Ask Old Hippie: Should I Smoke An Indica Or Sativa?

Old Hippie Kenobi

Dear Old Hippie: Now that medical marijuana strains are finding their way to people in less-enlightened states, even back alley dealers are claiming their weed to be “genuine Super Sour Diesel Sufferin’ Succotash Lazy Hazy Kush” or whatever. WTF does any of this mean to someone who just wants to know how it will make them feel? – Joe in Kokomo

A: The creativity of people in the marketing business (which is what your local weed dealers are, after all) never fails to amaze me. But this reminds me of similar tactics back in the 60s and 70s, where every dealer worth their Kodak film canisters would always have Panama Red, Maui Wowie, Acapulco Gold, or anything from Colombia when you called. When you picked it up, though, it was generally the same brickweed they usually carried.

Yeah, there are some legit strains with pretty long names, but this actually follows the lead of – believe it or not – cat breeders, who create their longish registered cat names from the cat’s parents and cattery name. In the case of Super Silver Sour Diesel Haze (the real strain you’re referencing), it came from a cross between Super Silver Haze and Sour Diesel, each of which was painstakingly bred from a variety of other cannabis strains.

Cannabis Indica leaf
Cannabis Indica leaf

So what’s the big deal about different strains, you ask? They all produce different effects: the giggles or pain relief or a creative burst of thinking or a serious case of the munchies. Or something else entirely. A lot depends on your dose, smoking “just enough” vs. smoking way too much. Medical marijuana patients learn to find the strain (or combination thereof) that works best for their condition, and they generally stick with it. But if you can’t guarantee a reliable source for that kind all the time, as is often the case in non-medical states, you have to stick with the basics.

The basics, in this case, is the difference between the two main types of plant: indica and sativa. Cannabis Indica plants originated from the general region of India, including present-day Pakistan and Afghanistan (which has an area known as Kush), and they generally grow shorter and bushy, with fat leaves. Indicas tend to affect the body heavily, and make you feel and act “dopey” in higher doses, which is why MMJ patients use them for pain relief. In lower doses – without making you high – indicas can help with anxiety and panic attacks.

Cannabis Sativa leaf

Cannabis Sativa plants have the familiar long, thin leaves you always see in pictures and grow to startling heights if not kept under control. Sativas are a head trip: they’re the type you want to battle depression and cloudy thinking, and they’re more stimulating mentally, physically, and appetite-wise. They can also induce paranoia, panic attacks, or even greenouts if you get too high too fast, especially if you’re a bit dehydrated or low on blood sugar.

You could say that sativas are for daytime and doing things, and indicas are for staying home and going to sleep.

TL,DR: Sativas act somewhat like stimulants, indicas act somewhat like depressants.

There are also hybrid strains that can give you the best of both worlds. But just knowing this much will help you figure out what you’re looking for, and hopefully your supplier will be able to come up with what you need.

Old Hippie is a MMJ patient living somewhere in the wilds of California whose only link with the real world is a 420 MHz radio. He blogs on and vapes on Sour Diesel.

Got a question for Old Hippie? Send in your questions to him here or post a comment below.

Old Hippie is a father of two boys and thankfully living in California where all this kind of thing is legal. He started smoking marijuana in 1967 in high school, experimented with mind-expanding drugs of all kinds, and then straightened out 15 or so years later to become an airplane pilot. After being diagnosed with depression in 2000, he lost his job and most of the following decade to prescription medications (such as antidepressants) which sapped his energy and will. Finally, a chance conversation with a friend led to a doctor’s recommendation for medical marijuana (MMJ). This changed his entire life, health, and outlook for the better. is his continuing story. It’s also his way to provide experienced advice on using medical marijuana effectively and responsibly, as well as advocacy, activism, and support for others. Old Hippie teaches about safe use of cannabis edibles, Canna Caps, vaporizers, dosing, and even microdosing.


Hey Old Hippie-

I have posted on both threads we have talked on and I was wondering if you would like to continue the discussion. I asked some questions in my posts that I was wondering if you are anyone else may want to answer from your point of view…

Just curious and wanting to talk more…

Please just post if you want to, my personal email is not functional so I cannot be reached there.

PS can you help me to understand if Marijuana can be used to alleviate anxiety? I am wondering because I had some panic attacks when I used it so many years ago. Don’t know if it hurts or helps or both.

Dear Sanyars,

I think you are starting to get on the right track here, based on the article you are commenting on.

I totally understand that you were having panic attacks. Apart from the vast difference in effects between sativas and indicas, there is so much variation among strains that I actually wrote an article called “There’s No Such Thing As Marijuana” to illustrate the futility of lumping all of it together and saying “marijuana will always do such and such”.

A perfect example of a panic attack inducer would be White Widow or Casey Jones, both of which have a high level of THC without the moderating influence of CBD. I’m not especially sensitive to panic effects, but Casey Jones taken by itself feels to me somewhat like a cocaine or speed rush, in comparison to normal weed (I am not saying that any strain of weed can give an effect like either of those drugs). I’m talking about heart rate going up, heart pounding, thoughts out of control. This is why I never use it without mixing it with some indica.

