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Is indica an upper or downer?

Cannabis is traditionally divided into sativa, indica, and hybrid strains.

Sativa strains generally are used during the day and indica strains are reserved more for night time use. Hybrid strains are usually a balanced mix of effects.

Despite these generalizations, there’s so much variety in effects within strains based on the quality of the genetics and the growing conditions, among other consumption factors.

If you’re wondering whether an indica strain is an upper or downer, there is no definitive answer. Instead, you’ll have to carefully examine your strain’s complete chemical composition to determine its effects.

What Is An Upper And Downer?

Upper and downer is an informal term used to describe drugs that are stimulants and depressants, respectively. Let’s break down each drug classification to understand which category cannabis, and indica strains, fall in.


Depressants such as alcohol and barbiturates can slow down your cognitive function. In particular, they are known to have the following effects:

  • Induce sleep
  • Relieve anxiety
  • Relieve muscle spasms
  • Prevent seizures

Barbiturates, a type of depressant, can lead to dependence and tolerance leading to increasingly higher doses that can cause coma or death. Benzodiazepines are an alternative to barbiturates although they can still lead to tolerance and dependence.

Similar to these depressants, a person can develop a tolerance to weed and dependence in certain cases. In terms of short-term side effects, cannabis use can cause short-term memory loss and dizziness.


Stimulants such as cocaine, methamphetamine, and ADHD drugs are used to elevate your mood and increase your focus, the complete opposite of downers. Uppers are known to have the following effects:

  • Increased levels of dopamine in the brain
  • Increased alertness
  • Increased energy
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure

Because they can cause instant euphoria, some people may frequently abuse the drug to sustain the increased energy levels and focus.

While the short-term effects can be exhilarating, long-term use can lead to severe consequences including addiction, disruption of the dopamine system, and the inability to feel pleasure.

Cannabis can have similar stimulating effects, although some low-tolerance users may experience anxiety and paranoia if they take too much. Users can also start to depend on weed for mood elevation.


Other drug classifications include hallucinogens such as LSD, MDMA, peyote, and psilocybin, as well as dissociative drugs such as PCP, which alter your perception of reality by affecting your brain’s nerve messaging and causing hallucinations.

Hallucinogens can be found in plants and fungi or be synthetically made in a laboratory. When on these drugs, individuals may report seeing images, hearing sounds, or even feeling sensations that are not really there. In addition, they may experience intense mood swings.

Cannabis is mainly known for its hallucinogenic effects. Generally, these mild symptoms distort time and space. It can also affect a person’s motor skills and increase their heart rate.


Opiates such as heroin, painkillers, fentanyl, and morphine are another class of drugs that reduce pain and produce intense euphoria. Opiates are known as some of the most addictive substances in the world.

Because they produce intense relaxing effects, opioid painkillers have a high risk of abuse and addiction.

Cannabis is a popular alternative or supplement to opioids. Using cannabis can reduce dependence on these drugs and lower the risk of addiction.

What Type of Drug Is Cannabis?

So, what type of drug is marijuana? In particular, what are indica weed strains classified as: stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens? It’s hard to say.

Cannabis strains affect everyone differently based on metabolism, genetics, frequency of use, and other consumption habits. To complicate matters, strains vary in effects based on their cannabinoid and terpene content.

Weed, in general, can technically be classified as a depressant, stimulant, and hallucinogen, all in one. For this reason, it is important to understand the components of cannabis buds and how they interact with the body to have a safe and effective experience.

Indica vs. Sativa: What’s The Difference?

Conventional weed classifications separate strains as sativa, indica, or a hybrid of both strains. Each type of strain has unique effects that can make a person feel uplifted, relaxed, or a balance of both feelings, respectively.

Many of today’s strains sold in dispensaries, however, have been bred from a mix of sativa and/or indica strains, effectively, blurring the line between pure sativa strains and pure indica strains.

Nowadays, almost every strain is a hybrid, although, a particular strain may lean towards certain indica or sativa effects.

These weed categories can be a starting guideline when choosing the right type of strain for you but you shouldn’t entirely depend on these categories to choose your strain of choice.

