Thirty-two years after the naming of the first cannabis species (sativa), French biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck coined the term cannabis indica in 1785. The researcher noted that cannabis plants in India had different physical characteristics, and as research would later show, potentially different cannabinoid profiles and effects. Indicas are short and stout and typically mature in eight-to-12 weeks. They are also better suited to indoor cultivation since they grow to smaller heights typically between two and four feet. The branches are shorter and fewer in number, but the leaves have wider blades and a darker shade of green.
Some researchers believe sativa and indica originated from a common cannabis species in Central Asia, and the impact of replanting this species in different geographic regions may account for the differences. Indica flourished in the Hindu Kush mountain range that stretches from Afghanistan to Pakistan, and it generates a protective coat of resin making it better equipped to survive colder climates and high altitude. Plants cultivated in places like India, Morocco and Pakistan are often utilized to produce hashish.
The commonly accepted perception is that indica produces more of a body high with sedative effects that promote relaxation and stress relief. Indica is also associated with a higher CBD percentage than sativa plants, but studies show that this is not always the case, and some researchers suggest the outliers might stem from gene-pool hybridization, i.e., the plant is not a pure indica. Still, indica is arguably better suited for evening use, and clinical studies suggest that certain indica strains can help with chronic pain, muscle spasms, nausea, anxiety, insomnia, inflammation, epilepsy and sleep apnea.