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Choosing a cannabis strain can be confusing. With hundreds of types of cannabis available on the market, retailers are still trying to figure out the best way to break down strains into helpful categories.

That’s why most cannabis menus break strains — or cultivars, if you want to get technical — into three categories: sativa, indica, and hybrid.

Sativas are often associated with more of a head high than a body high, meaning they stimulate your mind but don’t leave you feeling heavy or sleepy.

These associations are carried over from the unregulated cannabis market, though, and aren’t necessarily accurate.

Still, as researchers continue to look closer at the factors — like cannabinoids and terpenes — that change the effects of different kinds of cannabis, the sativa versus indica distinction can still be a helpful tool for finding the right product.

Instead of thinking strictly in terms of sativas versus indicas, it might be more helpful to think along the lines of sativa-like strains and indica-like strains.

Here’s a closer look at the main effects linked to sativas and a list of strains to consider.

Broadly, cannabis sativa strains are said to have the following effects:

  • Energizing. This is a sought-after effect for daytime consumers or for those who want to consume before doing an activity or being social.
  • Uplifting. Many people report that their mood is altered and improves after consuming sativa strains.
  • Increased creativity. For some, consuming a cannabis sativa product can help shift or unblock creativity, or generate new ideas.
  • Mind-expanding. Not limited to creativity, cannabis sativa strains are often thought to direct attention inward for reflection.
  • Sharper focus. Some report that cannabis sativa strains can help ease a distracted mind and concentrate on the task at hand.

As a result of these effects, some report that cannabis sativa products offer some relief from symptoms of:

  • Depression. With their reported energizing, mood-uplifting, and creativity-inducing effects, sativas may help combat feelings of lethargy and apathy.
  • Anxiety. Similarly, some people report that cannabis sativa strains can ease anxiety with soothing and uplifting effects. Others find that it helps them “snap out” of repeated or intrusive thoughts.
  • ADHD. Because of the cerebral and increased focus effects attributed to sativas, some people report that cannabis sativa products help ease symptoms of ADHD.

If you’re using cannabis to help with mental health symptoms, be sure to keep up with any other prescribed treatments. And keep in mind that the impact of cannabis on mental health conditions is still poorly understood.

Before getting into specific strains, it’s important to note that the effects associated with sativas are applied very broadly. Not everyone will necessarily experience all these effects.

Every person will experience strains differently. Your physiology and endocannabinoid system, as well as your tolerance to various cannabinoids, is unique.

Your life experience and setting will also influence your experience:

  • Are you surrounded by friends or complete strangers?
  • Did something traumatic or difficult just occur?
  • Is there something you’re dreading that’s coming up in the next few days?

Things like this will factor into how you experience specific strains.

All of this means that a high-THC sativa, for example, could feel like an uplifting antidepressant to a longtime cannabis consumer with a high tolerance for THC.

But the experience could be very different for someone with a lower tolerance, or who responds differently to various terpene profiles.

Finally, keep in mind that strains are far from being an exact science, and they’re not always consistent across brands.

If you find a strain you like from one brand, you might find that another brand’s version of that same strain feels very different.

How we choose strains

The following strains were chosen using Leafly’s strain explorer and consumer reviews. THC and CBD percentage ranges reflect data reported by Leafly, WikiLeaf, and AllBud.

These strains are typically recommended for daytime use when you’re looking to get stuff done or find some extra motivation.

Sour Diesel

This cross between Chemdawg and Super Skunk is popular for a reason. It tends to be higher in THC, so experienced cannabis consumers seem to come back to it time and again, enjoying its energizing effects that may be helpful to people with depression.

THC and CBD content:

  • THC: 17 to 26 percent
  • CBD: <1 percent

Jack Herer

Jack Herer, named after the cannabis activist and author, is another popular strain.

It ranks high on the energizing scale among reviews, with several people noting it helped with depression symptoms.

THC and CBD content:

  • THC: 15 to 24 percent
  • CBD: <1 percent

Green Crack

This strain’s name might raise a few eyebrows, but it’s really not all that different from the strains above. It’s a popular, easy to find strain that’s known for its energizing effects.

As with Jack Herer, several reviews mention relief from depression symptoms.

THC and CBD content:

  • THC: 15 to 25 percent
  • CBD: <1 percent

Looking to tap into your creative side (or just get out of a rut)? Consider these.

