If you’re having trouble relaxing or sleeping, or you’re suffering from chronic pain, the first thing your “weed expert” friends will tell you is to pick up some indica the next time you hit the dispensary or see your dealer. In fact, some doctors will tell you the same thing.
It’s certainly true that indica strains are more likely than sativas to deliver relaxation and medicinal benefits. So if you need an easy-to-remember guideline, that’s as good as any.
It’s a bit of an over-simplification, though. Here’s a comparable example.
Someone who has trouble waking up in the morning will probably reach for a cup of coffee right after they wake up. That makes sense. But a double espresso is not the same as a cup of instant coffee, and both are very different from a cup of decaf.
In that situation, the type of coffee will make all the difference. And when choosing an indica for relaxation, for sleep, or pain relief, the strain of indica will make all the difference.
Some indica-dominants contain virtually no psychoactive THC, but a few have THC levels on a par with some of the strongest sativas. Some will induce an immediate couch lock, while others will keep you on your feet and functioning well.
So you shouldn’t just ask, “what’s the best indica strain?” You should also ask yourself, “what effects or benefits do I want the strain to provide?”
But we can start with an even simpler question.
What Is an Indica?
There are two major subspecies of cannabis, sativa and indica, and they’re not defined by what happens when you smoke, vape, or consume them. Their physical characteristics identify them. Indica plants are distinguishable because they’ve developed and adapted over the years to survive in cold and windy climates.
They’re short and bushy, with thick broad foliage that’s normally dark green in color due to high chlorophyll levels – necessary to maximize the amount of sunlight they absorb. Indica has dense buds that flower quickly and produce lots of resin, ideal for short growing seasons and protection against infestation.
You’ll notice that there was not one word about relaxation, cannabinoids, or pain relief in that description. That reinforces the fact that effects and benefits don’t define indicas. Effects and benefits vary depending on the specific strain you choose.
Types of Indica Strains
One quick note: in this article, we’re lumping pure indica and indica-dominant strains together. Pure indicas do still exist, of course, but you’re more likely to find indica/sativa hybrids in today’s market.
Almost all indica strains will provide more relaxation – or in the more extreme examples, couch-lock and sedation – than sativas. That’s believed to be due to specific terpenes like myrcene commonly found in indica plants rather than the higher CBD levels typically found in them.
But some indicas will deliver the type of head high more often associated with sativas before relaxation sets in. Here’s why.
Creative breeding has led to newer indica strains like Kosher Kush and The White, which are bred to have very high THC levels, often well over 20%. They’ll begin with a euphoric high, ideal for boosting focus or inspiring creativity before body lock takes over and the mind goes along for the ride.
However, more traditional indicas have much lower THC levels (between 5-15%) and will quickly relax both the head and brain without a mind-blowing high. Additionally, their usually higher CBD content is ideal for pain relief and fighting insomnia.
Finally, some indica-dominant strains have been bred to have virtually no THC content at all. These CBD-heavy indicas are intended primarily for medical marijuana patients dealing with chronic pain or serious illnesses like multiple sclerosis.
To sum up, determining the best indica strain is more a matter of determining the best indica strain for your own preferences and needs. Here are some suggestions.
Best Indica Strains
You don’t have to go any further than this prevalent strain to prove that not all indicas spare the head when delivering a strong body blow. With an average THC content of around 20%, GDP delivers an immediate euphoric high that can lean to the slightly trippy side before the mind’s relaxation catches up with the body. Eventually, the full buzz is likely to land you on the couch or into your favorite chair.
There’s a decent amount of CBD in this strain, too, so it’s sought-after for its medical effects. It works wonders to relieve aching muscles and chronic pain, as well as depression. And the legendary body melt is perfect for fighting insomnia and getting a good night’s sleep. Don’t overlook the yummy taste and scent, either.
Calm, calm, calm. There’s nothing like a few hits of Northern Lights to put your entire body into a blissful, happy numbness. This strain is almost pure indica and is usually the #1 example that people use to illustrate what a “classic” indica will do, even one with 15-20% THC content; the psychoactive cannabinoid contributes more dreamy laziness than an energetic high. You’ll probably be couch-locked after indulging, only getting up to grab some more munchies.
There isn’t a lot of CBD in Northern Lights, but the incredible numbing buzz is outstanding for treating pain nonetheless. It can relieve all types of body pain from arthritis, back pain, and chronic conditions, stress, depression, and nausea, and has won numerous awards for its medicinal power.
The legends surrounding the origins of G-13 belong more on a conspiracy website than in a botanical textbook. In a nutshell, some U.S. government agencies collected the best pot strains from all over the world and bred “superstrains” in a secret lab – and G-13 was the one liberated by a lab tech to be shared with the world.
If that does happen to be true, we owe the tech a huge debt. This strain ranges from pure indica (rare) to a 70/30 hybrid (more likely) with generous amounts of THC and is a world-class mood enhancer. It opens with a creative euphoria and then quickly settles into serious body relaxation that will calm your way down but only produces body lock in some users. If you’re one of the ones who can handle G-13 without feeling heavy, it’s amazing for all-day relief of chronic pain, inflammation, fibromyalgia, and lupus, stomach issues, stress, and depression.
We close out with two of the best indicas that provide relaxation and pain relief without a strong high. Indica-dominant Harlequin is typically 5:2 CBD to THC, so its psychoactive effects are relatively pleasant and uplifting. That leaves the CBD to do its work relatively unimpeded by a heavy head high, with its fabulous relief of nerve, muscle, and joint pains, making it a favorite of those who need help with chronic conditions like fibromyalgia.
The uplifting mood contributed by this strain also helps with chronic depression. And its lower THC content makes Harlequin a far better choice for those who suffer from anxiety because it won’t cause the paranoia that THC can sometimes induce in those patients. This is an indica that won’t couch-lock you in any way; it will let you get things done while you’re feeling better.
As you’ve probably guessed, this is an indica-dominant strain bred specifically for pain relief. The THC content is generally below 1%, so there’s virtually no psychoactive effect whatsoever. The remedy is slow to act, so the experience starts with full-body relaxation, followed by a tingly feeling and the easing of pain throughout the body.
For most users, this is a strain that can be used throughout the day to allow full function and perhaps even replace opioids for pain relief. Of course, there’s no law saying it can’t be used recreationally (that is, in states where it’s legal), and it’s a great choice for reducing stress, being able to relax after work, or slowly drift off to sleep.