I suspect that your bad experiences were due to a similar strain of “good stuff” with a lot of THC, and almost certainly a strong sativa.

As far as anxiety, I have personal experience as well as a number of other patients I have worked with closely in person. A good indica (I’ve mostly has access to Purple Kush in this context) will work wonders for anxiety and/or panic attacks. I keep some around as tincture for virtually instant relief when necessary (try that with Zoloft!) and in capsules for longer effect. In fact I just used a capsule yesterday for the anxiety produced by getting together with my whole family for Thanksgiving. Never got high, either, because the cannabis works directly against whatever chemicals your body’s producing in response to the anxiety, and gets used up on that. It’s like drinking beer on a hot day…you hardly feel the alcohol because you’re sweating so much and you’re replenishing your bodily reserves of water and B vitamins and such.

Best regards,
Old Hippie

Old hippie-

Here is a little bit of what I have found so far:

Marijuana and Mental Illness

People who are dependent on marijuana frequently have other comorbid mental disorders (see figure). Population studies reveal an association between cannabis use and increased risk of schizophrenia and, to a lesser extent, depression, and anxiety. There are now sufficient data indicating that marijuana may trigger the onset or relapse of schizophrenia in people predisposed to it, perhaps also intensifying their symptoms.

A number of studies have also shown an association between chronic marijuana use and increased rates of anxiety, depression and schizophrenia. 41

National Institute on Drug Abuse. Marijuana: An Update on the National Institute on Drug
( )
Published February 2011. Retrieved July 2011.

Hi Sanyars,

I’m doing my best to respond directly to each comment, but this isn’t forum software so it’s not always displaying accurately. Anyway, here’s my take on what you posted:

Whenever you read government propaganda — and yes, they deliberately write things this way — you have to read very carefully:

People who are dependent on marijuana frequently have other comorbid mental disorders.

The key word there is “dependent”. Do they mean “dependent” because it’s being used as a medicine to suppress or lessen their symptoms, or “dependent” meaning people who have been using it recreationally and they’re now psychologically addicted because it makes them feel so good? People in the former group could be characterized as medical marijuana patients. People in the latter group often take higher and higher doses in an attempt to feel even better, which can indeed lead to latent mental problems coming to the fore, but that’s because they’re abusing the substance dreadfully.

Population studies reveal an association between cannabis use and increased risk of schizophrenia and, to a lesser extent, depression, and anxiety.

Here the key word is “association”. To most people, this implies causation, and that’s precisely why they use the word. But what this sentence really means is again that many people with anxiety, depression, and even schizophrenia attempt to self-medicate with cannabis…no surprise there, because it works! The CBD present in some strains has a known anti-psychotic effect, and it cannot get you high.

Once you know what the government is doing, you’ll recognize it everywhere. On that same page they talk about marijuana use compared to “other illicit drugs”, but you won’t see them comparing it to the number of people abusing or addicted to legal, FDA-approved drugs because that number is plenty scary on its own (10 or 12 million per the CDC) and those drugs are killing people in record numbers.

Old Hippie-

I also just read an article written by a bay area Californian woman who claims that Marijuana has proven to be the best medicine for treating her generalized anxiety disorder as compared with numerous psychiatric meds she had been prescribed. The article can be found here:

So, I am not sure what to believe. The research and anecdotes are in conflict.

What do you think and know for yourself?


That article is right on, even if she didn’t include as many sources as some would have liked. It matches my experience, although my daily small dose is for depression, not anxiety. And I too have gotten off a laundry list of antidepressants and ADHD meds. Taking stimulants for my ADD helped my ADD, but my cardiologist was not happy!

There’s plenty of research that supports the responsible use of cannabis against anxiety. Here are some of the latest links from Granny Storm Crow’s List:

Brain CB2 Receptors: Implications for Neuropsychiatric Disorders (full – 2010)
Neural basis of anxiolytic effects of cannabidiol (CBD) in generalized social anxiety
disorder: a preliminary report. (abst – 2010)
Cannabinoids and anxiety. (abst – 2010)
Cannabidiol reduces the anxiety induced by simulated public speaking in treatment-naïve
social phobia patients. (abst – 2011)
Cannabinoids and emotionality: a neuroanatomical perspective. (abst – 2011)

Old Hippie-

thanks for giving me some links to read up on this. I know the research results are completely mixed and totally contradictory. So, it’s confusing. I just want the real facts.

Old hippie-

Oh and thanks for a little education on what different strains of Marijuana are like. I never got into that aspect of it. I used only what I could get from limited resources in back woods towns of New Hampshire.

