Teaching Series: Topicals

Teaching Series: Topicals

In the CBD world topicals are usually the first introduction for the new consumers. They are readily available, and people have been using the non-CBD version of them for years; be it a cooling topical, heated version or combination of both. Topicals can be balms, salves, sprays, creams, oils, and adhesive patches. Topicals are used for pain relief, soothing of irritation, first-aid, healing burns and skin lacerations, and addressing a variety of dermatological conditions. Topicals have also been used to address headache by applying them directly to the head. Topicals can also be in a suppository form to address menstrual pain and can also enhance sexual intercourse through reducing possible pain.

A great emollient cream can activate the body’s own endocannabinoid system by way of the CB1 and CB2 receptors. Topicals have a unique way of doing this by accessing sensory nerve terminals and fibers. Cannabis has been used for skin conditions going back to the 1800’s perhaps even further. Dr. Henry Granger Piffard, notably the founder of the journal JAMA Dermatology wrote in his first book “a pill of cannabis indica at bedtime has at my hands sometimes afforded relief to the intolerable itching of eczema.”  

The long-standing use of topicals is a great bridge for general working knowledge as to what topicals are and how they operate. Now throw in the additional ingredient of hemp and or cannabis and the risk of uncertainty presents itself. To that point a quick guide on how to sift through what topical is best can be helpful.

Always Ask – For more than one reference or recommendation. This can be especially true for those who are using topicals to address skin concerns. We wear our skin. Seems like a simple and oblivious fact that can be taken for granted. However, for the millions who suffer from visible skin condition no having clear pain free skin can severely impact one’s everyday life and mental health.  For instance, if using to address acne it’s important to get a product that decreases sebum. Too much sebum mixed with dead skin cells can create acene. In that case looking for a topical that has CBD, THC, or combination of both along with low carrier ingredient may be the best topical for someone looking to address acne.  

If you have access to a dermatologist speak with them about emerging alternatives to treating skin conditions. Medical marijuana does not just apply ingestible, smokable or vaporized products. For example, CBD and THC are known anti-inflammatory. Using an anti-inflammatory on skin conditions that inducing itching like eczema can be a beneficial analgesic. Hemp and cannabis derived topicals have used to treat conditions such as allergic contact dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, and melanoma.  

Know What’s in It – Depending on what state you live and purchase your products in, the options can be as wide ranging as edibles, hemp and cannabis flower, or isolates. States where cannabis is legal for both medical and adult use, customers have access to CBD, THC, and CBD and THC combinations products. It’s important to remember that because topicals do not enter your bloodstream they more than likely do not produce intoxicating side effects from a THC-based topical. States that do not have legalized cannabis, customers may only have access to CBD topicals.

Because topicals a great for addressing localized pain and skin issues most CBD topicals work well for alleviate mild to moderate conditions. For more serve registration of pain and/or various conditions a person may choose a CBD/THC topical because THC is going to work in conjunction with CBD to increase results. If a person does not have access to THC based topicals then a highly potent CBD based topical could very well garner similar results. 

Topicals do have a trial-and-error curve comparable to buying any type of other body product. Because of this factor price consideration should be top of mind. The best way to avoid buying misses is to have clarity on your needs, see if samples are available, buy the smallest size first, talk to your healthcare provider, ask the company or retailer about best practices.

Simple Things to Remember – Topicals take about 10-20 minutes to kick in and can last 2-3 hours.  Think about usability meaning it’s always good to check for viscosity; is the topical easy to apply, does it stay on the skin a long time. Since topicals are worn checking for presence of aroma is important. Scent matters when deciding on what time of day to use a product.  Cross-referencing the ingredients for any known allergies is imperative as to not create another problem while trying to solve a current concern.  


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