Is Sativa or Indica Better for ADHD: What the Research Says

The landscape of medical cannabis in the United Kingdom is evolving, especially when it comes to treating conditions like ADHD. While many patients are keen to explore the benefits of sativa or indica strains, it’s crucial to note that the scientific community still has reservations. According to a study, “An increasing number of patients with ADHD are self-medicating with cannabis, despite a lack of evidence on efficacy and safety.Source This highlights the importance of further research and consultation with healthcare providers.

Even though sativa strains usually deliver positive mood, cognitive functioning, and energy effects, ADHD patients can also use indica strains for stress reduction and overall relaxation. Many patients who consume medical cannabis use a sativa strain during the day and a dose of indica to unwind in the later afternoon or evening. Sativa-dominant and indica-dominant strains also offer cannabinoid and terpene combinations that effectively target specific symptoms.

The anecdotal evidence supporting cannabis use for ADHD is compelling for many. Some individuals find that cannabis, particularly sativa strains, helps them manage symptoms like lack of focus and anxiety. However, it’s essential to approach this with caution. As pointed out by Verywell Mind, “They state cannabis usage is therapeutic and particularly helpful in limiting distractions, helping with focus, anxiety, and ADHD medication side effects. However, while it can be helpful for some individuals, much of the research online advises against its use as a primary treatment option”. Source

There are no right or wrong choices regarding strains, and no two people have the same ADHD symptoms, so the first step is learning about the differences between these two types of strains and which ones produce effects that work best for you.

Symptoms of ADHD

ADHD symptoms can range in severity and form. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Difficulty paying attention

  • Losing or misplacing things frequently

  • Lack of organisation

  • Inability to focus

  • Difficulty prioritising tasks

  • Continually starting new tasks before finishing old ones

  • Restlessness

  • Forgetfulness

Overview of Sativa and Indica Strains

Genetic breeding has led to the engineering of strains for specific formulations featuring THC and cannabidiol (CBD) ratio products and other products infused with specific cannabinoids. Indica strains tend to be higher in CBD, and sativas often have a higher THC level than indica. Hybrids can reflect different ratios of THC to CBD which is helpful for patients seeking higher CBD products for pain, inflammation, and anxiety relief.

When it comes to choosing between indica and sativa strains for ADHD, the cannabinoid profile might be a significant factor. Indica strains are generally higher in CBD, a cannabinoid that has shown promise in treating ADHD symptoms. Verywell Mind states, “Nevertheless, indica strains are thought to have a higher proportion of CBD, which research has found to be the most beneficial component for those with ADHD”.Source This could make indica strains a more suitable option for some individuals.

Medical Cannabis Discussions and Strain Qualities

Medical cannabis discussions often focus on anticipated effects associated with sativa, indica, and hybrid strains, but it is critical to closely review each strain’s cannabinoid and terpene profiles. Terpene compounds found in each strain’s chemical profile matter and contribute to specific traits such as flavour and aroma and distinct effects like appetite stimulation or muscle relaxation.

“Cannabis science expert Dr. Ethan Russo believes that plant genetics has advanced cultivation so significantly that it is more effective to discuss strain qualities according to cannabinoid and terpene profiles than it is to use the traditional two main category system of indica versus sativa traits.” Source

Sativa Strains and ADHD

Sativa-dominant strains are an effective choice for daytime use. Many people with ADHD use sativa or sativa-leaning hybrids to maintain focus and calm. Sativa strains like AK 47 and Lemon Haze tend to produce a cerebral high or head high. Patients feel energetic after consuming a sativa. Other main effects include increased mental and physical energy and focus.

The relationship between ADHD and cannabis use is complex and may be influenced by the effects of THC on dopamine function. Psychology Today notes, “People with ADHD are about three times more likely to use cannabis. Their attraction to cannabis may be due to the effects of THC on dopamine function”.Source This suggests that the dopamine-boosting effects of THC could be a reason why people with ADHD are drawn to cannabis, particularly sativa strains that are higher in THC.