Pay Attention To The Terpenes

Scientific research is slowly uncovering the therapeutic potential of terpenes, especially in whole-flower cannabis products. Whole-flower, also known as full-spectrum, products contain the strain’s original chemical profile including its natural cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids.

Terpenes are the fragrant compounds produced in the plant’s trichome glands. While more research is needed into the effects of terpenes and cannabinoids on the body, studies suggest terpenes can improve the medicinal effects of cannabis in a phenomenon known as “the entourage effect.”

Terpenes may play an important part in determining if cannabis strains are downers or uppers.

Depending on the terpene thye have been known to help you relax.

Are Cannabinoids Uppers Or Downers?

When determining whether an indica strain is an upper or downer, cannabinoid concentration and dose are crucial factors to keep in mind.

Cannabidiol (CBD), especially in large doses, is believed to have sedative properties. While on the other hand, Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can have stimulating properties.

The synergistic interaction between cannabinoids and terpenes plays an important part in determining whether an indica strain is an upper or downer.

Low and high doses of strains can also affect your high. For example, microdosing THC can help some people relieve anxiety, but higher doses of the compound can increase their anxiety.

In addition, the concentration and ratio of cannabinoids can affect whether a person feels stimulated or relaxed.

For instance, a balanced 1:1 ratio of CBD:THC can reduce many of the negative side effects of THC such as paranoia and anxiety due to CBD’s balancing properties. Strains with higher CBD percentages tend to reduce the hallucinogenic effects.

Everyone Experiences Indicas Differently

Indicas can’t be classified as exclusively uppers or downers. Ultimately, the effects of an indica strain depend on your personal sensitivity to the drug. Everyone has a unique endocannabinoid system (ECS).

Our ECS is in charge of maintaining internal homeostasis on critical biological responses that affect the following:

  • Sleep
  • Memory
  • Appetite
  • Mood

Some people may have an ECS imbalance and be affected by a strain differently compared to someone without the same imbalance.

Generally, people turn to indicas for their calming and sleep-inducing qualities, and they wouldn’t be completely wrong to do so.

Most sativas can be stimulating, but there’s also a wide spectrum of strains that fall somewhere in the middle.

If you’re looking for an upper or a downer, you’re better off researching specific indica-dominant strains, the best indica strains for sleep, the most potent indica strains, and indica strains for anxiety.

Weed As A Depressant And Stimulant

Marijuana produces many of the same effects of a depressant such as relaxation, sleepiness, muscle relaxation, which can help treat conditions including insomnia, anxiety, and muscle spasms.

Marijuana can also act as a stimulant and improve your mood and concentration. Just like stimulants, however, weed can cause a racing heartbeat, anxiety, and paranoia.

Is Indica An Upper or A Downer? Understanding the Effects of Indica Cannabis Strains

Is indica an upper or a downer?

The legalization of cannabis in many parts of the world has sparked new conversations about its various uses, strains, and effects. A common question often asked by both seasoned and novice cannabis users is whether Indica strains act as an “upper” or a “downer.” 

What Is Indica?

Indica is one of the primary types of cannabis plants, originating mainly from the Hindu Kush region near Afghanistan. These plants are generally shorter and have broader leaves compared to Sativa plants. Indica strains are known for their potent effects on the body, often described as “body highs.”

The Downer: Effects of Indica

Indica strains are typically considered “downers” in the world of cannabis. This means that they are more likely to produce relaxing and sedating effects. Common effects associated with Indica strains include:

  • Physical relaxation
  • Decreased nausea
  • Increased appetite
  • Pain relief
  • Calmness and tranquility

These effects make Indica strains a popular choice for evening use or as an aid for those struggling with insomnia, pain, and stress. They are not usually recommended for activities that require alertness or high energy levels.

Indica vs. Sativa: The Contrast

To better understand why Indica is considered a downer, it's helpful to compare it with Sativa strains. Sativa strains are known for their uplifting and energizing effects.

Users often report feeling more alert, creative, and mentally focused after consuming Sativa strains. In that sense, Sativa is generally considered an “upper.”

