Afghan landrace cannabis refers to a strain of cannabis that is native to Afghanistan and has been cultivated in the region for centuries. These strains are considered to be some of the oldest and purest cannabis varieties in the world and have played an important role in the development of many popular modern cannabis strains. The term “landrace” refers to a cannabis strain that has been naturally adapted to its specific environment, typically over many generations.
Afghan landrace cannabis is believed to have originated in the mountainous regions of Afghanistan, where it has been grown for centuries by local farmers. Traditionally, this landrace has been grown outdoors in harsh and arid conditions. The plants are known for their short maturation time, potent psychoactivity, hardiness, and ability to withstand extreme weather conditions. The buds of Afghan landrace cannabis are dense and resinous, with a distinct hashish aroma and flavor.
What is Afghan Landrace Cannabis?
Afghan landrace cannabis has become synonymous with the term “indica.” Scientifically, it is known as broad-leaf drug-type cannabis (BDL or BLD) [1, 3]. Narrow-leaf drug-type cannabis (NDL or NLD), which has become synonymous with “sativas” originated in Southeast Asia and India. Broad-leaf drug-type cannabis originated in Northern India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. These BLD landraces are short plants with broad leaves and a shorter maturation time. However, they lack disease resistance which is found in NLD landraces that are tall with narrow leaves and a long maturation time.
Unique Traits of Afghani Landrace Cannabis
There are two core Afghan cannabis landraces . Cannabis sativa subspecies indica variety afghanica (C.sativa ssp. indica var. afghanica) is the domesticated Afghani landrace, and Cannabis sativa subspecies indica variety asperrima (C. sativa ssp. indica var. asperrima) is the wild version. While we call these “Afghan” landraces, they actually have been found in Northwestern Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and the Xīnjiāng Region of China.
There are a number of traits that set BLD landraces apart from NLD landraces :
Appearance: Short stature, dark green broad leaves, medium to large bud size, dense and compact buds, prominent sugar leaves, late-season cold triggers anthocyanin production in leaves (purple color)
Growth: Shorter maturation time, cold tolerance, susceptible to gray mold and powdery mildew
Cannabinoid Profile: THC:CBD ratio <7 (almost always >2), THC% ≥0.3%; Highest total THC%+CBD% but THCV%+CBDV% content is lower than NLD
Terpene Profile: Features guaiol, eudesmol, eudesmol, nerolidol, elemene, terpineol, and fenchol; lower levels of myrcene and terpinolene than NLD [2, 4]
Afghan Landrace Hybrid Strains
Afghan cannabis landraces were introduced to Europe and America from the 1970s through the 80s . Western cannabis growers found that hybridizing BLD and NLD landraces produced cannabis varieties that were easier to grow, had large yields, were extremely potent, and possessed unique flavors and aromas. NLD/BLD hybrids revolutionized the cannabis market by creating strains that were well-suited for commercial production in a wide variety of environments. Afghan landrace cannabis has played an important role in the development of many popular modern cannabis strains, such as Northern Lights, Skunk #1, and Haze. These strains were developed by crossing Afghan landrace cannabis with other strains from around the world, resulting in new hybrid strains with unique characteristics. Here are some examples of Afghan landrace cannabis strains and afghani hybrids:
Afghani (aka Afghan, Afghanistan) is a pure indica cannabis strain that originates from the Hindu Kush mountain range on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is a landrace strain, which means it has been naturally selected over many generations and is adapted to the local environment. This strain is known for its potent sedative effects, making it a popular choice for medical marijuana patients seeking relief from pain and insomnia. The Afghani landrace strain’s buds are dense and coated in resinous trichomes, giving them a sticky feel and a pungent aroma. The flavor profile of the Afghani strain is earthy, pungent, and woody, with hints of sweetness and spice. These flavors can be attributed to the dominant terpenes terpinolene, myrcene, and pinene. The THC content of Afghani can vary, but it typically ranges from 15-20%, making it a potent strain that can induce a strong body high. The high is said to be deeply relaxing, and some users report feelings of euphoria and happiness. However, due to its sedative effects, it is not recommended for daytime use.
- Pure Afghan
Pure Afghan is an indica landrace strain that originates in the Mazar I Sharif region of Northeastern Afghanistan. It is a very rare strain with THC potency that can range from 12% to over 20%. The Pure Afghan strain is said to have narcotic-like effects that can offer potent pain relief for medical marijuana users. The sensory profile of the Pure Afghan strain has notes of pungent earth and wood that combine with floral and hashy flavors. The terpene profile of this rare strain is unconfirmed but likely to include myrcene and caryophyllene. Due to its rarity, it also cannot be fully known if Pure Afghan is its own strain or if it is a phenotype of the strain Mazar I Sharif (aka Mazar) which is a very similar landrace from the same region.
