In the world of marijuana products, topicals are vastly underrated. They’re not inherently as cool or exciting as a new vape device or a strain of exotic flower, but that doesn’t mean they’re not effective products that can help you live a happier, healthier life.
All About Weed Topicals
Before we dive into what makes topicals like THC creams so incredible, let’s get right to the point: no, cannabis topicals do not get you high. But there is an exception – read on to learn more.
What Are Cannabis Topicals?
Topical is an umbrella term for marijuana products that are THC-infused or CBD-infused and formulated for use on your skin. Cannabis topical products come in a wide range of products like THC rubs, weed creams, and bath salts to name a few. These products have many applications, including pain relief and treating skin conditions.
Topical products are great because they don’t get you high (even lotion with THC) which makes them perfect for weed lovers and canna-cautious consumers. Topical products are only absorbed locally, and the cannabinoids don’t pass through into the blood. The one exception to this is with transdermal patches which are formulated to push the cannabinoids through the skin barrier.
How Do Topicals Work?
Topical cannabis products work via the endocannabinoid system by activating the endocannabinoid receptors in your skin. You have ECS receptors on every organ in your body, and your skin is your largest organ. The two most well-known receptors are CB1 and CB2, which are found in abundance on your skin, hair follicles, and sebaceous glands, which produce oil. Studies have found that the ECS plays an important regulatory function in the skin and that products like topical CBD are ideal for localized symptoms.
Additionally, cannabis-infused topicals are often formulated with terpenes like linalool, menthol, camphor, and other well-known pain-reliving ingredients. Terpenes have their own mechanisms of action on your skin and can enhance the pain-relieving or hydrating properties of a topical CBD or THC product. Think about all of the uses of essential oils, and then add them to the benefits of cannabis - that's a topical product.
The most common use for topical products is for managing or relieving pain. THC and CBD both have pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties, which makes these products perfect for treating aches, soreness, and even minor muscle strains. Some people even go as far as to replace pain medications like Advil with weed cream or CBD topicals.
The easiest way to use a cannabis topical product is with a roll-on stick. The ease of application makes roll-on topicals very popular with people over 60, even those who don’t otherwise consume cannabis!
Types of Weed Topicals
- THC lotions
- Cannabis balms and salves
- Weed lube
- THC ointment
- CBD sunscreen
- Body butter
- Transdermal patches
- Cannabis body wash
- CBD and THC serums
- Weed gel
- Weed bath bombs and bath salts
- THC cream
- CBD cream
- CBD oil
- Roll-Ons like anti-itch cream
You can find an array of topical products online or at your local dispensary. CBD products can be shipped over state lines while THC products must be bought in-state.
History of Topicals
Perhaps you’ve heard that Queen Victoria used cannabis. She didn’t smoke, but she did use Cannabis indica tinctures and oils for relief from period pain. And she’s far from the only prominent historical figure to rely on cannabis. Marijuana has been used medicinally and spiritually by people for thousands of years, and topicals are one of the most traditional forms of administration. Cannabis topicals are mentioned as a remedy for inflammation in Egyptian papyrus from 1500 BC.
Cannabis has been used as a part of herbalism practices for hundreds of years, and making balms, salves, and other topical treatments was and remains a remedy for many common ailments. Our ancestors knew what they were doing!
Related: History of Weed
How To Use Cannabis Topicals
You can use topical THC products in your bath, shower, and after-workout ritual – even your skincare routine can incorporate topical cannabis products! Each cannabis topical product has its own application method. Follow the instructions on the package for the best results.
You can use topical THC products for:
- General aches and pain
- Muscle tension, soreness, or stiffness
- Workout recovery
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Period pain
- Minor muscle sprains
- After Sun Care
- Skin conditions like acne treatment, anti-aging, eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, rosacea, and scar reduction
- Muscle spasms
And even more! THC topical creams and other products are an area of intense scientific interest, and more research is being conducted on a regular basis that confirms the efficacy of and expands the uses of cannabis topicals.
Do Weed Topicals Work?
With such an abundance of cannabis products on the market, it’s easy to be suspicious of how well topicals work. Marijuana topicals are like all other weed products; there are good ones and bad ones. The most important part of buying a topical product is ensuring you’re buying a high-quality one.
How to check the quality of a weed topical:
- Read the ingredient list. A quality cannabis topical doesn’t need much: a carrier oil, the cannabis, and perhaps a few terpenes for aroma or pain relief. The most effective products use a full-spectrum cannabis extract, rather than a CBD or THC isolate but an isolate may work better for some people. If you see too many other ingredients that are used as preservatives, fillers, or stabilizers, it’s a good indication of a low-quality cannabis lotion or other topical.
- Check the strength of the topical. In cannabis topicals, the higher the strength, the better. While you wouldn’t necessarily want to eat a 50 mg brownie, a 50 mg lotion is not strong. An effective topical usually has between 100 – 500 mg of active cannabinoids, and the strongest topicals can have over 1,000 mg. If you’ve tried topicals in the past without much luck, try a stronger product.
- Read the certificate of analysis (COA). Reading the COA is important for two reasons. First, it confirms that the product is as strong as it’s marketed to be. Some cannabis companies claim their products have higher amounts of THC or CBD in order to impress you, but the third-party COA tells a different story. Secondly, it confirms that there are no contaminants like heavy metals or pesticides. This is particularly important for topical CBD products because hemp-derived CBD isn’t regulated as well as THC is.
- Check the reviews. Marketing will always say one thing – but are their claims backed up by real people’s experiences? Reading the reviews can give you a good feel for if the product is effective or not. And if there are no reviews – that tells you something as well.
What’s the difference between a cannabis topical and transdermal?
A topical product is rubbed on the skin and delivers localized results. These products are only absorbed into your skin and do not get you high (or show up on a drug test!)
Transdermal products are specifically formulated to move the cannabinoids through the skin barrier and into the bloodstream. These products can get you high if they contain THC. Transdermal patches work well for people with chronic pain who need a steady stream of cannabinoids delivered over a period of time.
Topical products are quickly absorbed, usually within 30 minutes. But transdermal patches can deliver cannabinoids for much longer, over a period of 6 – 8 hours.
Can you make your own cannabis topicals?
Yes! You can make your own cannabis topical products at home. Products like balms and salves are forms of traditional medicine that have been handmade for centuries.
Try this beginner-friendly cannabis salve recipe from the Cannigma, which only takes 10 minutes.
FAQs about THC topicals
What does topical marijuana cream do?
Topical weed cream can be used for a variety of ailments, from dry and itchy skin and recovering from a hard workout to reducing muscle pain
What are the side effects of medical marijuana cream?
Side effects of medical THC cream are rare but can include a skin reaction at the site of application or an allergic reaction.
Does marijuana cream work for nerve damage?
Transdermal weed products work best for treating nerve damage and nerve pain. In scientific studies, transdermal oils can bring significant improvement in pain for people with neuropathy.
Can marijuana cream treat pain?
Yes, there is scientific evidence that cannabis products such as topical CBD balm can be effective in reducing and managing pain, including muscle pain, post-workout pain, general soreness, stiffness, and minor muscle sprains.