The Complications: Hybrids and Individual Variation

While the general effects of Indica and Sativa strains are widely accepted, it's essential to note that not all strains behave the same way for every individual.

Additionally, hybrid strains that combine characteristics of both Indica and Sativa can produce a range of effects.

Personal tolerance, metabolism, and even one's current emotional state can influence how any given cannabis strain might affect them. Therefore, it's always recommended to start with a small dosage and take note of how it affects you personally.

A Note on Medical Use

The downer effects of Indica strains have led to their popular use in medical applications. Indica strains are often recommended for treating symptoms like chronic pain, anxiety, and sleep disorders.

However, it is crucial to consult a healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan if you're considering using cannabis for medical reasons.

My Personal Experience With Indica Strains

As a 20 year strain expert I can say I have tried thousands of cannabis strains. Many of which have been indica strains. I find indica strains to generally be best for night time use, winding down the day and getting ready for sleep, or for writing which I love to do. My favorite indica strain is Northern Lights. My first time trying Northern lights was at a Pink Floyd concert in 1992. My experience was that indica is a downer as far as energy, but an upper for my mood and relaxation.

is indica an upper or a downer? Indica strain green weed

Is Indica an Upper or Downer? Best Indica Strains

If you’re looking for the strongest indica strains, the best indica strain for sleep, pure indica strains, stimulating indicas,and other indica-dominant hybrid strains, you’ve come to the right place.

Keep in mind, indicas vary in effects based on a variety of genetic and environmental factors. Try out different strains in low doses to gauge the effects on your body. Start with a low dose and gradually build up the dosage until you’ve reached your desired effect.

Here, you’ll find a brief list of some of the best indicas with downer and upper properties.

Indica Downers

Indica Uppers

  • Jesus OG
  • Berry White
  • Sweet Tooth
  • Willy’s Wonder
  • White OG
  • True OG
  • Black Jack
  • Aliens On Moonshine
  • Queen Mother Goji
  • Goldberry
  • Garanimals
  • Skydog
  • CBD Shark
  • Shark Attack
  • Satellite OG
  • Marathon OG
  • Watermelon Zkittlez
  • Neptune OG
  • Somango
  • Remedy

Most indica and indica-dominant strains will lean toward the relaxing and sleepy effects, especially if you consume indica strains in large doses.

Do your research into specific strains to find out which ones elicit the effects you want. Don’t forget to look up individual terpenes’ effects, too. Finding the right set of strains can make your experiences that much better.

What Is An Indica Dominant Cannabis Strain?

The terminology behind indica and sativa dates back to 300 years ago. The first psychoactive cannabis plants were named cannabis sativa. Later on, cannabis plants with different features were found in India and labeled cannabis indica.

Sativa-dominant plants tend to grow tall and have thin leaves while indica tends to be bushier and produces fatter leaves. While many believe there are differences in the psychoactive qualities between indica and sativa, it’s not true.

Instead, the myth that indicas are relaxing and sativas are energizing has created the desire for relaxing indicas and when an indica can’t help you relax, it’s labeled as a bad strain. That same strain may please someone seeking a “sativa” high, but they wouldn’t try it out because it is an indica.

Decades pass and now the best indicas are relaxing and the best sativas are energizing.

What To Expect From Indica Weed?

Nowadays, the best indicas are the weed strains that can induce couch-lock and a strong sense of relaxation that is best suited for evening use. Those suffering from insomnia usually reach for indica-dominant cannabis strains.

Others simply enjoy the relaxing effects of these types of ganja.

Think of a chill evening on the couch with your favorite movie queued up with a delicious snack on hand. That is the perfect time for indica!

The Top 10 Indica Dominant Strains

Here are the top-rated indica-dominant cannabis strains that are popular enough to be found at most local dispensaries, whether they be medicinal or recreational.

GMO Cookies

This potent cannabis strain, also known as Garlic Cookies, is the result of crossing Chemdog and Girl Scout Cookies. It’s popular for treating chronic pain and is a great way to relax without providing a total couch-lock experience that some heavy-hitting ganja strains are known for.

THC levels are up around 25% with GMO Cookies, so newbies are forewarned!


