My reviews for Herban Indigo have largely focused on indica strains, since that’s what I generally smoke these days. But many cannabis connoisseurs consider sativa strains to be their strain of choice. Medicinally it depends on what you are treating, and all it around depends on what you prefer. In the earlier part of my twenties I was less sensitive to the stimulating effects of sativas (and much more of a coffee drinker for the same reasons), and all of my favorite strains at the time were sativa leaning. The difference between indica and sativa can be hard to articulate to someone who hasn’t experienced each one first hand. The classic description involves “head high” sativas versus “body high” indicas but personally, I never thought that to be an adequate summary. What I would say is that sativas offer a more stimulating, smiley, psychedelic, and sometimes introspective experience. For the first half of my twenties, Trainwreck was my all-time favorite strain for its energetic, motivating, and invigorating effect. Even though indicas have become my comfort zone, I try a sativa every now and then for the sake of variety.

It is a little tougher to outline the history of sativas - since all cannabis was considered sativa until French biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck coined the term indica to describe the psychoactive cannabis of India - often destined to be made into hash. Previously, sativa had largely referred to the non-psychoactive hemp crops of Europe, but over time was also used to describe potent cannabis now famous in places like Africa, the Caribbean, Thailand, and Latin America. Sativas are thin, tall plants adapted to a warm and often humid climate – unlike the indica strains of mountainous India and Afghanistan.

Sativa Strain Past and Present Classic weed plant

Classic Sativas

Acapulco Gold, from near Acapulco in southwest Mexico, has been prized since the mid-sixties for its cerebral, uplifting effect, toffee-like aroma, and golden brown appearance. The strain was referenced repeatedly throughout the sixties and seventies, including Led Zeppelin and John Lennon. This strain, as well as others from central and south America, are said to have become much harder to find after the cocaine trade eclipsed cannabis in the region.

Thai sativas also won a great deal of fame in the sixties and seventies. The hot climate and long growing season in Thailand produced some of the strongest cannabis of the era. Additionally, genetics had been selected for potency for centuries in Thailand. Cannabis was commonly used in traditional Thai medicine, as well as for cooking – most famously in ‘boat-noodle soup.’ These ‘Thai Sticks” were bundled around a bamboo stick and tied with hemp or silk cord – and were often so strong American consumers figured they had to be dipped in hash oil or opium. Actual Thai sticks pretty much disappeared in the US over the course of the 80s, since the American presence in Vietnam was the primary source. These seedless wonders (in a time when that was almost unheard of) may be the most legendary landrace sativa among older smokers. You may find similar products in dispensaries today, but the likelihood that they come from actual Thai sativas is relatively low.

Jamaican Lamb's Bread

Photo by: Buddy's Cannabis 

Photo by: Buddy's Cannabis 

Jamaican Lamb’s Bread is another famous sativa landrace. Sativa strains came to Jamaica as early as the 19th century, with a culture influenced by both African’s initially brought to Jamaica as slaves, and Indian indentured servants who arrived later on, after emancipation in 1838. Cannabis became commonplace in the working class neighborhoods of Jamaica. Its place in Jamaican culture was further established with the arrival of Rastafarianism from Ethiopia in the 1920s. Cannabis plays a role as an aid for meditation and spiritual contemplation – no doubt tied in to the cerebral and introspective effects of Jamaican sativas such as Lamb’s Bread. 

Sativa landrace strains like these set the standard for sativas and sativa dominant hybrids today. Stimulating, cerebral, introspective, and energizing strains are sought after to treat migraines, depression, fatigue, headaches, and more. Hybrid families like Skunk and Haze, created decades ago from such famous landraces as mentioned above, are today used to create strains designed with the specific needs of growers and patients in mind. Haze initially became popular in Santa Cruz, California in the sixties – a hybrid of four of the best sativa landraces the world had to offer, including Columbian, Thai, Mexican, and South Indian strains. Haze is known for its psychedelic effect, but is also sometimes referred to as “ampheta-weed” for its stimulating qualities. Like many pure sativas, it causes problems for growers with its long flowering time (up to twice that of indicas), so pure ‘Haze’ can be hard to find. However, it is often used by breeders to create subset strains, such as the famously focused and uplifting Super Silver Haze.

If Haze, and its sativa-dominant hybrid cousin Skunk represent a 2nd generation of sativas bred from landraces, it follows that today’s new generation of sativas are often bred from by Haze and Skunk. Popular sativas such as Trainwreck, Green Crack, Blue Dream, and Sour Diesel all have genetics influenced by the landraces and other strains mentioned here. Strains like Sour Diesel and Blue Dream are contenders for the most all-around popular modern strains, and Trainwreck and Green Crack are well-loved for their invigorating sativa effects.

Green Crack Tasting:

Photo by: Stuff Stoners Like

Photo by: Stuff Stoners Like

I’m currently sampling some Green Crack obtained from delivery service Green Crack got its name from two similarities it is said to share with the infamous street drug. Green Crack is not only considered to be so good it is “addictive”, but it is also considered to have a stimulating affect likened to actual stimulants. In case there are any newbies out there, I should specify: Green Crack is no more addictive than other cannabis, and it is stimulating like a cup of coffee – not like actual crack. As the strain gained popularity, there was a push to call the strain “Green Cush” instead of “Green Crack”, out of fear it might attract negative publicity for the cannabis world. Personally, I have no problem with the name. After all, I come from a generation that says good tacos you can’t stop eating are also “like crack.”

Green Crack is indeed a stimulating strain. Even the appearance is stimulating – bright green buds with equally bright orange hairs reminiscent of a color scheme from a 1990s ad campaign for kids breakfast cereal. The aroma could not be more different from the indicas that make up most of my favorite strains. It is bright and fruity, with a spicy edge. The smoke itself is dense and rich. The effect comes on almost instantaneously, unlike the delayed reaction ‘creepers’ of the indica world. The first few minutes are a lot like right after a big gulp of coffee – awake, alert, pounding heart, ready for action. However, as they settle in for the long haul, the introspective and near-psychedelic component begins to emerge. This is a high that (if you consume enough) will make you question who you are, and what you are doing in life. This won’t necessarily be a negative experience but I’ll put it this way – I find it more difficult to function on a sativa like Green Crack than on the heaviest of couch-lock indicas. Everyone’s different – this introspection component might be more mild for some, but for me these days, it tends to eclipse the whole experience. I do get a sense though of what I used to love about sativas, and what gets so many people coming back for more of the sativa experience. It is activating and energetic – good for physical activity. It is a funny high that will make you smile and laugh, often uncontrollably. Like many sativa strains, the effects last for a solid few hours.

It is not too hard to see why a sativa strain not unlike Green Crack became an integral part of spiritual contemplation and discussion for Jamaican Rastafarians. It is a mindful and often thought provoking experience that promotes openness and expression towards others in the right setting. It is certainly a whole other side of the coin to the Indian or Afghani indica experience, and even though I prefer a mellower effect these days, sativas can be a lot of fun on a more occasional basis.