Cali Kush, Pure Kush, Master Kush, Bubba Kush, Purple Kush, and of course, the legendary strain that inspired the Kush revolution, OG Kush. To say Kush strains are loved and revered would be an understatement! Kush strains consistently rank as some of the most popular strains, with numerous varieties taking top honors at cannabis cups across the globe (including the revered HIGH TIMES Cannabis Cup).
While Haze varieties have long had a commanding influence among Sativa-dominant strains, Kush varieties have occupied a similar position among Indica-dominants. So what’s the history behind this beloved lineage? Kush strains trace their heritage to the Hindu Kush region, an area with disputed boundaries shouldering India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Hindu Kush is located north of Jammu and Kashmir, currently controlled by India — which Pakistan argues belongs to them. The area has a rich history, not just because of its long history of cannabis and hashish production, but for its volatility and political instability.
Nestled comfortably along stunningly gorgeous Himalayas mountain range, the environment (with its lush hillsides, fertile soil and deep valleys) is ideal for cultivating cannabis. The region has long grown some of the world’s most epic herb. To the delight of cannasseurs all over the world, the marriage of human and natural selection have consistently yielded some of the tastiest, most resinous bud known to mankind.
Hindu Kush: An Epic Landrace Strain
Not only is Hindu Kush a region made famous by its popular crop, Hindu Kush is an eponymously named landrace strain. In fact, it’s because of landrace strain that the words “Kush” and “Indica” are used interchangeably. What’s a landrace strain you ask? According to the well-known seed bank, Seed Supreme:
“A landrace strain is pure, never crossed and always grown in its natural environment: this isolation and the resulting inbreeding means these varieties are highly stable and extremely vigorous. It was only a generation or two ago that, were you talking about marijuana at all, it was one of these pure strains; you might know them from family stories of the travelling days, sampling all there was to be had on the hippy trail.”
All popular Kush strains — like Bubba Kush, Purple Kush, and Cali Kush — trace their lineage directly to Hindu Kush. Likewise, Master Kush and OG Kush, two of the most beloved Kush strains, were originally bred by legendary seed bank, Sensi Seeds. In fact, many of the best strains — including cannabis royalty AK-47 and White Widow — are grandchildren to Hindu Kush. Of course, Hindu Kush’s offspring have been genetically and commercially crossbred (so they aren’t technically landrace strains). Nonetheless, boasting a royal lineage, it should be no surprise why Kush varieties are so popular.
The Hippie Trail
How did Kush strains make their way to Europe and the New World? You may have heard about the Hippie Trail. The Hippie Trail was made famous by subculture seekers in the mid-1960s through the late 1970s. Many a beatnik and hippie made the overland journey, traversing Europe to South Asia (specifically Pakistan, India, and Nepal). A popular alt-tourist destination, North Americans and Europeans (particularly members of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love) made the pilgrimage bringing back with them Hindu Kush seeds.
Ultimately (and quite tragically), in 1973, Afghanistan’s self-installed president assumed power from the previously hash-friendly King, and conceded to pressure by the Nixon Administration. That same year, the new president outlawed hash and cannabis. Ultimately, the president was overthrown by communists in 1978. Not long after, the Soviets invaded, and the region has been in turmoil ever since (with a succession of long and bloody conflicts).
Ask an aging hippie about pre-war Afghani hash, and you’ll be in for a trip down memory lane. The profound impact of Hindu Kush on Western cannabis cultivation can’t be understated. The Kush strains from this region revolutionized production. Indica strains are more versatile (from a growing perspective) than Sativa strains. By introducing these marvels of nature to the genetic pool, growers were able to dramatically shorten flowering times, while being able to be cultivated in cold and remote areas, like Alaska.
Unfortunately, because many Kush strains have specially bred to be as potent as possible, the term “Kush” isn’t always associated with its rich heritage. More often, they’re known for having sky high THC (which is not always true). Consequently, in Europe and the U.S, many legislators have pushed for harsher penalties for possession (or sale) of Kush strains. (Ironically, with the blessing of the British government, “baby-pharma” company, GW Pharmaceuticals, have been legally cultivating Kush strains for medicinal purposes for years.) Nonetheless, Kush strains will continue to occupy a special place in cannabis culture. So next time you enjoy a nice Kush (and its accompanying “couch lock”), don’t forget to hug a hippie!