This popular indica is the result of crossing OG Kush Breath and Face Off OG. From face the foot, the high will set you up for little movement for the night. The pungent earthy essence will please fans of the OG heritage strains. Do-si-dos strain THC levels clock in around 21%.

OG Kush Breath

If Do-Si-Dos was a little too sedative for you, then it’s parent OGKB may be better suited for your needs. The lineage of OGKB is a little murky, but it is believed to be a potent phenotype of GSC. Stress, pain, and insomnia are no match for smokers of OG Kush Breath. THC levels are around 24% in these dark green and purple buds.

Ice Cream Cake

The dessert train has taken off in the cannabis industry, and Ice Cream Cake is one of the leaders in the group. The creamy sweet and doughy essence entices users with hints of vanilla.

It’s the result of crossing Wedding Cake and Gelato #33, both of which are popular and potent in their own rights. Light green and purple hues are rich in this trichome-frosted bud that reaches THC levels around 21%.

Forbidden Fruit

Cherry Pie? A legendary strain. Tangie? Blissful tropical flavors that spoil its users. Crossing them to create this Forbidden Fruit marijuana strain? Genius!

The combination of cherry and tropical flavors and aromas culminate in this fruity cannabis strain that can melt away aches and pains while providing a clear release from stress.

THC levels are commonly around 18%, making it better for novices than some of the strains listed earlier that can easily put you to bed!

Purple Punch

A list of indica strains with Granddaddy Purple seems a bit irresponsible. But, Purple Punch is the child-strain resulting from a cross of GDP and Larry OG, paying homage to classic cannabis strains.

A blend of grape and blueberry that seems fit for a glass of Kool-Aid, Purple Punch delivers the counter to insomnia. THC levels are common around 19%.

King Louis XIII

King Louie XIII strain comes at you with the spicy kush aroma that’s also earthy and piney, sending your imagination straight to the forest for a refreshing hike. OG Kush and LA Confidential are the parents used to create Louis XIII Kush. 20% is the typical amount of THC in this relaxing cannabis strain.

9 LB Hammer

You ever been hit with a 9 lb hammer? Probably knock you out for a few hours, huh? We aren’t sure if that is the reasoning behind this relaxing cannabis strain, but it’s a good story.

JinxProof Genetics creating 9 Pound Hammer strain with a 3-way cross of Gooberry, Hells OG, and Jack The Ripper. Pain and stress will melt away with this long-lasting high and THC levels are commonly around 18-19%.


Zkittlez is the result of a 3-way cross of indica-dominant strains. However, only two are known: Grape Ape and Grapefruit. The third remains a mystery and isn’t disclosed by the creators 3rd Gen Family and Terp Hogz.

The sweet and tropical fruity flavors and relaxing effects led to multiple Cannabis Cup awards over the years. THC levels are around 19%.

Blackwater OG

Mendo Purps and San Fernando Valley OG Kush were bred to create Blackwater. Blackwater OG features an essence rich in grape, lemon, and pine and helps medical marijuana patients with chronic pain and a loss of appetite.

This strain should be reserved for nighttime because you’ll end up melting into the couch and lose all hopes of staying productive.

Interestingly enough, this relaxing strain was crossed with Green Crack, one of the most energizing cannabis strains to-date, to create Purple Crack. If you love Blackwater OG at night, maybe the hybrid child-strain Purple Crack will be useful during the day!

What Are Your Favorite Indicas?

Obviously, the best cannabis strains, whether they be indica or sativa, is a matter of personal preference.

Conclusion on Is Indica an Upper or a Downer

Indica strains are predominantly considered “downers,” producing effects that are relaxing and sedative in nature. These strains are often contrasted with Sativa strains, which are known for their uplifting and energizing effects. However, the line between the two can blur due to hybrid strains and individual variations in experience.

As with any substance that can alter perception and behavior, it's crucial to approach cannabis use responsibly. Always consult with a healthcare provider for personalized medical advice and start with small dosages to understand how specific strains affect you.

By having a clear understanding of the nature and effects of Indica strains, users can make more informed choices, aligning their cannabis consumption with their needs and lifestyle.

