In today’s rapidly evolving cannabis market, it’s tough to keep up with the latest marijuana strains being produced after years of breeding and hunting phenotypes for the best buds and aroma. Luckily, there are a few ways new users can identify a type of cannabis flower bud based on its size, taste, and smell.

For the most part, a strain’s effects on a person depend on the person’s mood, environment, and body chemistry. While shopping for strains based on indica, sativa, and hybrid classifications may not be the only factor to consider, there is some benefit to distinguishing indica, sativa, and hybrid strains from each other.

Generally, indicas are known to be sedating and relaxing, while sativas provide a boost of energy and creativity. Too much of an indica or sativa can leave users couch-locked or anxious, respectively. Hybrid strains provide a balanced blend of calming and invigorating effects. Strain effects, however, are also dictated by the plant’s growing environment.

Shape and Size

Cannabis cultivators are well acquainted with the morphological differences between indica, sativa, and hybrid marijuana strains. Hailing from the unforgiving climates of the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Tajikstan, indica strains grow short with broad leaves.

Sativas originated in hot, dry, and tropical climates and grow tall and thin with finger-like leaves. In terms of bud structure, indicas tend to have wide and dense buds compared to the long and thin sativa nugs. Hybrid strains can have a stubby or slender form, depending on their unique lineage.


The flavor and aroma from a cannabis strain come from its distinct array of terpene compounds found inside its trichomes. A majority of strains are hybrid mixes of indica and sativa buds, which influence the plant’s terpene production.

Years of breeding and stabilizing genes, as well as innovative growing conditions, are responsible for a strain’s unique chemical profile of cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other therapeutic compounds.

In terms of flavor, sativa strains generally carry more piney, citrus, and tropical flavors compared to indicas sweet, earthy, and fruity notes. Of course, hybrid strains feature a unique mix of terpenes. Taste, however, can often be a vague indicator of a strain’s true nature.


A strain’s terpenes are responsible for the cultivar’s unique aromatic profile. Indicas tend to have a more earthy and skunky smell compared to sativas sweet, spicy, and fruity odor, but there are variations within this classification system.

Scientific researchers are now discovering that terpene content is partly responsible for the effects of a particular strain. The sheer diversity of terpene profiles within sativa, indica, and hybrid strains makes it hard to generalize between cannabis types or identify differences.

Finding the Right Type of Cannabis

When trying to identify strains for consumption, instead look toward potency, terpene content, and dose. A high-THC indica could be just as anxiety-inducing as low-THC and energizing sativa strains. A more balanced ratio of THC and CBD would be more beneficial to tame paranoid thoughts and other side effects of THC.

Finding the right type of cannabis strain takes a bit of experimentation with various strains. What one strain lacks in potency, it could more than make up for it with a pungent scent. From there, you can find strains with a similar terpene profile while considering their potency and looks.