Indica Cannabis Strains: : The Ultimate Guide

The term “indica” has been floating around the world of cannabis for as long as we can remember. It usually describes strains that promote a deeply relaxing body high and a sense of peaceful mellowness, though there are many different examples of indica strains, indica plants, and indica effects. Here’s everything you need to know about indica weed strains. 

What is an indica strain? 

By definition, “indica” is a short, stout variety of cannabis plants with broad leaves and compact flowers that are thought to deliver sedative effects. Their scientific name is Cannabis indica ssp. afghanica.

These days, the term “indica” is a bit of a quandary. It’s both a noun and an adjective when it comes to cannabis. The original indicas were a handful of landrace strains, handcrafted by nature and untouched by man, with distinctly sedative effects and a wider plant structure. They usually came from Asia, the Middle East, and the Caribbean. 

However, there is no such thing as a true indica anymore. As landrace strains were crossed and bred over and over by breeders through time, the original landrace genetics were watered down. These days, all cannabis strains are a collective of hybrids that display indica-dominant or sativa-dominant effects. There’s no such thing as a true “indica strain” anymore. Instead, we use the term “indica” to describe strains of cannabis that exhibit strong indica-like effects, such as relaxation, sedation and physical relief. 

In the future, there’s a good chance that terms like “indica” “sativa” and “hybrid” will be phased out entirely since they no longer represent the true effects of a given strain or a strain’s lineage. The term “indica” is more of an identifier of plant structure than of effects. For now, indica is still used in dispensaries as a way to identify strains by effects in layman’s terms without having to dive deeper into the strain’s terpene profiles. Rather than genetics or structure, terpenes and cannabinoids are what give a strain its indica effects. 

Indica cannabis effects

Indica weed is best known for its sedative effects. Strains identified as indicas are more likely to have a higher percentage of CBD and lower percentages of THC. They are physically sedating and are frequently used for pain management and mental health issues like depression. However, indica marijuana can also relax your muscles as well as your mentality, decrease nausea, increase appetite, and increase your levels of dopamine. 

Since indica marijuana is sedative, most people prefer to use it at night. It’s couch-locking effects make it difficult for people to go about ordinary business without feeling sluggish. Regardless, indica strains are a good choice for battling sleep disorders and insomnia. 

Indica vs Sativa 

If we go by the plants alone, there are a lot of surface differences between indica vs sativa. While they both fall under the same main umbrella term of “cannabis” there are two distinct types of cannabis: Cannabis indica, and Cannabis sativa. Indica cannabis strains fall under the same category as sativa strains in the cannabis indica family. 

Indica and sativa were introduced to describe different species of cannabis plants back in the 18th century: Cannabis Indica and Cannabis Sativa. However, cannabis sativa is not the same thing as your standard cannabis — it’s hemp. Cannabis indica is used to describe the intoxicating varieties (including the ones we’ve mislabeled as indicas, sativas, and hybrids) while cannabis sativa describes hemp plants which don’t offer any physical or cerebral effects. That’s why indica, sativa and hybrid labeling to sort the different types of cannabis is problematic — It’s a misnomer! 

However, if we go by effects alone there are still a few differences between indicas and sativas.

Indica plants are shorter with broad water leaves and tight, dense colas that often produce more flowers than sativas and offer a sedative effect. Indicas tend to be darker in appearance and promote a variety of body-centric effects. They usually produce more CBD than THC. They are known as Cannabis indica ssp. afghanica.

Sativa plants are very tall and sparse with narrow leaves and light colas that produce a few energizing flowers. Sativas tend to be lighter in appearance and promote cerebral effects. They usually produce more THC than CBD. They are known as Cannabis indica ssp. Indica.

Hemp plants are non-intoxicating strains that are grown industrially for their fiber, seeds and CBD. They contain little cannabinoids and terpenes, and range in size and shape. These plants are known as Cannabis sativa. 

TLDR: There are two separate species, but only one species represents the cannabis we use medicinally and recreationally – cannabis indica. 

Indica/sativa/hybrid weed = cannabis indica (promotes effects in the mind and body, labeled as indica sativa and hybrid)

Hemp weed = cannabis sativa (used commercially for industrial purposes, doesn’t promote effects) 

Medicinal uses of indica cannabis strains 

Indica cannabis strains usually contain a good mix of THC and CBD and the effects hang out primarily in the body. The soothing sedative effects work best for sleep-related conditions such as insomnia or sleep apnea, though they’re also great for managing pain, improving appetite, and reducing nausea. Strains with indica-leaning effects can help treat chronic health conditions such as fibromyalgia, lupus, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. They can reduce muscle spasms and chronic pain and decrease feelings of anxiety, depression and mood swings. 

Characteristics of indica plants 

If we’re talking plant identification alone, cannabis indica plants offer broader leaves and produce more flowers. 

If we’re talking about cannabis strains labeled as indicas, there are a few ways to identify them. For starters, they tend to grow pretty short and bushy and only get to be about 4 feet tall. They display broad dark green water leaves and grow dense foliage that ranges in color from dark blue to purple to black. Indica flowers are tightly packed popcorn or football-shaped nugs. They typically smell pretty earthy or fruity as they contain higher concentrations of b-caryophyllene and myrcene terpenes. 

While growing, indica strains tend to produce larger yields of thick heavy colas and sticky resin. They usually take 6-8 weeks to reach full maturity and will continue to grow during the flowering season unlike strains labeled as sativas. 

Examples of popular indica strains

The best indica strains contain a healthy dose of sedative terpenes like Myrcene, b-Caryophyllene, Terpinolene and Linalool. These terpenes are what make an indica an indica. They each promote a gentle sedative effect and a nice body buzz that provides long-term relief for a variety of physical ailments. Some examples of the best indica strains include: 

  • Grandaddy Purple
  • Northern Lights 
  • Remedy 
  • Bubba Kush 
  • LA Confidential 
  • Purple Punch 
  • Blueberry

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