Indica vs hybrid: a guide to cannabis strains

May 26, 2024The nama Team
Indica vs hybrid a guide to cannabis strains by namaCBD

Indica is a cannabis subspecies known for its calming, sedative effects. Hybrid cannabis blends indica and sativa (the other main subspecies) genetics, bringing some of sativa’s headiness and energy to balance indica’s “downer” tendencies. We’ll explore the differences between indica and hybrid cannabis, as well as some of the most popular strains in each category.

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What is indica?

Indica is a subspecies of the cannabis plant, with many varietals or strains. While each strain has distinctive characteristics and cannabinoid profiles, they all share similar relaxing and sedative effects. Indicas provide a sense of full-body calm, relieving stress and tension while promoting sleep and enhancing physical relaxation. 

The physical appearance of indica

Cannabis indica plants are characterized by their short, stout stature and bushy appearance, adorned with broad, wide leaves. Indicas typically have a relatively brief flowering period, lasting only 6 to 8 weeks. Their compact bud structure and tight internodal spacing make indicas well-suited for indoor cultivation, where growers can precisely control plant height and growth patterns.

Indica’s short stature and sturdy branches are adaptations to the harsh, windy climate of the Hindu Kush region of Asia. Indica plants have wider, denser foliage and thicker stem stalks than sativa. The dense, bulky bud structure of indicas allows them to withstand colder temperatures and high altitudes. Many indica strains exhibit colorful purple and reddish hues in their buds and leaves when exposed to colder temperatures during the flowering stage.

What are the effects of indica?

Indica strains are renowned for their profound physical and relaxing effects. To take full advantage of their relaxing qualities, many cannabis users consume indica in the evening or before bedtime. 

These effects may differ across individual strains, but all varietals of Cannabis indica deliver a consistent set of sensations such as:

  • Deep body relaxation and calming sedation
  • A sense of physical ease 
  • Reduced muscle tension and relief from pain
  • Sleepiness 
  • A stoning, couch-locking sensation
  • Reduced motility and psychoactivity
  • Overall feelings of tranquility and serenity

Whether you're seeking respite after a long day or natural relief from physical discomforts, the reliably relaxing effects of indica strains offer a comforting experience. 

What are the medical benefits of indica?

The deep relaxation and pain relief these strains provide can alleviate symptoms of chronic conditions. The possible medical and therapeutic applications of indica cannabis strains are:

  1. Indicas can provide pain relief for arthritis, fibromyalgia, and neuropathic pain. Their deep, relaxing body buzz helps dull aches and inflammations.
  2. Their ability to relax muscles can ease spasms, cramps, and muscle spasticity from multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injuries.
  3. Cancer patients struggling with nausea and lack of appetite during chemo find some relief with an indica strain's sedating and hunger-inducing effects.
  4. People with Crohn's disease or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) often find the calming properties of indicas to soothe gastrointestinal inflammation and discomfort.
  5. With their anti-inflammatory capabilities, indicas may reduce symptom flare-ups for autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory bowel diseases.
  6. Chronic insomniacs or those with disrupted sleep cycles turn to heavy indica strains to sleep more restfully through the night.
  7. The profound relaxation can also relieve anxiety and stress, allowing you to achieve a calmer, more stable mindset when dealing with conditions such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  8. Glaucoma patients find some relief from the ability of indica strains to reduce intraocular eye pressure.

The effects you experience from indica strains depend on how much THC, CBD, and terpenes they contain.

THC and CBD content in indica

Most indica strains have been bred for higher CBD and proportionally lower Delta 9 THC levels. A higher ratio of CBD to THC promotes therapeutic, non-intoxicating effects. But not all indicas have higher CBD-to-THC proportions. Some may have higher THC with lower CBD content for a stronger psychoactive experience balanced by CBD's mellowing influence.

THC and CBD interact synergistically in a dynamic known as the entourage effect. CBD modulates THC's interactions with the body's endocannabinoid system (ECS). Lower THC to CBD results in the relaxing, sedating body sensations indicas are known for. With balanced THC and CBD ratio, indicas can deliver deeply relaxing yet clear-headed experiences.

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What is indica’s terpene profile?

Indica strains boast rich, earthy terpene profiles that complement the effects of THC and CBD. They are most abundant in the terpene myrcene, known for its sedating and couch-locking properties that accentuate the full-body stone. Other common indica terpenes include:

  • Caryophyllene with its spicy, peppery notes
  • The citrusy limonene
  • Floral linalool terpene reminiscent of lavender

Remember the entourage effect? The ensemble of aromatic terpenes work harmoniously with THC and CBD to amplify the deeply calming, physically soothing sensations.

