Sativa marijuana strains represent an anomaly of sorts in that they can produce a wealth of potent health benefits, while at the same time instigating a range of adverse side effects in some individuals.
If you’ve ever heard about folks (maybe you’re one of them) who tend to get paranoid or experience increased anxiety after smoking cannabis, the culprit is generally a sativa or sativa-dominant hybrid strain that has immensely high THC levels.
While the outstanding cerebral high of these strains can translate into incomparable medical benefits, it can also be too much to handle for a lot of patients that are not familiar with the mind-altering effects of cannabis.
In this article, we discuss some of the most common and traditional medical uses of sativa marijuana strains, while also pointing out ways to take full advantage while minimizing the risk of heightened anxiety or THC-induced paranoia.
How the Medical Effects of Sativa Relate to the Strain’s Origin
One of the cool things about pure sativa cannabis is that, like pure indicas, they are fully native to a specific geographic region of the world. Known as ‘landrace’ or ‘heirloom’ strains, these marijuana plants have evolved over millennia to contain a specific, highly-adapted set of chemical and physical properties.
Generally speaking, all marijuana falls into one of three varieties: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. Since ruderalis weed is relatively rare and not often used for therapeutic or recreational purposes, it is usually not considered as one of the “weed types.”
As such, most anyone on earth would agree that a marijuana strain is either an indica strain, a sativa strain, or a hybrid. Pure indicas and sativas are getting harder and harder to find as genetics become diluted with enhanced cross-breeding, but they are still out there. And rest assured that the medical effects of pure sativa strains can be absolutely phenomenal.
But Where Do Pure Sativa Strains Come From?
As mentioned earlier, any pure sativa or indica strain will have originally grown in a native geographical region. While indicas are thought to have first evolved in the Himalayan region of central Asia, pure sativa strains are known to be native to more tropical, equatorial climates. This includes areas like southeast Asia (Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam), Jamaica, South Africa, and equatorial South America (namely Colombia and Brazil).
Compared to indica varieties, landrace sativa plants are tall and thin, boasting narrow skeleton-like water leaves amidst an abundance of pistil-covered flowers. While indica strains are known to be traditionally higher in CBD content, pure sativas often boast extremely high THC levels (this is one of the main reasons why the medical effects of sativa strains are so “cerebrally-centered”).
Medical Effects of Sativa Strains are Defined by Their Cannabinoid and Terpene Profiles
To be clear, the medical uses of sativa marijuana strains are not explicitly defined by the plant’s THC content. While sativas generally seem to have a higher THC and lower CBD content than indicas, there is a lot more going on than this, at least on a chemical level.
For example, THC and CBD are just two of many (well over 100 have been identified) naturally-occurring phytocannabinoids in cannabis. In addition to cannabinoids, marijuana also contains a wide range of terpenes, flavonoids, and Omega-3 and 6 acids; all of which have been known to pose influential effects on the body and mind.
A cannabis user will experience different medical effects depending on the specific chemical profile of the strain that is consumed. Since the active compounds in marijuana work together in a synergistic manner rather than by themselves individually, a massive range of physical, psychological, emotional, and behavioral effects can be experienced.
Fortunately for those who are curious about the medical effects of sativa strains, landrace genetics tend to be pretty consistent and “anticipatable,” at least compared to the hodgepodge of effects that you get with hybrids. What follows are the top-5 medical benefits experienced by those who consume sativa marijuana.
The Top-5 Medical Effects of Sativa Marijuana Strains
1 | Elevates Mood
This is certainly not to say that anyone who consumes a sativa or sativa-dominant cannabis strain will experience an elevated mood. In fact, as we mentioned earlier many individuals experience increased anxiety with pure sativas – pretty much the opposite of an enhanced mood.
From a therapeutic perspective, however, elevated mood is surely one of the top sativa effects that people use the strain for medically.
2 | Increases Energy
Another common medical use of sativa strains is to increase energy levels and promote productivity. Know as a daytime “social strain,” sativas tend to spark activity, reduce levels of apathy, and promote the desire to engage with others in a social setting.
In other words, you might say that medical sativa effects are more or less the opposite of indica strains, where all you want to do is chill on the couch, listen to music, and fall asleep).
3 | Improves Appetite
While both sativa and indica strains could probably be used effectively to increase appetite, sativas appear to be the preferable choice. In fact, several scientific publications have alluded to the notion that the medical effects of sativa strains include appetite enhancement.
In one of these publications, it was suggested that “…the ability of [C. sativa] to promote eating has been documented for many centuries … [many users report] strong cravings for, and an intensification of, the sensory and hedonic properties of food.” In other words, sativa strains spark your appetite — big time.
4 | Helps with Depression
Given the well-established ability to help promote energy levels, lower apathy, and elevate mood, it only stands to reason that one of the most common medical benefits of sativa marijuana strains is to ease symptoms of depression.
Often, patients that are diagnosed with depression find it difficult to find meaning in day-to-day life and everyday situations. They are overcoming with a sense of apathy and find that nothing is worthwhile. In our experience – and not to mention the experience of millions of cannabis users worldwide – a potent sativa strain would work wonders in helping to mitigate (and possibly even reverse) these feelings.
5 | Promotes Creativity and Focus
Not that a lack of creativity should really be defined as a “medical condition,” but a lack of focus certainly would be – especially given the prevalence of things like adult onset ADHD in the United States.
In this particular instance however, the medical effects of sativa strains in terms of promoting focus and creativity would largely be dependent on the chemical makeup of the individual in question – perhaps moreso than any other condition. However, increased focus would surely be more of a symptom of a sativa strain than an indica strain.
Medical Uses of Sativa Strains: Wrapping it All Up
As you can see, the medical uses of sativa marijuana strains are largely centered around increased energy and elevated mood. While indica strains are famous for producing the stereotpcial “stoning effect” (i.e. gazing aimlessly into nothing), sativas are much more centered around laughter and social activity. When you hear about those uncontrollable fits of the giggles that people get when high, it’s likely due to a sativa strain.
With that in mind, the most obvious medical benefits of sativa marijuana strains are to improve mood disorders, decrease levels of depression, and promote happiness and social interaction. If these sound like effects that may benefit you therapeutically, perhaps try and pick a good landrace sativa flower on your next dispensary visit — if you can find one.