History of Northern Lights

cannabis northern lights

THC Content: 19%
Dominant Variety: Indica
Origins: Seattle and Netherlands

Breeding History

Northern Lights is one of the most potent and well-known cannabis strains. Primarily of the indica family, some offshoots of the strain do have a bit of Thai sativa in their genealogy, stemming from the various hybrids created during the strain’s tenure in the Netherlands.  Though developed exclusively in Holland, owned by a prominent seed bank since the mid-80s, Northern Lights is thought to have originated in Seattle, Washington.

The indica family of cannabis – sometimes called Cannabis Afghanica instead – originated in the Hindu Kush region, an area of the Middle East encompassing Turkey, Morocco, and Afghanistan.  If a strain has the term “Kush” in its title, it is generally an indica-dominant type.  Most indica-dominant plants have a yield of about 1.5 to 2.5 oz (40-70 grams) per plant, derived from dense and bulky buds rather than the sausage-shaped flowers of sativa strains.  The calming, sedating high of indica breeds can potentially treat symptoms of health issues such as insomnia and anxious thoughts.

Of the eleven original Northern Lights plants, numbered #1 through #11, #5 and #1 are considered the top selections and, together with #2, make up the only pure Northern Lights strains remaining. These strains are used to create a wide variety of hybrids.

Male Northern Lights plants (which do not produce buds) serve as a foundation for many strains popular today, including Skunk, Swazi, and Haze.  In breeding the strain, the much-lauded Northern Lights #5 plant is prized for potency and diminished flowering time.  Northern Lights #1 provides a fresh scent and good bud formation, while Northern Lights #2 (a Hindu Kush hybrid) offers pest resistance and increased hardiness.

After spending a few years in Holland, the newly perfected Northern Lights #5 took a prize at the 1989 Cannabis Cup and went on to win the High Cannabis Cup a year later.  It has received numerous other awards since.

Read More: Types of cannabis: indica and sativa

Physical Appearance

Known to be fast-flowering and resilient, Northern Lights generally tops out at 4 or 5 feet high (this shorter stature is common to indica breeds). The strain is identifiable by dark green, wide-fingered leaves, a large number of purple-tinted flowers, and high yield.  Unlike some strains, the buds of Northern Lights plants protrude in all directions.
Cannabis Germinating


A good choice for planting from seed, Northern Lights is one of the fastest-growing strains, with a flowering period of 6-7 weeks (an average of 47 days) – ideally around mid-October.  Comparatively, most other indica strains require 8 to 10 weeks of growth before harvesting, while sativa strains often take even more time.

Growing Northern Lights indoors, in hydroponic gardens, has produced the best results.  In the first four weeks of life, the plants should be treated to 18 to 24 hours of light each day, allowing thick and leafy development.  The light provided to the Northern Lights plants can be lessened to 10 to 12 hours a day for the remaining 2 to 3 weeks.

Grown indoors, the plant rarely reaches beyond its minimum four-foot height, making it easy to care for in a box or small room. When Northern Lights is planted outdoors, directly into the ground in a warm climate, it is likely to reach its maximum height of about five feet.  In proper growing conditions, around 100 grams can be harvested per plant, a bit more than the average indica plant.

Northern Lights is ready for harvest when the resin coating the multitudinous buds is mostly gold in colour.  After 24 hours drying time in a dark room, and at least six hours curing in a sealed container, the crop is ready for use.

Effect and Flavour

Northern Lights develops a considerable amount of resin, and is celebrated for its sweet and spicy flavour and the relaxing effect of its THC component of 15 percent or higher.  Widely considered a “two hit and quit” strain, it provides a full-body high that relaxes you from head to toe.  This sleepy relaxation is common to indica strains, but breeding with sativa over the years has introduced the “euphoria” common to this latter cannabis species.  A sativa influence in Northern Light plants may be recognized by a longer, thinner leaf than the purebred indica strains.

Read More: The effects of cannabis

medical merijuana


Medical marijuana is comprised largely of hybrid indica strains, the category into which Northern Lights falls, so it is not surprising that this strain is popular in Medical Marijuana testing.  Botanists have also shown considerable interest in the genetic characteristics of Northern Lights.

Some people in the medical community use anecdotal evidence to claim that Northern Lights can provide potential relief from sleeplessness (insomnia), worry, and stress, among other ailments. Some medical users say this strain can possibly increase the appetite of those suffering from anorexia or loss of hunger due to medical care, such as chemotherapy. These folks also claim the potential of Northern Lights to help lessen the severity of migraine headaches. Additionally, there are medicinal users who view this strain as possibly suitable for chronic pain and arthritis.

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