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The Geography and History of Indica vs Sativa

So which one are you? A sativa dreamer or an indica lover?  Everybody has their own personal preference when they get addressed with the question. It’s a bit confusing though. In other words, you might be asked “Do you want to be active or sedated?” You might want to be a little bit of both, or neither. These two general categories encompass all drug type cannabis varieties but the science behind indica and sativa argues that it doesn’t really matter if you like either of the two. Each strain might affect you differently, according to a number of spectrum scales.

So then the question remains, what strain is YOUR strain? Among a catalog of over 80 strains, Green Dream Cannabis sure does make that a difficult question to answer. So let us just back up a little bit and explain what a couple main families, or groups of “drug varietal” cannabis there are, and how indica and sativa became household terms.

First up we have the haze family. Many old-timers and foreign-born cannabis consumers might be familiar with this family of drug varietal cannabis (as opposed to hemp… we’ll get there later). Strains in the “haze” group became popular in the 1980’s, when Amsterdam, Holland became the American stoner’s dream vacation destination and a premier international seed depot.  The High Times Cannabis Cup, in it’s day, was the most renowned purveyor of fine-quality cannabis press and haze strains originating in The Netherlands sold very well abroad. Haze may be characterized by both unique growth tendencies in the garden and the quality of smoke the buds produce for medical patients and recreational customers. In the garden, haze grows to abounding heights, as if the plant couldn’t get enough light. It has grinch-finger narrow water leaves, feathering the many branches haze plants create under ideal growing conditions. The high, or medicinal effect, is greatly cerebral and psychoactive. In a sense, haze plants typify the “sativa” stereotype by which many strains get lumped into. This is because of a) their reliability for certain traits in gardens and in effect and b) haze plants were of the first originating drug varietals to be used widely in the Western Hemisphere and thus have adapted to different conditions, giving a unique variation to many other types of cannabis. It is believed that Spanish conquistadors, among other colonizing militaries, introduced cannabis to the New World in the early 1500’s c.e. The plant became prolific in Colombia, Panama, and Oaxaca, Southern Mexico. It makes sense also that cannabis originating in equatorial forests around the world display the same traits. Southern India and southeast Asia also have similar climates that forced the cannabis plant to evolve in such a demanding and competitive natural environment. The cannabis plant adapted to these equatorial rainforest climates over the course of several generations to grow into a family of strains that “breeds true”, or grows with replicable traits from its parents. Haze plants evolved to capture as much sun as possible in the competitive understory of thick deciduous rainforests, so they branch out as much as possible. The long, super-thin leaves allow water from heavy rains to roll off and thus protect the plant from infectious diseases, fungus, and bugs. Haze plants originated in consistent 12-hour light cycles near the equator, and because they are not induced by varied nighttime lengths or varied seasons, they can flower for months. It is common for a pure haze strain to flower for twice the length of some hybridized or broad-leaf cannabis plants before optimal harvest. As for the high, there are a couple of theories as to why haze plants are predominately “sativa” in effect, meaning that they inspire more energy, creativity, motivation and deep thought production than their indica counterparts. One reason may be the particular concentrations of terpenes, the molecular components responsible for the variable aromas between different strains. Though THC is the most well known cannabinoid, other components to cannabis affect the psychological observation of cannabis effect on the body and mind. Green Dream explores this idea in this blog.

Whether or not terpene analysis can bring about a clear difference between indica and sativa is widely debated.  This High Times Magazine article seeks to explain the differences between terpene footprints and any possible answers to explain the different observed effects of indica vs sativa.

Some of Green Dream’s most reputable strains fall in the haze family of genetics. Tangerine Haze and Moonshine Haze are namesakes, but haze is also found in Kronocaine, Blue Dream, Purple Dream, and Kimbo Slice, among others. Green Dream haze strains are heavy in herbal, pepper aromas and users describe them to deliver a functioning, motivational, no-crash effect. Click here to see if these strains are available now!

Another family of drug type cannabis is the kush family. Kush strains include Bubba Kush, OG Kush, Alien, “Afghani” and essentially anything else labeled as a kush. Most of these strains have common traits that link them together in a loosely associated group. The term kush comes from the Hindu Kush Mountains, which span northern Pakistan and central Afghanistan. Cannabis has been cultivated and used for its psychoactive qualities for millennia in this region of the world. It is believed to be one of the originating sources of all cannabis, and because the region was conquered so many times by so many armies over thousands of years, cannabis was able to be traded, sold, and brought to every corner of world. Kush plants originate from high elevation plateaus and mountain ranges, experiencing extensive droughts, minimal moisture and hot, intense continental winds and beating sunshine. The effect the climate had on kush strains is noticeable. Kush plants typically grow to just a few feet high, especially indoors, with just a few main stems. Growing more densely and spherical than the aforementioned haze variety, kush plants have broad-fingered fan leaves which may span out equally wide as in length. The increased shade potential and compact node spacing of these leaves help keep the plants cool and tolerant to environmental stresses. Another evolutionary advantage that propelled kush plants to such a grand popularity is its hasty flowering time. Arctic-continental air masses over central Asia bring swift cold temperatures late in the summer and the sharp shift in the weather induces kush plants to finish flowering before heavy frosts hit. In just over 3 months kush strains can grow from seed to completion, resulting in large swollen colas full of trichome dense flowers. This is one reason why many gardeners prefer to grow kush varieties. Kush is very cold-weather hardy yet thrive in hot, semi arid environments, similar to the conditions in commercial scale grow houses and produce heavy yields. For this reason many strains have been bred from kush ancestry. Regarding terpenes and typical psychoactive effect, kush strains typically have higher concentration of linalool, a lavender, floral smelling terpene that has been shown to relieve anxiety and assist with sleep. For this, many call kush plants indica, but in reality each strain might have a different terpene and cannabinoid footprint, greatly enhancing or detracting from a personal consumption experience.

Haze and Kush are only two of a larger spectrum of drug type cannabis varieties. The other cannabis variety, hemp, does not produce psychoactive cannabinoids such as THC but fit in with the cannabis family all the same. The truth is, all cannabis plants are “sativa”. In latin, sativa is a term given to any cultivated fruiting or flowering plant from seed. Indica, simply put, used to mean cannabis from India. When discovered in the 18th century, it was noticeably shorter in height, dissimilar in aroma, and produced more resin than the traditional hemp “sativas” that Europeans were accustomed to in the 1800’s. So from there the lore began and today indicas and sativas are drawn up to be completely different species of plants but the fact is that most cannabis strains have been hybridized for optimal cultivation traits.

This little bit of history is just a chapter in the story of cannabis but it is important to remember that cannabis is an evolving species, just like humans, and just like people, every strain is different. On your next visit to Green Dream Cannabis ask your budtender about the history of the strains you choose. You might be surprised or even delighted to find that your favorite strain came from deep in a Central American jungle or on a high central Asian plateau!