Chocolope

Chocolope tends to have a more moderate amount of THC than some of the stronger sativas on this list, giving it slightly more relaxed effects than some of the stronger strains included here.

THC and CBD content:

  • THC: 16 to 23 percent
  • CBD: <1 percent

Super Silver Haze

Super Silver Haze has a winning reputation, earning first prize at the High Times Cannabis Cup in 1997, 1998, and 1999. It’s also well loved for its creativity-inducing effects, along with a sense of calm.

THC and CBD content:

  • THC: 18 to 23 percent
  • CBD: <1 percent

Durban Poison

This energizing, pure sativa is considered by many people a go-to for getting creative juices flowing. It’s the opposite of sedating, with many saying it’s the most energizing strain they’ve tried.

THC and CBD content:

  • THC: 17 to 26 percent
  • CBD: <1 percent

Whether you’re in a funk or just looking to feel good, these strains may give your mood a boost.

Strawberry Cough

Happiness and euphoria are common effects attributed to Strawberry Cough, a sativa-dominant strain with unknown origins.

THC and CBD content:

  • THC: 17 to 23 percent
  • CBD: <1 percent

Harlequin GDP

This high-CBD strain is worth trying if you’re new to cannabis or have had anxiety-inducing experiences with cannabis sativa products in the past.

It provides a more relaxing vibe than a lot of other sativas, and 43 percent of reviewers on Leafly say this strain leaves them feeling happy.

THC and CBD content:

  • THC: 10 to 11 percent
  • CBD: 3 to 7 percent

Super Lemon Haze

Another Cannabis Cup winner, Super Lemon Haze is a cross between Lemon Skunk and the aforementioned Super Silver Haze.

More than half of Leafly reviewers report feelings of happiness, euphoria, or both after using this strain.

THC and CBD content:

  • THC: 18 to 25 percent
  • CBD: <1 percent

If it’s enhanced focus you’re after, these strains may be worth a try.

Lucid Blue

This cross between Blue Dream and Grateful Breath is highly recommended when it comes to focus and concentration — if you can find the strain, which may be trickier than some others on this list.

THC and CBD content:

  • THC: 16 to 28 percent
  • CBD: 0 to 4 percent

Sour Breath

A cross between Sour Diesel and Lamb’s Bread, this strain is known for its strong, pungent odor. Reviewers rave about its concentration-boosting properties. It’s lower THC content makes it a good option if you’re new to cannabis.

THC and CBD content:

  • THC: 15 to 17 percent
  • CBD: <1 percent

Red Congolese

Another high-THC sativa, Red Congolese is growing in popularity, partly due to its distinct flavor (described as cheesy and fruity). Many reviewers note its tendency to produce clearheaded focus with a bit of physical relaxation.

THC and CBD content:

  • THC: 18 to 23 percent
  • CBD: <1 percent

Cannabis can be a useful tool for managing certain symptoms or simply creating a certain vibe, but it’s not without potential side effects.

Again, everyone’s different, so it’s hard to say which side effects you’ll experience.

Depending on the type of cannabis and your tolerance, cannabis use may cause:

  • feelings of anxiety or paranoia
  • insomnia
  • drowsiness
  • increased appetite
  • dry mouth
  • dry eyes
  • dizziness
  • rapid heart rate
  • slowed reaction time
  • coordination issues

If you’re new to cannabis, start by going low and slow with a lower-THC strain, using only a small amount at a time.

If things do get too intense, these tips can help.

Cannabis sativa plants share some of the same characteristics, both physically and in the effects of their flowers.

While they’re generally said to provide energizing, uplifting, and creativity-inducing effects, it’s important to remember that there are other factors involved that can change the effects of any strain.

If you’re trying a strain for the first time, remember to consume a very small amount first to see how it feels. If all goes well, you can slowly increase the dose.

Keep in mind that individual states have their own legislation regarding legal levels of CBD and THC. Check your state’s legislation for specific information. Be mindful of other state laws when traveling with cannabis.


Kate Robertson is a Toronto-based editor and writer who has focused on drugs, primarily cannabis, since 2017. She has been published in The Guardian, Maclean’s magazine, the Globe and Mail, Leafly, and more. Find her at @katierowboat.