Is Indica An Upper Or Downer FAQ's

Is sativa an upper or a downer?

Generally speaking, Sativa strains are considered “uppers” in cannabis terminology. This means they tend to produce uplifting, energetic effects, in contrast to the relaxing and sedating nature of Indica strains. Common effects associated with Sativa strains include:
-Increased energy and alertness
-Enhanced creativity
-Improved focus
-Elevation of mood
-A feeling of euphoria
Because of these effects, Sativa strains are popular choices for daytime use or for activities that require a higher level of mental or creative engagement.

Is CBD an upper or downer?

CBD is generally not classified as an “upper” or a “downer.” Instead, it is often described as having a balancing or homeostatic effect on the body. The reason for this lies in how CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system—a network of receptors in the body that regulate various physiological processes including mood, appetite, sleep, and immune response. CBD's interaction with this system can potentially offer a range of effects, including:
-Reduced anxiety
-Improved sleep quality
-Pain relief
-Anti-inflammatory effects
-Enhanced mood

Sativa vs Indica

Sativa and Indica strains each offer a unique set of effects, characteristics, and medicinal benefits. While Sativa strains are generally uplifting and more suited for daytime use, Indica strains offer relaxation and are typically better for the evening or for medicinal use. Understanding these key differences can help users make an informed choice depending on their needs, whether they are looking for mental clarity, physical relief, or something in between.

Hybrid vs Indica

While Indica strains are generally known for their relaxing and sedative effects, ideal for nighttime use and pain management, hybrid strains offer a more nuanced and customizable experience. Hybrids can provide balanced effects and can be tailored for various uses and medical applications. Understanding these differences is crucial for users who want to choose the right cannabis strain for their specific needs and situations.

Is hybrid an upper or downer?

Hybrid cannabis strains defy easy classification as either “uppers” or “downers” due to their complex genetic makeup. Depending on their parentage and the ratio of Indica to Sativa, they can produce a wide range of effects that can be either energizing, relaxing, or somewhere in between. Understanding the specific lineage and characteristics of a hybrid strain is essential for predicting its effects and making an informed choice that suits your needs.

What is stronger, sativa or indica?

Determining whether Sativa or Indica is “stronger” depends on how one defines strength. If you are looking at THC content alone, Sativa strains often have higher levels. However, if you are considering the full spectrum of effects, including the often more intense body high and the potential for higher CBD levels, Indica strains could be considered stronger by some people.
Always remember that the experience of using cannabis is subjective and can vary from person to person. Therefore, what feels “stronger” to one person might not feel the same way to another.

What are the sativa effects?

Sativa cannabis strains are known for their uplifting, energizing effects, making them suitable for daytime use and activities that require mental clarity and focus. However, the effects can vary from person to person, influenced by factors like dosage, tolerance, and individual body chemistry.

Is Indica an Upper Or a Downer?

Users of cannabis indica are frequently said to experience a more tranquil high that leaves them feeling at ease and sleepy. It is also described to as a “downer” in the colloquial sense because of this soothing effect.

Is indica anti-inflammatory?

Yes, some elements in both Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica have anti-inflammatory qualities. Cannabinoids, the plant's active ingredients, are principally responsible for cannabis' anti-inflammatory properties.

Is indica and sativa real?

The lines between indica and sativa have blurred as cannabis research and breeding have advanced, particularly in recent decades. There are several causes for this:
Many of the cannabis strains that are currently on the market are hybrids that include the genetics of both indica and sativa plants. Because of this merging, it is difficult to predict effects using only the conventional indica/sativa differentiation.

Overgeneralization of Effects: While it is common knowledge that sativa is uplifting and indica is calming, personal experiences might vary. The effects of a strain can also be significantly influenced by other elements, such as the terpene profile and particular cannabinoid ratios.

Scientific Review: According to some experts, the distinction between indica and sativa, particularly in terms of their effects, is overly straightforward or even deceptive. They support a more complex view based on chemical characteristics as opposed to plant ancestry.

