STORIES

Study: Sativa and Indica Labels May No Longer Apply

By David Jenison on June 28, 2017

Cannabis Sativa L. - Botany and Biotechnology is a collection of clinical studies coming out next month that fills up nearly 500 pages. The collection includes Dr. John M. McPartland's "Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica versus 'Sativa' and 'Indica'" in which he said "distinguishing between 'Sativa' and 'Indica' has become nearly impossible because of extensive cross-breeding in the past 40 years. Traditional landraces of 'Sativa' and 'Indica' are becoming extinct through introgressive hybridization."

Dr. McPartland proposes "solutions for reconciling the formal and vernacular taxonomies," but it certainly calls into question the distinct personal traits often used to describe the difference between the two cannabis types. The author notes a difference exists—"phytochemical and genetic research supports the separation"—but their "nomenclature does not align with formal botanical C. sativa and C. indica based on the protologues of [famed botanists Carl] Linnaeus and [Jean-Baptiste] Lamarck."

Dr. Ethan B. Russo—who's co-authored studies with McPartland and also contributed to this new collection—clearly concurs. 

In a 2016 interview for the Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research journal, Dr. Russo said, "There are biochemically distinct strains of Cannabis, but the sativa/indica distinction as commonly applied in the lay literature is total nonsense and an exercise in futility. One cannot in any way currently guess the biochemical content of a given Cannabis plant based on its height, branching, or leaf morphology. The degree of interbreeding/hybridization is such that only a biochemical assay tells a potential consumer or scientist what is really in the plant."

Dr. Russo—who adds that some people believe in a single species, while others describe up to four (sativa, indica, ruderalis and afghanica or kafiristanica)—suggests it's futile to apply simple descriptions to complex botanical systems. He adds that many strain characteristics are more closely tied to terpenes, which are less commonly analyzed. For example, he attributes the sedation associated with indica to a strain's myrcene content, while limonene provides the mood lift associated with sativa. 

Testing can provide information on how much hybridization a plant experienced, but for the sake of detailing specific traits, "complete and accurate cannabinoid and terpenoid profiles" should be made available. 

"I would strongly encourage the scientific community, the press, and the public to abandon the sativa/indica nomenclature and rather insist that accurate biochemical assays on cannabinoid and terpenoid profiles be available for Cannabis in both the medical and recreational markets," Dr. Russo added in the interview. "Scientific accuracy and the public health demand no less than this."

Photo credits: Flickr and Flickr.

The Terpene Revolution

The Most Lit Song Each Year Since 1924

GET Eden Extracts

The 1920s: When Music First Lit Up

Most Lit Cannabis Song Each Year in the 1930s

There's a Campaign to Legalize Medical Shrooms

Celebrate National Beer Day with These Infused Brews

12 Twitter Gems from the Man Arrested for Threatening a Congressman over Cannabis

Most Lit Cannabis Song Each Year in the 1940s

New Cannabis Polls All Point in the Same Direction

Lucky Researchers Say Cannabis Promotes Better Sex

A Familiar Face Tops Asia's New Best Restaurant List

So Apparently Cannabis Helps Prevent Beer Goggles

The 1950s: The Lost Decade for Cannabis-Themed Music

I Visited a Satanist and Saw the Potential for Salvation