Analysis: Indica, Sativa Labels “Poorly” Reflect Variations Between Cannabis Plants

Nova Scotia, Canada: The nomenclature ‘indica’ and ‘sativa’ poorly capture genetic variations between cannabis plants, according to data published in the journal Nature Plants.

A team of scientists from Canada and from the Netherlands analyzed the composition of 297 cannabis plant samples. Consistent with prior studies, they identified few genomic differences between samples explicitly labeled ‘indica’ or ‘sativa.’

“Our results demonstrate that the ‘sativa–indica’ scale currently used to label cannabis poorly captures overall genomic and metabolomic variation,” authors concluded. “Cannabis labelling is instead probably driven primarily by a small number of key terpenes whose concentrations contribute to the characteristic aromas commonly associated with ‘sativa’ and ‘indica.’”

Other analyses have similarly reported few distinctions in cannabis plants labeled either ‘indica’ or ‘sativa’ – reporting, “Ubiquitous interbreeding and hybridization renders [these] distinctions meaningless.”

Full text of the study, “Cannabis labelling is associated with genetic variation in terpene synthase genes,” appears in Nature Plants.