In conclusion, while the labels “indica” and “sativa” are legitimate and have historical roots in the classification and cultivation of cannabis, there is controversy over their current significance, particularly in regards to effects.
Instead of depending exclusively on the indica/sativa distinction, it may be more realistic to define and select cannabis strains based on their unique cannabinoid and terpene profiles.

Is Indica and CBD the same?

The terms “indica” and “CBD” are not interchangeable. They make reference to many facets of the cannabis plant and its parts.

Here is an explanation:
A subspecies of the cannabis plant, namely Cannabis indica, is referred to as indica. As was indicated in earlier answers, indica plants are known to have particular morphological traits (shorter, bushier plants with larger leaves) and are frequently linked to calming or relaxing effects.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), among other cannabinoids, can be found in cannabis indica.

One of the several cannabinoids contained in the cannabis plant is CBD (cannabidiol). It is non-psychoactive, thus it doesn't cause the same “high” as THC.

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CBD has attracted a lot of attention recently due to its possible therapeutic advantages, which include, among others, anti-inflammatory qualities, anxiety reduction, and seizure control.

Cannabis sativa and indica plants both contain CBD, as does hemp (which is a kind of cannabis sativa but has very little THC).

Therefore, even though Cannabis indica plants can contain CBD, the terms “indica” and “CBD” relate to two distinct concepts: one is a plant subspecies, while the other is a particular substance present in the plant.

Does indica and sativa look different?

Yes, historically, Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica plants have been distinguished by their unique physical traits:

Cannabis sativa: Height: When grown outdoors, sativa plants can grow to a height of up to 12 feet or more.

Leaves: Sativa plants often have long, narrow leaves.
Sativas typically have a longer blooming cycle and are more suited to warmer locations with longer growing seasons.

Bud Structure: Sativa buds are often less dense and longer than indica buds.

Height of cannabis indica: Indica plants are often bushier and shorter, growing to heights of 2 to 6 feet.

Compared to sativa plants, indica plants have larger, fuller leaves.

Growth Cycle: Indicas often have shorter flowering times, making them appropriate for shorter growth seasons in cooler climates.

Indica buds frequently have a denser and more compact structure than sativa buds.

But given the considerable cross-breeding and hybridization of cannabis strains in recent years, many plants now exhibit a combination of these traits. A hybrid plant may exhibit a mix of characteristics from its sativa and indica origins.

As a result, even while the traditional definitions of indica and sativa are useful as a basic guide, they are not absolute, and there may be a lot of diversity even within these categories.

Does indica and sativa smell different?

The terpene profile of a cannabis plant essentially determines how it smells. Many plants, including cannabis, contain terpenes, fragrant chemicals that contribute to the distinctive scents and flavors. While physical traits and development patterns have historically been used to distinguish between indica and sativa plants, there isn't a direct link between these subspecies and certain terpene compositions. In other words, both sativa and indica plants can display a variety of aromas.

Become a Master of Marijuana

Are you interested in learning more about the science of cannabis? Do you want to go in-depth to learn the differences between sativa, indica, and hybrid strains? Do you want to make the most of your cannabis experience?

If so, enrolling in CTU’s online cannabis college can teach you how to safely and effectively use cannabis as medicine for a variety of qualifying conditions while minimizing the risk of experiencing side effects.

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Whether you’re a complete cannabis beginner or a seasoned user looking to fill in some knowledge gaps, becoming a Master of Marijuana is possible with cannabis certifications from CTU.

Fred Hernandez - Cannabis industry expert writer
Fred Hernandez

Fred Hernandez is a highly accomplished and versatile writer, boasting an extensive background in the cannabis industry. With an in-depth understanding of various sectors including cultivators, processors, retailers, and brands, Fred's expertise spans across the entire cannabis landscape. As a prominent contributor to CTU, he consistently delivers insightful articles exploring the latest developments, news, and regulations shaping the cannabis industry. Whether it's delving into the intricacies of cannabis products, cannabis strain reviews, or providing comprehensive analyses of cannabis laws, or sharing expert insights on cannabis cultivation techniques, Fred's wealth of knowledge positions him as an invaluable writer and educator for all cannabis-related subjects.

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