What Does Sativa Do? And What Are The Best Strains?

By Fiona Jackson

Sativa strains have long been known to have potent psychedelic effects. This is the strain you would run to if you needed to have a creative breakthrough or if you need to work the graveyard shift. Though the effects of sativa strains are often desirable and helpful, sometimes they can literally cause the opposite effects.

What Is Sativa?

Most pure sativa strains are referred to as “landrace” or “heirloom” strains. What this means is that they are native to specific geographical regions across the world. Because of the conditions of these regions, they have evolved to contain specific physical and chemical properties best suited for the prevailing conditions.

Cannabis sativa strains are often native to tropical regions surrounding the equator. These regions typically have perfect climate, which has over time resulted in sativa strains growing robustly tall. Some strains might even grow to 20 feet.

Sativa plants are characterized by delicate narrow leaves with buds that are less dense than indicas and appear to be almost fluffy.

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Sativa strains usually contain higher THC:CBD ratios. This, however, is not a rule cast in stone. The THC that often accompanies sativa strains causes intense cerebral highs that could sometimes even get psychedelic.

Sativa strains are often used to treat mental and emotional disorders like depression.

The Classic Sativa High

The sativa high can be described as being a “head high” that has an energizing, invigorating effect. The sativa high increases mental focus and creativity and can greatly assist in reducing stress and fatigue.

The intake of certain cannabis sativa strains has an effect on the release of dopamine in your brain. Dopamine is a hormone that is intricately involved in several bodily functions including digestion and blood flow. Dopamine is often referred to as the “feel good” hormone. This is because when its release is intensified and it floods the system, it might temporarily lead to feelings of euphoria. It also enhances alertness, focus and motivation.

Dopamine increases the emotional connection between the subject and stimulus thus creating good feelings in the anticipation of a reward.

What does “a sativa high” feel like?

As we have previously discussed, the consumption of sativa strains produces a “mind high”. This high is characterized by:

  • High energy levels
  • A reduction in anxiety
  • An increase in productivity
  • Heightened creativity
  • Mental stimulation
  • Social acuity

A high from the sativa plant will ensure you are energized with an increase in productivity and focus. If you have that piled heap of work to do at the office, this is the kind of strain you should use.

When taken in moderation, sativa strains will be of great benefit to you and practically give you a new lease of life (okay, for the duration when you’re high)

However, if taken in excess, it could practically knock you out, as well as have other effects on you.

RELATED: What Is Cannabis Indica? And Which Strains Are Best?

Sativa highs can also be referred to as a “social high”. This means that once you are high on a sativa strain you can consider yourself to be a social butterfly. Your inhibitions will fall off as well as you being particularly chatty and friendly.

Unlike indica strains, sativa strains will make you feel more stimulated than relaxed. If you are feeling tired and apathetic, a sativa high will act as the infusion of energy you need to complete whatever task is at hand.

Sativa strains also make the user feel serene and have a feeling of well-being. Together with the other positive effects we have described, this makes sativa strains ideal for daytime use.

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Best Sativa Strains

There are many sativa strains as there are breeders, and then some. Sativa strains differ in appearance and effect but we have listed for you the most popular ones:

  • Jack Herer
  • Durban Poison
  • Sour Diesel
  • Tangie
  • Super Silver Haze
  • Green Crack
  • Strawberry Cough
  • El Patron
  • Hulkberry
  • Shogun

Sativa Vs. Indica

As we discussed at the start of this article, properties of cannabis are determined by how they have evolved mainly due to where they originated from. In this regard, sativa strains differ from indica strains of cannabis mainly by their appearance and effects.

Although both indica and sativa strains happen to be subspecies of Cannabis sativa L., they have very distinct differences.

  • Sativa strains are known to produce uplifting and energizing highs while indica strains produce relaxing highs that could even have a “couch lock” or sedative effect.
  • While the high induced by sativa strains is called a “head high”. Those induced by Indica strains are referred to as being “stoned” or having a “body high”.
  • While sativa strains induce mental focus, creativity, euphoria and social acumen, indica highs are deeply relaxing, enhance the touch, smell and sound and do not inspire any activity.
  • While sativa strains should ideally be used in the daytime, indica strains are best used at night, just before bed time.
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Positive Effects of Sativa

Elevates Mood

Sativa strains usually have the effect of uplifting one’s mood and in some cases even making one deliriously happy. Though this is not a “one size fits all” scenario, and some people might actually be unaffected, it is a pretty common effect. As explained earlier, sativa causes the influx of dopamine which results in feelings of happiness and satisfaction. If you are feeling down in the dumps, you should certainly consider a sativa strain.

Increases Energy

Another positive effect of taking sativa strains that occurs quite commonly is a sharp increase in both energy levels and productivity. Inhaling sativa will increase your focus, spark your creativity and promote your social interactions. If you are feeling apathetic and need that boost of energy to help you clear your desk, this is the direction in which you should be headed.

Improves Appetite

Though cannabis in general is known to improve appetite, sativa strains are particularly potent in this area. Studies conducted over time have shown its efficacy in this area.

As a matter of fact, one scientific publication made note 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.” Put in layman’s language, consuming sativa strains will make your appetite go through the roof!