- Mazar I Sharif
One of the highest linalool cannabis strains is Mazar I Sharif (aka Mazar). Along with being one of the only cannabis strains with linalool as a dominant terpene, it also has high levels of caryophyllene and myrcene. The Mazar strain flavor profile features herbal spice with notes of tobacco and sage. This indica cannabis strain originates in Northern Afghanistan and has low THC levels that average around 13%, as well as a good amount of CBD. While this unique terpene and cannabinoid profile makes Mazar I Sharif ideal for medical cannabis patients, it is not very common to find in dispensaries. Those who have had the chance to try the Mazar I Sharif strain describe it as a great option for physical relaxation. Others who have encountered a more THC-potent phenotype of Mazar warn that its high can be immobilizing and feel strongly narcotic. If you get the chance to try the Mazar I Sharif strain, you are in for a treat- just be sure to verify the THC content so you know which phenotype to be prepared for!
- Afghan Kush
One of the most well-known strains of Afghan landrace cannabis is called Afghan Kush (aka Afghani Kush). This strain is known for its potent sedative effects and is often used for relaxation and pain relief. The Afghan Kush strain has been used for medicinal purposes in Afghanistan for centuries in the form of hashish. It is believed to have anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and anti-anxiety properties. Afghan Kush is a pure indica cannabis strain that originates from the Hindu Kush mountain range on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Afghan Kush buds are dense and coated in resinous trichomes, giving them a sticky feel and a pungent aroma. The flavor profile is earthy and woody, with hints of sweetness and spice that can be attributed to the dominant terpenes myrcene, caryophyllene, and pinene. The THC content of Afghan Kush can vary, but it typically ranges from 17-20%, making it a potent strain that can induce a strong body high. The high is said to be deeply relaxing, and some users report feelings of euphoria and happiness. However, due to its sedative effects, it is not recommended for daytime use.
- Afghan Skunk
Afghan Skunk (aka Afghani Skunk) is a hybrid cannabis strain that is a cross between Afghan Kush and Skunk #1. This strain has a balanced indica and sativa genetics, with a slightly indica-dominant effect. It has dense and resinous buds with a moderate THC content, usually ranging from 15-20%. The aroma and flavor of Afghan Skunk is a combination of sweet, earthy, and pungent skunky notes which blend with spicy undertones. The dominant terpenes in Afghan Skunk are myrcene, caryophyllene, and limonene. The effects of the Afghan Skunk strain are typically described as relaxing, euphoric, and uplifting. It can induce a strong body high but also has some cerebral effects that can boost creativity and focus.
- Afghan Haze
The cannabis strain Afghan Haze is a straightforward hybrid of the landrace strain Afghani and the pure sativa strain Haze, making it 60% sativa and 40% indica. The Afghan Haze strain offers a balance of cerebral and full-body effects with a clear-headed high at moderate doses and sedative effects at high doses.The Afghan Haze terpene profile is dominated by myrcene, limonene and terpinolene. Along with minor terpenes, these major terpenes give the Afghan Haze strain pleasant flavors of earth, wood, and tea.Typical potency of Afghan Haze can vary widely and ranges from 15% to over 20% depending on the grower. Moderate doses of Afghan Haze are suitable for daytime use, but high doses are ideal for evenings.
Afgoo (also called Afgooey or Afghan Goo) is a descendant of the legendary Afghani landrace. Its scent and flavor carry strong notes of pine and wood that can be attributed to the dominant terpenes myrcene, pinene, and ocimene. The Afgoo cannabis strain has moderately high levels of THC which give it calming, relaxing, and possibly sedative effects common to Indica varieties. Among the medicinal marijuana community, some utilize this strain to ease aches and pains.
Final Thoughts of Afghan Landrace Cannabis
Afghani landrace strains were pivotal in the development of modern hybrids because of their genetic traits for shorter maturation time and cold tolerance. Without these valuable genetics, it would be very difficult to cultivate cannabis on a commercial scale. Afghan landrace cannabis also has great medicinal value since it has potent anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties. Not all recreational cannabis users can tolerate the sedative effects of Afghani strains, but some users find that they can build tolerance that reduces excessive sleepiness. If you are looking to enjoy the flavors and effects of Afghani cannabis, landraces might be difficult to track down. However, most dispensaries will have some variety of Afghani hybrid strains to offer. Be aware that Kush cannabis strains are not always true Afghan descendants. The term is also used colloquially, so you’ll want to verify their heritage.
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Sabine Downer is a scientist and cannabis writer with a passion for education. She has been writing for various clients in the cannabis space since 2015 and has worked in biotechnology since 2010. Along with content creation, she is also a knowledgeable resource on quality assurance, regulatory, and legal topics.