Kicking the Indica-Sativa Myth to the Curb: It's Terpenes' Time to Shine!

Posted by TL Knowledge Team on 13th Jul 2023

Kicking the Indica-Sativa Myth to the Curb: It's Terpenes' Time to Shine!

So, you’ve got ‘Indica’ and ‘Sativa,’ right? One chills you out, the other pumps you up. Simple? Not so much. Turns out, the stoner legend is ripe for debunking. These terms actually say more about a plant’s looks and where it hails from, than what kind of party it’s bringing to your brain. Our dear old friends, ‘Indica’ and ‘Sativa,’ are less about chill or thrill and more about botanical family trees. Modern breeding practices have been playing Cupid for so long, it’s like a soap opera plotline in the cannabis gene pool (Sawler et al., 2015)^2

Enter the unsung hero, Dr. Ethan Russo, who pointed out that it’s not so much about the type of plant, but more about the groovy ‘entourage effect.’ This is the epic jam session between cannabinoids, terpenes, and your body’s endocannabinoid system that sets the mood (Russo, 2011)^1

Terpenes – those aromatic little geniuses that give your weed its own personal brand of stink – are the real rockstars. With over 200 varieties, each strain of cannabis gets its own spicy flavor. Take myrcene, for example, the terpene known to make you feel like a marshmallow. You’d think it’s an ‘Indica’ groupie, right? But remember, things aren’t always as they seem in the cannabis world (Mudge et al., 2019)^3

In fact, terpenes are more like mood ring color-changers. They interact with your body’s endocannabinoid system, tuning the effects of cannabinoids like THC. Like the alpha-pinene terpene, which can counteract THC’s “where’d I put my keys?” effect, or limonene, the citrusy little mood booster (Russo, 2011)^1

Things get even more interesting when you realize that the ratios of terpenes and cannabinoids in a strain could be the key to your high. We’re talking ‘chemovars’ here, folks, not the outdated ‘Indica’/‘Sativa’ labels (Lewis et al., 2018)^4

As the green fog of cannabis lore lifts, we’re starting to see the plant for what it really is – a complex chemical composition, rather than an ‘Indica’/‘Sativa’ showdown (Lynch et al., 2016)^5

So, let’s celebrate the little guys, the terpenes and cannabinoids, that truly orchestrate the symphony of effects that make Mary Jane oh-so-interesting. 


Russo, E. B. (2011). Taming THC: Potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. /British Journal of Pharmacology,/ 163(7), 1344–1364. 

Sawler, J. et al. (2015). The Genetic Structure of Marijuana and Hemp. /PLOS ONE,/ 10(8), e0133292. 

Mudge, E. M., Murch, S. J., & Brown, P. N. (2019). Chemometric Analysis of Cannabinoids: Chemotaxonomy and Domestication Syndrome. /Scientific Reports,/ 9, 13023. 

Lewis, M. A., Russo, E. B., & Smith, K. M. (2018). Pharmacological Foundations of Cannabis Chemovars. /Planta Medica,/ 84(04), 225-233. 

Lynch, R. C. et al. (2016). Genomic and Chemical Diversity in Cannabis. /Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences,/ 35(5-6), 349-363.