Indica Strains: An Introduction

indica cannabis plant

Indica is one of the major strains or “phenotypes” of cannabis. Indica is much like yin to sativa’s yang: Modern cannabis strains are usually either sativas, indicas, or somewhere in between (a.k.a. hybrids). Indica generally has its own properties and characteristics, due to the cannabinoids and terpenes with each strain. There are also many popular misunderstandings of this plant.

This article will provide you with a solid introduction to Cannabis Indica, what it is, what it is not, and how best to use the strains produced.

Early Classification

For over 200 years, there has existed a heated debate over the exact classification of cannabis. In 1785, French biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck first used the term “C.indica” to refer to Indian cannabis. Lamarck contended that indica differed from “C.sativa,” the type of cannabis commonly found in Europe.

Today, some insist that cannabis is a single species, others describe up to four: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, Cannabis rederalis, and Cannabis afghanica (or kafiristanica).

Popular Descriptions

Some have attempted to classify cannabis strains (including indica) by their geographic origin. Cannabis Indica is believed to have originated in the Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan. The short, stubby nature of indica is attributable to the hot, dry conditions of central Asia.

Neither of the above “approaches” to identifying cannabis strains should be considered absolute. In fact, research evidence strongly suggests that any demarcation between indica and other strains (namely, sativa) can be dubious.

Appearance of Indica Strains

The most noticeable feature of indica strains are their appearance (or “morphology”):

  • Color: Dark green color
  • Height: Short and stout Grows approximately 3-4 feet
  • Leaf Shape: Short and stocky
  • Density: Dense, compact flower cluster

Properties of Indica Strains

Generally, indica strains provide a certain range of effects, which are usually involved with relaxing your mind and body. Overall, indica consumers report the following effects:

  • A relaxing, calming feeling
  • A “body buzz” (also known as a “couch lock”)
  • A feeling similar to taking a sleeping pill.

Cannabis Indica’s sedative effect is largely due to its high levels of cannabidiol (CBD).

Recent Developments in Indica Strains

The popular demand for strains with ever greater amounts of THC has produced a curious side-effect among indica strains: In the last 20-30 years, many indica strains on the market have had CBD literally bred out of the plant (Most strains having less than 1% CBD).

Today, many growers are reversing this THC-dominant trend. Some indica strains with high CBD content (~18%) and lower levels of THC are now appearing on the market.

Aroma and Taste

Generally, indica strains have their own smell and taste. With so many varieties on the market, there is an endless selection of choices. Nevertheless, here are some general guidelines:

  • Indica buds have a distinct odor, ranging from bitter to sweet and fruity (Particularly strawberry, blueberry, and blackberry).
  • One common flavor and smell is pine: The most common terpenes in indica, alpha-pinene, is also found in many varieties of pine trees. Pinene has been attributed to an increase in mental focus and energy.


“Flowering” is when a plant begins to produce resinous buds. Indica strains produce a thick, cannabinoid-dense resin. The resin was/is used by the plant to protect itself from the cold, dry climate of Central Asia. The Cannabis Indica plants typically flower within 8-9 weeks.

Size of Yield

Generally, indica strains produce the following:

  • 1.5 to 2.5 ounces per plant (There are 28 grams in an ounce)
  • Smaller yields, but higher levels of THC (~18% THC).

Strains, Strains, Strains!

The distinction between indica strains and any other variety of cannabis is not necessarily sharp or well-defined. In reality, there are thousands of different varieties. Consequently, buyer beware:

  • Frequently, the difference between indica – and any other variety- is based on personal experience and/or word of mouth.
  • An estimated 99% of all cannabis on the market today is a hybrid; Pure indica strains are infrequent.
  • Growing conditions may have a significant impact on effect: New strains can frequently manifest new characteristics.
  • Ultimately, the key mitigating factors of any strain are the actual amounts of THC and/or CBD present.


For years, strains associated with indica have been referred to as “Kush” (for the Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan).

This terminology is entirely arbitrary.

In fact, the names of most strains today are usually nothing more than the result of clever marketing promotions. When it comes to the general differences in physiological effect upon mind and body, the virtually infinite number of new strains resulting from hybridization have blurred the feasibility of making any clear and precise distinctions.

Be safe. Be smart. And enjoy!