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Choosing a cannabis strain can feel like a daunting task, especially when you’re at a dispensary that carries dozens of strains.

To help you out, most retailers categorize their products into three main categories:

Indica strains come from the cannabis indica plant, which is generally shorter and bushier than their sativa counterpart.

Traditionally, indica strains are associated with more of a body high that makes you feel relaxed. They’re often recommended for people seeking strains to help with pain, insomnia, nausea, or poor appetite.

While plenty of indica strains might produce these effects, strains aren’t an exact science.

Things like terpenes, different cannabinoids (like THC and CBD), and even your history with cannabis can influence how you experience certain products.

That said, the indica versus sativa distinction can still be a useful tool to guide you toward what you’re looking for in a cannabis product.

Cannabis indica strains are often said to have the following effects:

  • Relaxing. People say cannabis indica strains help their muscles relax and their brains slow down.
  • Sedating. Many find that indica strains make them sleepy, which may be a good thing for people with insomnia.
  • Pain-relieving. Indica strains are often recommended for people looking to use cannabis for chronic or acute pain.
  • Appetite-inducing. Yep, “the munchies” aren’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if you have a low appetite due to a medical condition or treatment.
  • Nausea-soothing. Many find that indica strains also help with nausea and keeping food down.

As you read about strains, keep in mind that their effects aren’t always consistent. A strain from one company might feel very different than another company’s version of that same strain.

If you find a strain that works really well for you, try to research its other properties. What are the main terpenes in it? What’s the THC to CBD ratio? Does the label mention any other cannabinoids, like CBG or CBN?

It’s also worth mentioning that everyone’s experience with cannabis differs. This is based on their physiology and prior experience.

If you frequently consume cannabis, for example, you’ll likely have a higher tolerance for THC. If you’re in a familiar environment with friends, your experience might be different from if you were consuming alone in a new, unfamiliar place.

How we choose strains

We chose the following strains using Leafly’s strain explorer and consumer reviews.

THC and CBD percentage ranges reflect data reported by Leafly, Wikileaf, and AllBud.

These strains may be a good option if you’re looking to de-stress a bit.

Granddaddy Purple

Often shortened to GDP, this is a popular strain because of its purple buds, sweet berry scent, and relaxing effects.

Reviewers report feeling mentally relaxed. Several people note they would only recommend it for use in the evening for winding down.

THC and CBD content:

  • THC: 17–27 percent
  • CBD: 0–1 percent

Ice Cream Cake

This indica cross between Wedding Cake and Gelato #33 is another popular strain.

More than 80 percent of consumers on Leafly report relaxing effects. Several reviewers note this strain may initially cause a bit of a giggly euphoria that slowly transforms into deep relaxation.

THC and CBD content:

  • THC: 20–25 percent
  • CBD:

Purple Punch

Another favorite among nighttime consumers looking to relax, Purple Punch is violet and has a candy-like grape smell.

THC and CBD content:

  • THC: 19–20 percent
  • CBD:

The verdict on whether cannabis helps or hurts sleep is still mixed, but consumers report these strains help them sleep.

Northern Lights

This indica cross between Thai and Afghani is another popular strain, particularly for those trying to get some shut-eye.

Reviewers say this strain relaxes both their muscles and minds, allowing for deep rest.

THC and CBD content:

  • THC: 16–22 percent
  • CBD:

Bubba Kush

As with a lot of indica strains, you won’t want to consume this one if you have a lot to do.

Several reviewers compare this strain to a tranquilizer, noting its melt-into-the-couch properties.

If you’re new to cannabis, be sure to double-check the THC content of whatever product you choose.

Some strains are reported to contain 25–27 percent THC, which is considerably higher than the 17–20 percent THC that’s usually reported for this strain.

THC and CBD content:

  • THC: 17–27 percent
  • CBD:

Mendo Breath

People love this indica strain for its relaxing, calming effects. The flavor is said to have hints of vanilla and caramel.

THC and CBD content:

  • THC: 19–20 percent
  • CBD:

Whether you’re dealing with menstrual cramps or chronic pain, these strains may offer some relief.


With its pungent fragrance, this indica-dominant hybrid is popular with experiencing chronic or acute pain.

Reviewers find it helpful for everything from migraine to nerve pain.

THC and CBD content:

  • THC: 21–30 percent
  • CBD:

GMO Cookies

Another high THC strain, GMO Cookies (sometimes called Garlic Cookies) is a strain featuring a mix of Chemdawg and GSC.

If you’re concerned about the name, rest assured. The “GMO” stands for garlic, mushrooms, and onions — a reference to this strain’s unique smell.

THC and CBD content:

  • THC: 20–30 percent
  • CBD:

L.A. Confidential

Thanks to its slightly lower percentage of THC, this indica strain is often recommended to newer consumers.

It’s known for its sedating, relaxing effects that come with a bit of euphoria, too.

THC and CBD content:

  • THC: 17–25 percent
  • CBD:

These strains are a good starting point if you’re looking to whet your appetite.


Another lower THC strain, Zkittlez may be a good option for cannabis newbies.

One Leafly reviewer says it’s one of the few strains that can boost their appetite on its own.

THC and CBD content:

  • THC: 15–23 percent
  • CBD:


This potent mix of Do-Si-Dos and Purple Punch brings much of what people love about indica strains: relaxation, increased appetite, and sleepiness — together in one experience.

THC and CBD content:

  • THC: 20–28 percent
  • CBD:

Blue Cheese

Blue Cheese can stimulate the appetite. It’s also well-liked for not being overly sedating, meaning you can use it any time, not just before bed.

THC and CBD content:

  • THC: 17–20 percent
  • CBD:

Cannabis may offer some relief from a range of physical and mental health symptoms. But it still has side effects.

Remember: Everyone reacts to cannabis differently.

Consuming cannabis, especially products high in THC, may cause:

  • feelings of anxiety or paranoia
  • insomnia
  • drowsiness
  • increased appetite
  • dry mouth
  • dry eyes
  • dizziness
  • rapid heart rate
  • slowed reaction time
  • coordination issues

If you’re new to cannabis, consider starting with a lower THC strain, consuming only a small amount until you know how your mind and body react to it.

If things get too intense, these tips may help.

Cannabis indica strains might be better-suited for nighttime use because of their sedating and calming effects.

That said, don’t forget that there are other factors involved when it comes to how a cannabis strain makes you feel.

If you’re trying a cannabis product for the first time, a good rule of thumb is to start low and slow — that is, start with a small amount, see how it makes you feel, and give the effects plenty of time to kick in. You can always increase your dose from there.

Kate Robertson is a Toronto-based editor and writer who has focused on drugs, primarily cannabis, since 2017. She has been published in The Guardian, Maclean’s magazine, the Globe and Mail, Leafly, and more. Find her at @katierowboat.