a difference in what effect a terpene may have. Generally, if the dominant terpene is myrcene, the strain is more likely to have sedative effects. If the strain is low in myrcene and the dominant terpene is terpinolene or limonene, the strain tends to have more energizing effects.
Terpinolene tends to have sedative properties, especially when used in isolation. Many report uplifting, stimulating effects when using strains rich in this terpene. Mice do not always translate to humans! Pinene is similar in this regard and has been reported to have relaxing and stimulating effects, depending on the combination and concentration of terpenes.
- Relaxing terpene mix = myrcene, linalool, humulene, pinene, beta-caryophyllene.
- Energizing terpene mix = terpinolene, limonene, pinene, beta-caryophyllene, eucalyptol.
- When mixed, both stimulating and sedative effects (often stimulation followed by sedation) = myrcene, limonene, pinene, beta-caryophyllene, and terpinolene.
The placebo effect is real, as is the power of suggestion. If you believe that a strain is likely to make you relaxed, then it might do so. Listening to the budtender, reading reviews online, and having personal experiences on other, similar varieties — these things can impact how you feel about a particular strain of cannabis.
Your environment and mood can also impact how you react to cannabis.
Are Any Indica Strains Energizing?
It is certainly possible for a strain from an indica cannabis plant to be more energizing, especially if it has a terpene profile lower in myrcene and higher in terpinolene, limonene, and pinene. How much CBD, CBG, and THCV the plant expresses also makes a difference, especially if THC levels are in the more moderate 10%-18% range and CBD, CBG, and THCV levels are in the 1%-3% range.
It is also important to remember that many cannabis strains are hybrids, so it is possible to get a sativa-dominant phenotype in a strain that is usually indica-dominant. Some indica varieties that may produce more energizing, uplifting effects include:
- Alien Dawg (Chemdawg x Alien Technology): THC-rich; dominant terpenes include myrcene, limonene, and beta-caryophyllene.
- Somango (Jack Herer x Super Skunk x Big Skunk Korean): THC-rich; has a mixed terpene profile of myrcene, beta-caryophyllene, pinene, and limonene, with none in particular always dominating.
- Candy Cane (AK-47 x Mango x White Widow): moderate levels of THC; dominant terpenes include myrcene and beta-caryophyllene.
- Speed Queen (an indica-dominant hybrid of Indian parentage): THC-rich, possibly with some CBD; terpene profile includes myrcene, limonene, beta-caryophyllene, and eucalyptol.
- Purple Chemdawg (Chemdawg x Purple Kush): THC-rich; terpenes include limonene, linalool, and beta-caryophyllene.
- Power Kush (Afghani x Skunk): moderate levels of THC; myrcene-dominant profile alongside limonene and linalool.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Why is indica more sedating?
Indica varieties of marijuana are often (but not always) more sedating than sativa varieties because they tend to contain more of the sedative terpene, myrcene, on top of having moderate to high levels of THC. Indicas may also include more CBD compared to sativas, but not always.
Does indica make you sleepy the next day?
This depends entirely on how much is used and the route of administration. Using a high-THC edible or several can have long-lasting effects that can cause sleepiness the day after use. Using low to moderate doses of an indica-dominant cannabis product has been known to cause a feeling of grogginess the next day in some (especially inexperienced users). Still, the sedative effects generally tend to wear off three to eight hours after use. Those who feel sleepy the next day can shake off those feelings with exercise, a cold shower, and nutritious breakfast.
What strain makes you more tired?
This differs from person to person, but strains rich in THC and myrcene tend to be the most sedative. CBD, CBN, linalool, humulene, and pinene can add to a myrcene-rich strain’s sedative properties. Some of the strains noted for their sedative properties include:
- Northern Lights: An Afghani indica rich in THC and has a myrcene-forward terpene profile.
- Master Kush: A cross between two landrace varieties of Hindu Kush. Myrcene and beta-caryophyllene are the dominant terpenes in this variety.
- Granddaddy Purple (GDP): A cross between Mendo Purps, Skunk, and Afghani. It has myrcene-, beta-caryophyllene- and linalool-dominant terpene profile.