Indica is a classification for a family of marijuana plants with its own distinct morphology, including plant size, leaf shape, and chemical profile. Indica landrace strains are generally agreed to have originated near Central Asia and spread to regions in India, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Morocco, and Turkey.
These original indica landraces (a region’s native, naturally-occurring cannabis strain) are locally adapted strains optimized through natural evolution to grow in their specific microclimates. Indica landraces like Afghani Kush, Hindu Kush, and Mazar I Sharif generally thrived between 30° and 50° latitudes by adapting to these local growing conditions.
Most indica strains found on dispensary shelves are not pure landrace indicas. Rather, they are indica-dominant hybrids created by crossbreeding two or more individual strains. Original landrace strains now mostly exist as heirloom strains and are rarely found in commercial shops.
Indica strains are known for producing high quantities of resin, perhaps as an adaptation to protect itself against harsh weather conditions in the mountainous regions from which it originates. This high resin content in these indica strains was ideal for making hash, the dominant form for consuming indica strains early in the cannabis trade that remains popular in much of the Eastern Hemisphere still today.
Indica strains are known for having flavor profiles ranging from sweet musk and rich earth to dark fruit, like berry and grape. Effects from indica strains manifest predominantly in the body, though the hundreds of indica dominant hybrids that are available differ widely in their effect profiles.
There are several distinct differences between indicas and sativas that are helpful to recognize when choosing a strain. Remember, your perfect strain may be a hybrid mix of indica and sativa genetics.
Indica strains tend to grow short and and bushy – usually under 6 feet tall. Leaves of an indica plant are also thicker and broader than those of a sativa plant. Indica plants produce less of a yield than sativa plants. However, this lower yield is offset by an indica’s shorter growing cycle. Because they are short and bushy, indica strains are well suited for growing indoors.
Indica strains of cannabis are well known for providing significant body effects, while sativas are more cerebral. Indicas also have different flavor profiles than sativas, with sativas tending toward flavors like pine and citrus.
There is a wide range of users who can benefit from using an indica strain, thanks to their primarily physical effects.
Some users turn to indica-dominant strains after strenuous activity like hiking, rock climbing, cross-training, and more to better manage their recovery. Others hope indica strains may help with more chronic concerns. Indicas are also ideal for nights spent in watching a movie or binge watching TV as a way to disconnect.
When used in higher amounts, indicas tend cause a relaxation that patients strongly prefer to stay sedentary. This incredible relaxation is good for unwinding from a long day or a busy week. People sometimes experience “couchlock” or the sensation of being stuck to the couch. Some of the heavier indicas are perfect for before bed, helping you to clear your mind and physically soften into sleep.
Although there are hundreds of indica strains available, current indica strains have all developed genetically from original Central Asian landraces, as mentioned above. It is the crossbreeding of indica strains with other indicas or even sativas that has given us the immense diversity we see among the indica family tree.
An example of this breeding can be seen in the popular indica strain Skywalker. A blend of Blueberry and Mazar I Sharif, Skywalker is favored among users for its deeply relaxing effects. Those hoping to soften Skywalker’s sedative effects can pick up Skywalker OG. A mix of Skywalker and OG Kush, Skywalker OG offers a more euphoric experience than Skywalker’s heavy indica high alone.
Those hoping for a potent strain to support sleep may turn to Grandaddy Purp. Itself a hybrid of legendary indica genetics, Grandaddy Purp is capable of creating a sedative effect that promotes rest and recovery. Grandaddy Purp’s deep grape flavor has become iconic among indica flavor profiles.
For anyone facing high levels of stress everyday, Bubba Kush, likely an Afghani Kush decedent, is sure to move the mind away from triggering thoughts, while its never-too-subtle tranquilization soothes the tightness where stress is held.
Cannabis sativa is a species of the Cannabaceae family that includes both marijuana and hemp varieties. Thriving in warmer weather, sativa strains originated in the countries located on or near the equator, such as Colombia, Mexico, Thailand, and Southeast Asia.
Cultivated throughout recorded history, cannabis sativa is harvested for its fiber, seeds, and oil, which have been historically used for industrial, nutritional, and medicinal purposes. Today, sativa cannabis strains still grow wild throughout many humid and tropical areas of the world.
Sativa strains are known for being extremely pungent, thanks to their distinct terpene profiles, producing aromas that can range from fruity, citrus, and sweet to earthy, piney, or peppery.
While weed strains can be a mix of sativa and indica genetics, there are several distinct differences between indica and sativa strains that are helpful to understand as you select one that’s right for you.
Reaching heights of up to 20 feet when grown outside, sativa plants are taller than indica strains. Their branches are spread out and grow upwards, while their palmately-arranged leaves are long and narrow. Unlike in indica strains where the plant’s flowers cluster around the nodes, in sativa strains, the plant’s flowers begin at its nodes and expand along the length of the stem.
Sativa plants have much longer vegetation periods than indica strains, taking anywhere from 10 to 16 weeks to fully mature during the flowering period. While sativa strains require more patience from growers, their longer vegetation periods result in a much higher yield, producing around 3 ounces to 1 pound of usable marijuana flower for every plant.
While cannabinoid profiles can vary significantly by strain, compared to indica strains, sativas generally contain a higher concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound that causes a high, and a lower concentration of the non-psychoactive compound cannabidiol (CBD). They also are naturally more abundant in tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), a compound with a similar molecular makeup as THC that scientists have yet to determine is psychoactive or not.
The cannabinoid profiles of sativa weed are known for eliciting stimulating mental effects that help users feel focused and motivated. The euphoric response produced by sativa effects is often described as “cerebral,” and it is also said to encourage deep conversation and enhance creativity, which is why it’s often most suited for daytime use or social situations and for artistic endeavors.
Because of its uplifting properties, sativa strains of medical marijuana are often used for patients dealing with mental ailments and mood disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Sativa strains with a higher concentration of THCV may also be beneficial for suppressing appetite to help lower body percentage to potentially play a role in the management of obesity.
Known for producing long-lasting body-relaxing and clear-headed effects that are beneficial for dealing with mood problems and anxiety, Amnesia Haze is a sativa strain that features up to 25 percent THC. Amnesia Haze is also a favorite of personal growers because it produces one of the greatest flower yields of all sativa strains.
Commonly referred to as “Sour D,” the Sour Diesel sativa strain offers about 19 percent THC for invigorating yet dreamy cerebral effects. It’s also a popular choice among medical marijuana patients attempting to manage stress, pain, or depression.
Named after its pungent strawberry scent and tendency to make the consumer cough, Strawberry Cough is a potent sativa blend containing 24 to 26 percent THC. Typically used by those more experienced with medical marijuana, strawberry cough is known to offer uplifting, euphoric effects that are beneficial for managing anxiety and stress.
You can also find hybrids that feature both indica and sativa characteristics like the popular sativa dominant hybrid strain Blue Dream.