Are there side effects to indica strains?

Excessive amounts of indica can lead to undesirable side effects. These include:

  1. Extreme sedation and lethargy
  2. Mental fogginess or dizziness
  3. Dry mouth and dry eyes
  4. Increased appetite that leads to overeating
  5. Temporary paranoia or heightened anxiety
  6. Impairment of motor skills and coordination
  7. Dizziness
  8. Headaches

The likelihood and severity of these side effects depend on the specific THC-to CBD-ratio, individual factors, and the quantity. If you stick to lower amounts, you can reap the benefits of indicas without overwhelming adverse effects. 

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Popular indica strains

Indicas' deep relaxation and therapeutic pain relief make them popular for unwinding at home. Here are some of the most popular indica strains:

  1. Afghan Kush
  2. Granddaddy Purple
  3. Northern Lights
  4. Hindu Kush
  5. Purple Kush
  6. Bubba Kush
  7. Hash Plant

Most cannabis strains available today combine indica and sativa in different ratios to provide a balanced experience. These hybrid strains can range from uplifting and euphoric to deeply relaxing.

Understanding hybrid strains

Hybrid cannabis strains are created by crossbreeding sativa and indica parent strains. They blend the effects of both subspecies, allowing for experiences that range from the cerebral and energizing properties associated with sativas to the deeply relaxing, full-body sensations typical of indicas. 

The main types of hybrid strains

The main categories of hybrid cannabis:

  1. Sativa-dominant hybrids contain a higher ratio of sativa genetics. They have more invigorating cerebral effects and moderate body sensations inherited from their indica side. 
  2. Indica-dominant hybrids have stronger sedating influences from their indica parentage and a small amount of sativa. These strains provide full-body relaxing effects complemented by uplifting sativa genetics. 
  3. Balanced hybrid strains strike equal or near-equal harmony between sativa's cerebral energy and indica's calming body effects. 

The physical appearance of hybrid strains

Hybrid plants exhibit a combination of physical traits inherited from their sativa and indica parents. Their stature can range from towering and lanky to compact and stout, with foliage blending narrow sativa leaves and broader indica fans. 

Their flowering times also fall somewhere in the middle—not as long as sativas, but not as quick as indicas. This versatility allows growers to select hybrids adapted to indoor or outdoor environments, different climates, and cultivation schedules. 

What are the effects of hybrids?

Hybrids have a versatile array of effects. Depending on their specific genetics and cannabinoid and terpene profiles, hybrids can produce:

  • An invigorating cerebral boost coupled with physical relaxation
  • Elevated moods and euphoric feelings that promote positivity and sociability
  • Increased focus, creativity, and productivity
  • Deep, soothing full-body effects that relieve pain, tension, and insomnia
  • A functional, clear-headed high that allows you to remain energized and calm
  • Stimulation of appetite that can provide relief for those struggling with eating disorders
  • An uplifting sense of well-being merged with tranquil, grounding body sensations
  • Effects that range from gently relaxing to profoundly sedating depending on the strain
  • A versatile array of therapeutic benefits for medical conditions

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THC and CBD content in hybrids

You can find different levels and ratios of THC and CBD in hybrid strains. THC and CBD content depend on the genetics of their sativa and indica parent strains, so some hybrids inherit higher THC content, while others have elevated CBD levels to balance out THC’s potential psychoactivity.

Breeders can intentionally develop hybrids with precise THC and CBD ratios to achieve desired effects, whether that's a more euphoric high or a mellower, therapeutic experience. 

What terpenes do hybrid strains contain?

Hybrid weed strains contain a diverse blend of terpenes. Common terpenes in hybrids include:

  1. Myrcene: lends an earthy, musky aroma and sedating effects
  2. Limonene: contributes a citrusy scent and potential stress-relieving properties
  3. Pinene: has a distinct pine-like aroma and increases focus and memory retention
  4. Caryophyllene: imparts a spicy, peppery fragrance and anti-inflammatory and analgesic qualities
  5. Terpinolene: offers a complex bouquet of pine, floral, and citrus notes that complement the invigorating, uplifting effects

This diverse terpene profile allows hybrid strains to deliver different aromas, flavors, and therapeutic benefits by blending compounds from their parent lineages.

