MOCA Cannabis Education

Cannabis 101

Types of Cannabis: Sativa, Indica, and Ruderalis

There are three main types of cannabis plants and countless hybrids. It’s important to understand the difference because each type of cannabis plant creates different effects, and are used medicinally to treat different symptoms.

cannabis plants


If you’re looking for a “mind high” that is commonly described as energizing and uplifting, sativa is for you. Sativa is known for causing people to laugh, think creatively, and engage in deep conversations. Medicinally, sativa is excellent for use with depression and neurological disorders. Sativa grows taller and thinner than Indica strains, and can reach heights of 20 feet when grown outdoors. Sativa has a very long vegetation period and once it begins to flower, it will take between ten and sixteen weeks to fully mature. The buds themselves can carry strong aromas described as sweet or fruity to earthy, or even an odor similar to diesel fuel.


Known for its body high and relaxing effects, indica is commonly used to relax, deal with stress, treat insomnia or numb physical pain. Indica is also typically more potent in THC% than sativa. Indica plants are shorter than sativa, usually measuring only two to four feet tall, with ticker, deep green leaves. Indica buds are very dense and heavy, clustering together around the nodes of the plant, and flower more quickly than sativa at only eight to twelve weeks. Its aromas and flavor is described as earthy, skunky, sweet, sugary, or resembling pine.


Generally speaking, hybrids are crossed strains of indica and sativa which bring with them the traits of both plants. Hybrids can be categorized as:

  1. Sativa-dominant: these give a “mind high” or cerebral high with a relaxing physical effect.
  2. 50/50 Even Hybrids: for those looking for a balance of both physical and  mental relief, these provide relief evenly.
  3. Indica-dominant: these give a “body high” for physical pain relief, while also relaxing the mind
  4. Ruderalis-Sativa hybrids: these are still being studied, but they generally have higher levels of CBD and other cannabinoids, with lower levels of THC.


This is a lesser-known species of cannabis that’s only beginning to experience medical exploration. Ruderalis grows wild in Eastern Europe and Russia, accustomed to climates much colder than its more commonly known counterparts. Ruderalis contains lower percentages of THC than Indica and Sativa, however it’s often cross-bred with Sativa to produce shorter plants, which are easier to grow indoors. It is also crossed with Sativa for use in northern areas for outdoor growing, where Sativa cannot normally thrive, and can shorten the duration of growing time.

cannabis plant varieties

Components of Cannabis Plants

What are Cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are a diverse set of chemical compounds that bind to special receptors in the human body that make up what is known as the endocannabinoid system. The “key and lock” metaphor is often used to describe this process. The human body possesses specific binding sites (“locks”) on the surface of many cell types, and our body produces several endocannabinoids (“keys”) that bind to these cannabinoid receptors (CB) to activate or “unlock” them.

chemical composition of cannabinoids

Phytocannabinoids are cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant that work by mimicking the effects of some endocannabinoids. Along with terpenes, these are produced in both the trichomes (or “resin glands”) of the flower as well as in the leaves of older plants. Plant gender, growing conditions, and time harvested determine the amount of resin each plant can produce, and the chemical stability or life of harvested plant cannabinoids depends on moisture temperature, light, and storage.

cbd wheel

Terpenes are a class of aromatic organic hydrocarbons and consist of approximately 140 of the cannabis plant’s chemicals and compounds. These hydrocarbons are synthesized inside of the glandular trichomes found on the buds, and can be found in the highest concentrations in unfertilized female cannabis flowers that have been exposed to light just prior to senescence (the process of aging). From this source, essential oils are extracted via vaporization or steam distillation. Terpenes vaporize at approximately the same temperature as THC (about 157°C) however other terpenes may require different processes to collect. Furthermore, terpenes serve to protect the plant from insects, bacteria, funguses, and other harmful elements. Terpenes are primarily responsible for both the aroma and flavors of each cannabis plant, and act as serotonin uptake inhibitors and enhance norepinephrine activity, similar to popular antidepressant medication. They augment GABA and increase dopamine production, and generally work by affecting receptors and neurotransmitters.

Pain, inflammation, sleep, energy, calming, focus, uplifting, and antifungal are just some of the desired effects cannabis users look for, we hope this chart will help you identify the components for each.

terpenes chart and their uses