Helps with Depression

Sativa strains are legendary “pick-me-ups”. Given their characteristics of increasing energy levels, lowering apathy, elevating mood and euphoria, they can effectively deal with the symptoms and effects of depression.

RELATED: Indica Or Sativa: Which Is Best To Treat Anxiety?

Patients who have been diagnosed with depression usually have difficulty in finding joy in the mundane everyday situations. They are constantly overwhelmed by a sense of hopelessness and apathy where nothing seems worthwhile. The effects of sativa can take users into the recesses of their minds where for a moment they get taken out of that situation and break the cycle of dark thoughts. This could eventually lead to the symptoms decreasing as well as users finding better ways to cope and recover.

Promotes Creativity and Focus

As previously discussed, no other strain of cannabis gets the creativity juices flowing as much. Not only will you have a stream of fresh, brilliant ideas, you will also experience better focus and have more tolerance to complete tasks.

Sativa strains are also great for patients suffering from attention disorders like ADHD as it improves their focus enough for them to complete a task.

RELATED: Does Smoking Weed Help You Concentrate And Improve Productivity?

While consuming sativa strains for their positive effects, it is important to note than the same exact strain and amount could have very different effects on the same person. This could be based on age, weight, metabolism, health and other factors. Therefore, break yourself in by regulating the amount you take until you get to a point where you are most comfortable.

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Negative Effects of Sativa

Like with any powerful medicine, ingesting cannabis, especially in the excess can lead to a number of unpleasant side effects. While these effects can be inspired by both indica and sativa strains, they are mostly triggered by the ingestion of sativa strains.

Anxiety and Paranoia

The interaction of THC with the body’s ECS (endocannabinoid system) can have profound positive effects as we have discussed above. However, in excess the same interaction could lead to overstimulation, which could cause anxiety and paranoia.

The ECS is composed of receptors. Chemicals called endocannabinoids are designed to fit into them and trigger certain reactions in the body. Because THC is a similarly shaped molecule, as well as being an endocannabinoid itself, it fits into these receptors and triggers a cascade of reactions.

RELATED: How Sativa Became The Energy Queen Of Cannabis

The action of THC binding with CB1 receptors found in the brain is what causes the feeling of a high. Because many sativa strains are high in THC, powerful effects like sensory changes and a sense of the slowing down of time can be a result of ingesting them. As much as recreational users may enjoy these strains, medical users could get very perplexed and uncomfortable. In some cases they could even get anxious and panicked.

Psychotic episodes and extreme feelings of paranoia are more likely to affect people who already have mental health issues though overdosing would lead you directly down that path.

To avoid being anxious, only use sativa strains when you are in familiar surroundings and in the company of people you are comfortable with. If you feel yourself start to get anxious and panic when high, remind yourself that the feeling is temporary and that it will soon pass.

Another tip to deal with this effect is to take some CBD oil ahead of consuming your ssativa strain to ensure their effects balance out.


Since sativa strains are known to increase your energy and focus, consuming some before bedtime is likely to rob you of your sleep. Though you might at first enjoy relaxing in bed with random thoughts criss crossing your mind, the hope that this will lead to sleep will soon be dashed.

To ensure this doesn’t happen, only use sativa effects during the day and switch to indica strains for nighttime.


Smoking any weed may cause you to feel dizzy. However, a high THC sativa strain is even more likely to induce this effect. The consumption of cannabis lowers your blood pressure. This might lead to you feeling lightheaded, especially if you suddenly stand up.

You can avoid dizzy spells by staying well hydrated and avoiding sudden upward movements.

The Munchies

Though not always considered a negative effect, the munchies are likely to set in with the consumption of a sativa strain of weed. If you are trying to lose weight, this will suit you very well. However, if you are not, this could lead to unhealthy eating that could cause adverse effects on your health.

The best way to deal with this effect is to have healthy snacks around you so that you can eat healthier when the munchies strike.

Dry Mouth

Dry mouth, also known as cottonmouth affects a huge portion of the marijuana population, especially those who smoke high THC strains. THC binds with the receptors in the salivary glands declaring them redundant for a while. Fortunately this is more of a nuisance than a serious side effect.

You could deal with this by taking plenty of fluids or looking for lemon flavored hard candy.

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Do Sativa Headaches Exist?

Though this is a topic that is still quite hotly debated, smoking sativa strains does cause headaches in some people.

A sativa high causes stimulation of the brain by excessive production of dopamine. At some point, your brain will feel the need to rest and recover. If your system is unable to slow down, you might then experience irritability and headaches, which are just a signal from your body alerting you to take the rest you need.

Another explanation of sativa headaches is that the smoke in itself is an irritant to some people, which might trigger a headache.

Sativa strains are most commonly known for their psychedelic, uplifting and energizing effects. These effects are both conducive for having a great recreational time as well as providing a pick-me-up or antidote to fatigue and depression.

When using sativa strains of cannabis, especially because they usually contain significant amounts of THC, it’s always important to consume in moderation as well as ensure you consume only in a safe environment.

We hope we have equipped you to understand the sativa effects and how to both maximize and mitigate them.

This article originally appeared on MyCannabis.com and has been reposted with permission.

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