Research Studies on Sativa and ADHD

Online discussions and anecdotal evidence also influence the perception of cannabis as a treatment for ADHD. According to Psychology Today, “Online conversations show that cannabis is believed to be beneficial for ADHD. Another important pervasive issue: patients often believe that cannabis is less dangerous than many of their medications”. Source While this points to a growing acceptance of cannabis as a potential treatment, it also underscores the need for more rigorous scientific studies.

Indica Strains and ADHD

Indica strains provide a relaxing full-body effect. These strains can promote a sense of balance and well-being that will help ADHD patients restore energy. They can then better manage executive function tasks.

Explanation of Indica Strains

Bubba Kush, Granddaddy Purple, and Northern Lights are some common indica strains. They all possess cannabinoid and terpene profiles that are anti-pain, anti-inflammation, and anti-anxiety.

Indica Strains and Their Effects on ADHD

An indica strain is generally defined as a cannabis cultivar with specific chemical profile traits:

  • Higher CBD levels

  • Effective for pain management, muscle spasms, anxiety, inflammation, and appetite

  • Rich in terpenes such as linalool, humulene, and myrcene.

“Factors like the temperature, humidity, soil nutrients, sunlight, and altitude can all affect the chemical profile and thus the final cannabis product, whether it is in flower, concentrate, edible, or tincture form.” Source

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Research Studies on Indica and ADHD

Due to the limited nature of cannabis research, there’s a noticeable lack of studies that specifically highlight the effectiveness of indica strains for ADHD symptoms. This gap in the research landscape underscores the need for more rigorous scientific studies to better understand the potential benefits and risks.

Comparing Sativa and Indica Strains for ADHD

When it comes to ADHD, sativa strains generally offer cerebral effects that include enhanced mental focus and increased motivation. On the other hand, indica strains tend to create a more sedated feeling and can help reduce anxiety. The choice between the two often boils down to the specific symptoms you’re looking to manage.

Pros and Cons of Sativa for ADHD

Sativa strains can be particularly beneficial for those with ADHD, aiding in organization, focus, and decision-making. However, it’s essential to note that while some find these strains helpful, they are not a one-size-fits-all solution and should not replace professional medical advice.

Pros and Cons of Indica for ADHD

Indica strains often have a higher CBD to THC ratio compared to hybrid or sativa strains. Emerging research suggests the safety and effectiveness of high-CBD, low-THC cannabis products, making indica strains a viable option for some individuals.

Which Strain is Better for ADHD?

Determining the best strain for ADHD is not straightforward and should involve a discussion with your physician. They can review your symptoms, overall health condition, and any other medications you’re taking to recommend whether a sativa, indica, or hybrid strain would be most appropriate for you.

Recommendations for Using Sativa and Indica Strains for ADHD

To find the most suitable strains and dosing, assess your most debilitating symptoms. For instance, if you struggle with focus, a sativa or sativa-dominant strain may help redirect your attention. If social anxiety is more of an issue, an indica strain lower in CBD could be more effective.

Dosage Recommendations

Start with a small dose and consult your prescribing physician for an ideal dosing schedule based on various factors like your weight, symptoms, and modes of consumption. Keeping a journal can help you track the effects and find the ideal frequency for each strain.

Precautions and Side Effects

Be aware of potential side effects like dry mouth, sedation, and mood changes. Those with a predisposition to mental health disorders should exercise caution as they are at a higher risk of experiencing paranoia. Adhering to a dosing schedule and taking smaller doses can mitigate these risks.

How to Choose the Right Strain for ADHD

It’s crucial to experiment with different strains to find the one that works best for you. Keep a journal to document symptoms, dosage, and effects to help identify the most effective strains for your needs.

Is Sativa or Indica Better for ADHD?

While sativa strains may aid in mental focus and indicas can alleviate anxiety, hybrid strains might offer a balanced combination of effects beneficial for managing ADHD.


Finding the right strains for your symptoms can be both exciting and challenging. Document your experiences to identify patterns that can help you make more informed choices. Also, familiarise yourself with the terminology used in the cannabis industry to facilitate more effective communication with professionals.