Cannabis is a very successful plant, that has managed to spread throughout the world; to every corner of the globe. One of the reasons cannabis has been such a successful plant is because of its relationship with people, and the wide range of uses it has to them. For centuries, people have travelled far and wide, and have deposited various cannabis genetics all along the way. There are several thousand ‘different’ strains of cannabis in the modern world; however all of these strains came from just a handful of strains. But, if there is one strain that has made a stake for itself as the ‘most important’ of these building blocks then it is the afghan strains.
It is thought that cannabis was first encountered in China some 6,000 years ago, where people consumed the seed as a food, as is still the case today in many rural regions. In the region between Southern China and Afghanistan, it is believed that the cannabis plant was extremely prevalent, and had many different uses. Cannabis has been used in this region over the last few thousand years, for medical applications, and also for industrial reasons.
The afghan genepool is often considered as Indica genetics out right, but this may not have always been the case. Many cannabis aficionados will think of Afghani cannabis as a long standing full indica, but this is perhaps only the case very recently, in most of Afghanistan. In the Kandahar region of Afghanistan, and also along the banks of the Kunar river there have always been Indica plants. Since at least 1974 Indica plants have been cultivated in the Kandahar region specifically for hashish production. Whereas encounters with the Kunar river indica, has shown that these populations are wild, and uncultivated. Surprisingly, there are also reports of a sativa growing in afghanistan, both wildly, and also specifically cultivated for the purposes of hashish production.
In the classic book ‘Hashish’, author Robert Connell Clarke explains how Nikolai Vavilov, a Russian botanist, and expert on cultivated plants; reported that actually cannabis sativa had been cultivated in Faizabad. He also remarked that this sativa is what was generally used for hashish production in the region. As well as this very interesting observation, Vavilov also noted that along the banks of the Kunar River there were two varieties of cannabis indica growing wildly, neither of which had been specifically cultivated by that point. These two Indica varieties were known as C. indica var. afghanica Vav. and C.indica var. kafiristanica Vav.
Vavilov’s findings suggest that cannabis indica had not been cultivated, nor used for hashish production by 1924, but rather that C. sativa had been used instead. In Chinese Turkestan, hashish production was outlawed in 1935. This new avenue of prohibition forced many of the hashish makers to flee into Afghanistan; taking with them their C. sativa genetics. On their way west to Mazar-i-Sharif, they almost certainly would have encountered the wild growing C. indica varieties along the banks of the Kunar River, as this was the only route they could have taken.
In the 1970’s Selgnij reported that he saw wild growing plants in ditches, that exhibited narrow leaflets; indicative of a sativa. As well as seeing these wild growing sativas, he also saw cultivated plants with narrow leaflets; growing alongside the broad leafed indica variety in the same fields. This is probably a good indication that by the 1970’s in a lot of Afghanistan, an indica/sativa hybrid had actually developed. Rob Clarke points out, that this development would’ve had more than enough time to take place; being that it was 40 years since the Chinese Turkestanian hashish makers had travelled west through Faizabad, and much of the country.
Due to pressures placed on the afghan gene pool by the western hashish market; the C. sativa variety is no longer seen in Afghanistan. Cannabis farmers favour the C. indica for its higher yield of resin; and therefore do not choose the sativa variety for their crops. The C. Sativa variety from this part of the world is now only found east of the Indus river, in Pakistan.
It is since the Afghan Indicas reign of dominance, that many of the hippie travellers of the 60’s and 70’s declared that the best Afghan hash was no longer to be seen. This was more than likely due to a change in cannabinoid profile of the hashish; which will have occurred once the farmers had switched to the Indica strain. It is since this time that most recent western seed collectors have brought seeds back to Europe and the USA. Therefore, it is the Afghan indica that is almost exclusively represented in the modern day seed market.
A typical modern day Afghan IBL will present itself as a short, squat plant, with dark green foliage, and an acrid smell. The plant is renowned for having a high THC level, and a cannabinoid profile that aids relaxation, rest, the munchies and heavy eyelids. There is no doubt the Afghan indica plant is a true medicine in its own right for many ailments. Due to its manageable size, and other favourable qualities such as potency; the Afghani plant has been used as a mother or a father for many of the thousands of hybrid strains that we see on the market today. The Afghan plant has involvement in all Skunk strains, as well as of course other variant skunk strains like Cheese, and AK 47. Cheese is actually a skunk selection that shows a lot of its Afghani lineage.
Here are some strains containing afghan genetics so you can see for yourself how prevalent the Afghan indica is in today’s cannabis genepool, showing up in some of the most renowned hybrids.
The plants from the fast, heavy, compact side of the cannabis family tree are named Afghani after India, and it’s true that these strains are commonly grown for charas.
Skunk #1 comprises genetics from Afghanistan, Colombia, and also Mexico, This plant has a great structure, and also a very exquisite cannabinoid profile. The Afghan influence is evident in the short flowerig time of the skunk, as well as helping to keep the height of the plant relatively low when compared to the mexican, and colombian strains that make up the rest of the genetics.
Medicine Man / White Rhino
Is where White Widow has been crossed with an afghan strain. White Rhino or Medicine Man as it is sometimes known is an incredibly short plant with a fast flowering time, which is mainly due to the afghan influence. This strain is also a very useful medicine for pain relief.
Cheese is really a skunk #1 selection, but the selection seems to lean more towards the afghan genepool in terms of how the plant looks and grows.
As much as 25% of the lineage of this classic strain are afghan genes.
[Updated, originally published 24.10. 2017]
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