Side effects of hybrid strains

Regardless of the plethora of benefits, hybrid plants can produce side effects if you overconsume. Some side effects to be aware of include:

  • Anxiety, paranoia, or racing thoughts (more common with sativa-dominant hybrids)
  • Headaches or dizziness from intense cerebral stimulation
  • Excessive sedation, lethargy, or "couch-lock" (more likely with indica hybrids)
  • Cottonmouth and dry eyes
  • Increased appetite leading to overeating
  • Impaired coordination and motor skills
  • In rare cases, dysphoria or panic attacks from potent psychoactivity

To mitigate these risks, stick with lower doses. It helps if you know your limits and tolerances and are mindful of your consumption.

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Popular hybrid strains

Hybrids are popular strains because of their balanced effects and enticing array of flavors and aromatic profiles. Here are some of the most sought-after hybrid varieties:

  1. Blue Dream
  2. Girl Scout Cookies
  3. Gelato
  4. Pineapple Express
  5. Skywalker OG
  6. Sour Diesel
  7. Wedding Cake

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The difference between an indica and hybrid high

There's no categorical difference between a pure indica high and a hybrid high, because there are many indica strains with varying effects, and also many hybrid strains with vastly different effects. All of these strains create a spectrum of "highs," with indicas forming one nebulous cluster and hybrids another—but with plenty of overlap and muddling. 

Here are some general trends:

  • Indica highs tend to involve an intense, almost euphoric body sensation. It washes over you with a deeply relaxing full-body buzz that leaves you couch-locked and sedated. Many describe the indica sensation as a "heavy" stone that melts away physical tension, aches, and pains. 
  • Hybrid strains deliver more of a cerebral experience balanced with mild to moderate bodily effects. While they can provide relaxing body sensations, hybrids are often more mentally stimulating and energizing. Their high promotes euphoria, creativity, and an uplifted sense of emotional well-being. 

Not everyone will have the same experience. The effects depend on the amount you consume and personal factors such as tolerance, metabolism, and brain chemistry. When you consume smaller amounts, indicas and hybrids do not induce an intense "high," but rather provide relaxation and improved mood without overwhelming your senses. 

Is indica or hybrid more potent?

While indicas are known for their sedating "couch-lock" body highs, some potent indica strains can produce extremely powerful psychoactive effects if they contain high THC levels. For some people, indica strains are much stronger with more potent effects than hybrids. For others, hybrid strains can produce much stronger effects. It all comes down to individual tolerances, the strain’s chemical composition, and the amounts you take. 

The intensity of the experience can depend on:

  1. THC and CBD content: higher THC levels generally correlate with more potent psychoactive effects, while CBD can counteract some of THC's intensity.
  2. Terpene profiles: the blend of these aromatic compounds can influence the nature and strength of the effects.
  3. Individual tolerance: a person's unique physiology, metabolism, and cannabis experience level impact how strongly a strain hits them.  
  4. Consumption method: inhalation methods can make it easier to overconsume because you can’t know the exact cannabinoid composition of a vape cartridge or a joint. Edibles such as gummies and tinctures contain precisely measured doses of THC and CBD, so you know how much you’re taking every time.

Start with low doses, especially if you’re new or haven’t explored your tolerance levels yet. Gradually increase until you achieve your desired effects. This way, you avoid the negative effects of overconsumption. 

How to choose the right strain

If you want to find the ideal strain for you, here are some helpful tips:

  • Identify your goals. Are you seeking deep physical relaxation, pain relief, or better sleep? Then an indica may be your best choice. If you want a combination of mental stimulation and mild body effects, hybrids are a more suitable option.
  • Indicas are better suited for evening or nighttime use because they produce sedation, while hybrids can work for any time thanks to their energizing effects.
  • Higher CBD content can mellow out intense THC effects. Choose strains with a THC-to-CBD ratio aligned with your experience level.
  • If you're new to cannabis or exploring different effects, a 50/50 hybrid allows you to experience both indica and sativa influences.
  • Don't overdo it. Indicas and potent hybrids can be overwhelming in high doses. Start with low amounts and gradually increase as needed.
  • An experienced cannabis consultant can provide tailored strain recommendations based on your individualized needs and preferences.

Experts at our nama™ team are here for you should you have any questions or doubts about strains. Don’t worry if it takes you some time to find your ideal strain. The journey involves some exploration and trial and error. Stick to lower doses and don't be afraid to get expert advice.

