We are fortunate to live in an era where there are so many choices of delivery methods for medical cannabis patients. This article features Topicals. I examine the different types of topicals, how and when to use them, the many benefits of using topicals, best practices for their application and how to make your own pain ointment. Cannabis topicals are perfect for those who want the benefits of THC and CBD but don’t want to consume cannabis nor experience its psychotropic effects.
What is a Topical? As the name suggests, a cannabis topical is a cannabis-infused product which is only applied to the skin for quick, localized pain relief. Topicals are used in skin care, cosmetics and first aid products.
- Bath Salts
- Treat burns
- Soothe sport injuries and minor muscle aches
- Relieve arthritis pain and inflammation
- Relieve skin irritations
- Soothe insect bites and superficial scratches
- Help with wound healing
- Relieve migraines
- Treat psoriasis
Let’s delve more deeply into how cannabis topicals work…
Because cannabinoids in cannabis bind with the CB2 receptors in the skin, muscle tissue and nerves, and are absorbed before they can enter the bloodstream, they work quickly to relieve pain without the psychoactive effects.
Due to the antibacterial properties of cannabinoids, topicals reduce swelling and relieve the discomfort of skin irritations.
Psoriasis is a chronic, painful, incurable condition which causes itchy, painful red patches of excess skins cells to build up, particularly on the elbows and scalp. This is caused by the increase in the life cycle of skins cells which form scales and red patches.
A 2007 study using THC, CBD, CBN and CBG demonstrated that all 4 cannabinoids inhibited the buildup of excess skin cells.
Cannabis is a known anti-inflammatory whose properties relieve swelling, inflammation and pain in the joint tissue. Cannabis researchers have identified an abnormally high rate of CB2 receptors in the joint tissue of arthritis patients. Cannabis activates the receptors which causes a decrease in inflammation.
The anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis reduce inflammation and pain while speeding up the process of healing burns and wounds.
Due to its anti-bacterial properties, cannabis provides relief for those with skin infections such as boils, impetigo, cellulitis and folliculitis. It has been proven to stop MRSA and does not lead to an antibiotic resistance.
By adding cannabis to massage oil, those with fibromyalgia, sports injuries, tight muscles and neuropathy can get extra relief during their massage treatments.
Due to its antioxidant properties, cannabis topicals keeps skin looking better by speeding up the healing process caused by exposure to sun, wind and pollutants. It minimizes the tissue damage associated with the production of free radicals that can lead to illness and disease. CBD is now thought to be more potent than Vitamin C or E.
When and How To Use Different Types of Cannabis-Infused Topicals
Salves or Balms are very concentrated, difficult to spread but great for intense pain relief. They absorb quickly, are easy to apply to specific areas, are convenient to use and are low on the messiness scale.
Lotions are less concentrated than salves or balms and are recommended for less intense, more generalized pain relief. They are easier to spread over large areas of skins. Many lotions contain additional moisturizing ingredients and essential oils which nourish the skin, leaving it pain-free, soft and smooth.
Oils are the perfect treatment for rough skin on the feet or elbows and great for your massage.
Lip Balms typically include terpenes which add flavor and scent as they accelerate the healing of chapped lips.
Bath Salts remove toxins from the body and are recommended for all over pain relief, relaxation and for great sleep. Just add them to your hot bath.
1. Determining Your Source of Pain
2. Clean The Area Before Medicating
Remember that the skin is a barrier that acts as a protection from bacteria and environmental pollutants. It is a great practice to wash and dry the area before applying your cannabis topical.
3. Be Vigorous and Don’t Skimp
With every application, and a 2nd and 3rd is not uncommon, use firm pressure to rub and massage your topical into your skin.
4. Wash Your Hands
Many topicals contain strong scents such as citrus and capsicum (pepper) which can burn delicate areas like the eyes or the mouth. Wash your hands thoroughly after you are finished with your applications.
5. Topicals Are Not A Panacea
Don’t expect cannabis topicals to be a cure-all for anything that ails you. Have reasonable expectations that they will probably provide you some relief.
Let’s Not Forget About Terpenes
Terpenes are smaller molecules can cannabinoids which enables them to soak more deeply into the skin. Like cannabinoids, they work better together and some even help in the absorption of other terpenes. Here is a link to an article I recently wrote about Terpenes.
See Bloom Medicinals Topical Menu
10-20 drops Essential Oils
greenflower.com, Cannabis Topicals: Uses, Benefits and Surprising Facts, April 30, 2019, Anna Wilcox
cannabistraininguniversity.com, Cannabis Topical Types
How To Make Cannabis Ointment: Cannabasics #67, Ruffhouse Studios, July 23, 2017
leafly.com, 5 Best Practices for Using Cannabis Topicals, Jeremiah Wilhelm