Old Hippie-

I was able to look over the abstracts of the articles you cited. The summaries of those findings are telling indeed. I know there are conflicting research results and I am not quite sure how it all fits together. I have been affected by moderate anxiety for a while and it has interferred with my life somewhat. I defninitely don’t want to be on benzos or opiates for obvious reasons. So, I am trying Buspar right now. Wouldn’t it be helpful to me if Medical Marijuana was legal and supported federally across the board so I would have it as an option to try… But that is not possible for me. So I am still troubled and waiting a month for the meds to start working. That’s why I am so curious. I want my normal life back.

Hi Sanyars,

It’s crazy that someone with real problems has to be told, in the 21st century, “here’s some medicine and it might work or it might not but it will take you a month to find out” when they could (in a better world) buy $5 worth of cannabis and find out for themselves in 20 minutes or so.

I hope Buspar will work for you and I hope all goes well. Please feel free to respond…I’ll generally see comments here pretty quickly.

Old Hippie-

Yeah I just want what will work best for me.

I have researched some on marijuana laws around where I live.

I live on the seacoast of New Hampshire so I am close to Massachusetts and Maine. Maine has legalized medical cannabis use (and has decriminalized it) but their criteria for qualifying conditions are tight. The usual expected conditions are included but I don’t know about depression or anxiety, both of which I have. I take an anti depressant but unfortunately I risk high blood pressure from that. NH almost passed a medical marijuana bill this year. It passed about 251-53 in the house, but the governor (who vetoed it in 2009) threatened to veto it again so the senate cowardly tabled it for some other time, probably killing it for the rest of the year. Maine has a bill coming up to legalize marijuana for 21 and over statewide. That could be very interesting but I doubt the new governor will allow it. I wrote to Maine department of health and human services to see if they allow anxiety to be treated under their provisions which are regularly revised. I wonder if I handled marijuana as a medicine only after all these years maybe it could work for me. But finding a way to find out is the trick. I don’t want to break any laws or put myself at any legal risk at all. But I do need to be treated for my conditions one way or another. If I became a patient I would worry about federal law, discrimination by others and workplace drug testing or perception of diminished capacity or unethical behavior for using it even if for medical purposes on my own time. I could lose my job. Maine passed legislation protecting medical users from discrimination but who can really enforce that? And if a health care professional like me is expected to remain clean and sober to ensure quality patient care (“ethical guidelines against malpractice” – not that I would EVER use it before or during work mind you)then my hands are tied. What to do? If only I lived in California or Colorado… The northeast is VERY conservative. 71 % of NH voters approve of legalizing medical marijuana in our state. But the governor is a hard ass about it. I would like to find a natural way to relieve my suffering without major side effects. Pharmaceuticals is all I have right now.

Old Hippie-

Even though Marijuana could be a miracle drug for me and help me tremendously, unfortunately because of the political, social and legal climates there are too many significant risks (some I have already mentioned, some I have not)I would have to take in order to make use of it. Those are risks I cannot afford to take. I guess I have to stick with my pills. Being American is all about having choices, -at least for some of us that is.

Yes, Sanyars, unfortunately the government would rather have you on expensive and sometimes dangerous pills rather than a harmless plant you could grow yourself. Plants don’t send money to politicians, you know.

By the way, I consulted a friend with Buspar experience, who told me the following: Buspar does enable you to handle whatever’s going on, but it gives you an emotional numbness which prevents you from dealing with whatever is causing the problem.

There are three components to your anxiety: identifying exactly what causes your anxiety, realizing you have to deal with it, and then working through it so you’re able to mitigate (lessen) it or solve it completely. Cannabis Indica works differently on anxiety; it helps lessen the anxiety but keeps you clear-headed (that’s right, prohibitionists, chew on that one! — OH) so that you can work on whatever’s causing your anxiety. Buspar will give you some breathing space if you’ve been living in absolute terror, but it doesn’t let you process the problem so you can actually get rid of it.

Hope that helps…Old Hippie

Old Hippie-

I am hopeful that since drugs affect different people in different ways that I may be fortunate and not be emotionally numbed by the Buspar. Some folks use MJ to escape from or numb their feelings too. Maybe that’s different in small medical doses I don’t know. I’ll just have to wait and see what happens…

Old Hippie-

PS talking to one person about their experience with Buspar gets one point of view; it’s the smallest statistical sample you can use though. I’d be interested in larger numbers of reports to tell the whole story.

Old Hippie-

I did some research on Buspar and saw many personal testimonies in a chart showing age of patient, psychiatric diagnosis, strength of dose and number of times a day taken, as well as detailed comments either for or against the drug. There was a complete range of comments from reports of terrible side effects to none at all. There were people who called their experience hell and had to go off it after a very short time taking it and there were others proclaming it as a miracle drug that helped them tremendously who have taken it for a long period of time. Some stated they had a blunting of emotions while others said their emotions were left totally intact. So the reviews are completely mixed as I had predicted before. If I have serious problems with it Ii will stop. It may work for me though. It’s tough having no other real alternatives though. I refuse to be put on opiates or benzodiazepines because of likely addiction/dependence, side effects, and long period required for withdrawal when stopping due to danger posed.

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