“Marijuana comes in thousands of different strains – each of which has a unique effect on the human body.”
Depending on who you talk to, this statement may or may not be true. Of course, it is indeed true that weed comes in thousands of different strains; do a quick Google search, and you’ll get just a small taste of the endless variety that’s out there.
No matter how many strains are bred and “identified,” however, the fact remains that all cannabis falls into one of four varieties: indica, sativa, ruderalis, and hybrid.
For all intents and purposes, however, ruderalis weed is not really used for medicinal or recreational purposes. With that in mind, we can more accurately say that all weed falls into one of three varieties: indica, sativa, or hybrid.
No matter how vehemently your “expert” best friend might argue that all weed is identical, there are indeed obvious differences between these three varieties in terms of the effects that they have on the human body and mind.
In this article, we focus on indica cannabis – an inherently intriguing landrace “species” that is believed to be geographically native to cold mountainous regions in central Asia. More specifically, we highlight some of the most popular medical uses for indica weed, suggesting a few of the most iconic breeds that may work well for a specific range of conditions.
Indica Weed for Medical Use: What Do We Know?
As we mentioned, indica marijuana is believed to have first evolved in the harsh mountainous climates of central Asia. This includes regions like the iconic Hindu Kush mountain range, which lies on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
It is no secret that heirloom (i.e. genetically pure) indica marijuana strains of the Hindu Kush Himalayan Region possess a straightforward set of chemical and medicinal properties. As is the case with most any indica variety, these plants grow low and bushy – their pungent colas usually hidden beneath a mass of stumpy, deep green water and sugar leaves.
More importantly in terms of the medical effects of indica weed, however, is the fact that indica plants boast a relatively consistent and specific chemical profile. Namely, a 2012 study has pointed out that most indicas have a higher CBD content than sativas (which tend to be more abundant in THC).
For those intimately familiar with using indica marijuana for medical relief, the higher CBD content will come as no surprise.
When taken in large doses, CBD tends to have pretty strong sedative effects that can bring on a quick and heavy bout of onset drowsiness. In other words, it makes you want to fall asleep. By and large, this is likely why indica weed is known to be the best strain for inducing sleep, and also for relieving things like anxiety and stress.
Of course, it would be naive to suggest that the medical benefits of indica marijuana are solely due to the consistently higher percentages of CBD. It is certainly no secret, in fact, that some indica strains have an absurdly high THC content.
This is where the role of “secondary” cannabis compounds come into play. While we know very little of what each specific compound in marijuana does, we do know that the effects of the whole plant are amplified on the human body as compared to the effects of a single extracted compound.
Medical Indica Benefits and the Complexity of Marijuana Plant Chemistry
To put it simply, when we consume marijuana there are far more things acting on our bodies and minds than simply the THC and CBD molecules. In fact, THC and CBD are just two of over 100 identified cannabinoid compounds (called phytocannabinoids) that exist in marijuana.
Furthermore, other active compounds like terpenes, flavonoids, and omega acids also play a role in not only the medical benefits of indica strains, but of sativa and hybrid strains as well. In other words, it is the specific “full-spectrum chemical blend” of pure indica strains that give them the renowned benefits of sleep, sedation, and body numbing that they’re known for.
But what exactly is this “indica chemical blend?” That is a question that we’re going to have to wait to find out, as (to our knowledge) there is no database in existence that has quantifiably identified the phytocannabinoid, terpene, flavonoid, and omega-acid profile of pure indica marijuana.
That said, we do know that the specific indica profile – whatever it may be – is responsible for producing a relatively consistent range of benefits that we can anticipate and put to use in an effort to maximize medicinal therapy.
The Top-5 Medical Uses for Indica Marijuana Strains
Medical Indica Effects #1 | Promotes Sleep
It has long been common knowledge that one of the best (if not the best) medical use for indica strains is to promote sleep. Not long ago in fact, a report was published in the Swiss academic journal Medicines. It claimed that cannabis flower was correlated with “significant improvements in perceived insomnia,” and that flower from sativa strains was “…associated with more negative side effects than flower from [indica] plant subtypes.”
The general takeaway here? Indica marijuana strains are without a doubt your best option if you’re looking to get a better night’s sleep — and there is now scientific evidence to prove it.
Medical Indica Effects #2 | Relieves Stress and Anxiety
This may seem odd given that indica effects are typically more dominant on the body than they are the mind, but it has long been held that high-CBD cannabis is preferable over high-THC cannabis when it comes to anxiety relief. And of course, as we discussed earlier, CBD is more prevalent in indica weed than it is in sativa.
In fact, a recent 2013 study has verified as much, claiming that CBD “…reduces the effects of THC on several behavioral functions,” and that it is known to “…reduce anxiety and improve the sensation of well being [that is induced] by a high THC dose.”
Medical Indica Effects #3 | Relaxes Muscles
Out of the top-12 strains that Leafly reviewers have identified as being the best muscle relaxers, only one of them (Amnesia) was a sativa strain. The other 11 were either pure indica breeds or indica-dominant hybrids.
Some of the strains that provide the best medical indica effects for spasticity are Northern Lights, Romulan, Nine-Pound Hammer, Platinum Kush, Critical Kush, and Vanilla Kush – all of which are born-and-bred indicas.
Medical Indica Effects #4 | Reduces Seizures
Back in 2018, the pharmaceutical drug Epidiolex (created by G.W. Pharmaceuticals) became designated as the first ever natural cannabis medication to receive FDA approval. Used to treat rare forms of epilepsy that can cause hundreds of seizures per week in victims, the drug is now available for prescription use.
Why is this relevant in terms of the medical benefits of indica weed? Well, Epidiolex is a CBD-based medication. As we have discussed a couple of times now, indica cannabis has been designated in a scientific publication to contain more CBD than its sativa counterparts.
Medical Indica Effects #5 | Decreases Inflammation and Pain
Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is a globally-recognized organization dedicated to “advancing legal medical marijuana therapeutics and research.” In their educational resource titled the ASA “Guide to Using Medical Cannabis,” one of the top therapeutic effects of indica cannabis was to help reduce pain and inflammation.
Again, this is likely due to the presence of full-spectrum CBD in indica-dominant weed varieties. Things like pure CBD oils and CBD-infused lotions have been known to work wonders in recent years at minimizing inflammation, and given the dominant genetic profile of landrace indica strains, it makes perfect sense why.
A Brief Summary on the Top Medical Uses for Indica Strains
All in all, it is pretty clear that there is a pattern here when discussing some of the top medical uses for indica marijuana strains. Research investigations have pointed out that indica plants tend to have more CBD than sativa, and we see that the majority of indica effects are consistent with the perceived effects of CBD. Namely, we see that indica strains are commonly used for:
- Sleep and insomnia
- Anxiety relief
- Inflammation relief
- Seizure reduction
- Muscle spasticity
If you suffer from any one of these conditions and would like to try and use medical cannabis as a natural therapy, we recommend trying to find a proven indica breed like Northern Lights, Afghan Kush, or Romulan. All of these strains should be relatively easy to find if you have access to a cannabis dispensary.
If you can’t find them, however, simply ask one of the budtenders if they have something similar – if they know their job at all, they should relatively easily be able to point you in the right direction of good medical uses for indica marijuana strains.