The best way to consume cannabis

Edibles such as our low-dose THC gummies and cannabis drinks are the safest, most reliable, and most practical way to consume sativa and hybrid strains. They provide precise dosing control, allowing you to accurately microdose cannabis and experience the desired effects without going overboard.

These cannabis products deliver a steady, extended experience lasting 4–8 hours. This means you can fully savor the entourage effects of sativa and hybrid strains. Unlike smoking or vaping, edibles are a healthier option as they eliminate the potential harm of inhaling smoke or vapor, so they’re the obvious choice for those with respiratory issues.

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Hybrid vs indica FAQ

It’s not accurate to say that most people prefer indica. Different people have different tastes, and while some prefer indica, others enjoy the uplifting, energizing effects of sativa strains. In terms of popularity, hybrid strains may be more popular than indica and sativa strains because most people are looking for a balanced combo of relaxation and uplift.

Many cannabis consumers choose indica strains because of their relaxing properties. They are renowned for inducing a calming body buzz that melts away physical tension, aches, and pains. Those who want to enjoy more buzzing, energizing vibes lean toward sativa strains. 

With so many indica, sativa, or hybrid strains to choose from, consumers can find at least one that suits their needs and preferences. We go for hybrid strains and more balanced cannabis experiences. That’s why our collection of Delta 9 and CBD edibles allows you to enjoy the best of both worlds—all in a microdosed, delicious form.

Sativa strains can cause reddening of the eyes because of their chemical compositions. Red eyes are a common side effect, and it often goes together with dry eyes. These effects are caused by THC. THC can lower blood pressure and dilate blood vessels, including those in the eyes. While the degree of reddening is different from person to person and strain to strain, sativas, with their typically higher THC levels compared to CBD-dominant strains, are more likely to induce this effect.

Indica strains are well-known for their ability to stimulate appetite, a phenomenon colloquially referred to as "the munchies." This effect is attributed to the interaction between THC and the endocannabinoid system, which plays a crucial role in regulating hunger and metabolism. Indicas can increase feelings of hunger and cravings for food, making them a popular choice for those seeking to increase their appetite or manage conditions such as wasting syndrome or eating disorders.

Hybrid strains can make you feel relaxed and at ease because they contain some indica genetic makeup. Many hybrids contain indica parentage, which contributes to their ability to promote physical relaxation and alleviate muscle tension through the synergistic effects of cannabinoids and terpenes. Some hybrid strains may also inherit energizing and uplifting qualities from their sativa lineage, creating a more balanced experience that combines relaxation with mental stimulation for a versatile array of effects.

While there are no definitive characteristics that can conclusively identify someone as a regular cannabis user or "stoner," the following signs suggest overconsumption:

  • Bloodshot or glassy eyes
  • Increased appetite or "munchies"
  • A tendency toward forgetfulness
  • Decreased short-term memory
  • A relaxed or lethargic demeanor

These signs can be subjective and are different for everyone, depending on a person’s unique physiology, tolerance levels, and the specific strains consumed.

Indica strains are generally considered safe to consume daily, but make sure you’re sticking to lower, moderate amounts and not overdoing them. Regular, heavy use of indica varieties can lead to dependence, tolerance build up, and side effects. Consult your healthcare provider if you want to use indica strains for medical purposes or if you have pre-existing conditions, to ensure safe and responsible use every night.

Indica strains are typically recommended for nighttime or evening use because of their sedating, couch-locking effects. The relaxing properties of these bushy, aromatic plants can induce sleepiness and lethargy, making them less suitable for daytime activities that require alertness and focus. Some people find that lower doses of certain indica strains can be beneficial during the day for managing conditions such as chronic pain or anxiety without causing excessive sedation. It ultimately depends on individual tolerance and the specific strain's terpene profile and chemical compounds.

You can easily distinguish Cannabis sativa plants from Cannabis indica plants if you observe their physical characteristics. 

  • Sativas are known for their tall, slender stature with narrow leaves. They originate from warm climates such as Central America and Southeast Asia. They have higher THC content and produce stimulating, energetic effects suitable for creative pursuits and social gatherings.
  • Indicas are shorter, bushier plants with broad leaves. They come from mountainous regions of the Hindu Kush. They are typically higher in CBD and induce calming, sedative effects, making them ideal for relaxation and pain relief. 

Sativas and indicas can also be differentiated by their unique terpene profiles, which contribute to their distinct aromas and flavors. Sativas often have more citrusy and fruity terpenes, while indicas tend to have earthy, musky, and piney terpenes.

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