Everything you need to know about using cannabis externally
Cannabis topicals have been steadily increasing in popularity over the years, and for good reason. When used on the skin, cannabis-infused products like lotions and creams can have many benefits. They do not lead to any psychological effects and they are also incredibly easy to incorporate into one’s daily routine.
It’s as simple as rubbing a topical product onto any area that might be in pain, including sore muscles post-workout, itchiness from skin conditions such as eczema or even joint pain from arthritis.
What are Cannabis Topicals?
Cannabis topicals are products like lotions, salves and oils made for external use, and are most often used to treat inflammation, pain and skin conditions.
When used on the skin, the effect of cannabis is localized to the area of application, unlike the widespread effect when it is eaten or smoked.
In Indian medicine, history has it that cannabis (mixed with other ingredients) have been used to make surgical anaesthesia
According to the East West School of Planetary Herbology, other ancient examples include a Tibetan treatment for itchy skin and traditional Arabic remedies for skin ailments and hair growth.
Despite being one of the safest and easiest methods of using cannabis, topicals are also one of the lesser known and utilized.
How topicals Work
When topicals are used, the chemicals from cannabis are absorbed through the skin and garner a response from the endocannabinoid system, a biological system that helps regulate many of the body’s functions.
Cannabinoids are the chemicals that activate our endocannabinoid system. They include tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), and other compounds found in the cannabis plant.
CB1 and CB2 Receptors
The body contains two main cannabinoid receptors: CB1, the psychoactive receptor that also mediates pain and many other functions, and CB2, a non-psychoactive receptor that mediates pain and inflammation. Both are operative in the skin and affect pain, itch and inflammation associated with many dermatological conditions.
CB1 and CB2 receptors are abundant in the skin’s epidermal cells and sensory nerves, according to a study in the Journal of Dermatological Science. They are also found on mast cells, which are linked to inflammatory and allergic responses.
Although THC and CBD are poorly absorbed through the skin, they work through independent but completary mechanisms. This explains why topicals work differently in the body than cannabis that is eaten or inhaled, producing a targeted, localized effect on the afflicted area and not resulting in the user becoming stoned. This may be because cannabinoids are lipophilic (i.e. fat-loving or fat soluble) and do not penetrate readily into the bloodstream.”
For THC to have a psychoactive effect, it needs to enter the bloodstream and pass the blood-brain barrier to reach the CB1 receptors in the brain. A study published in the journal Forensic Science International found that THC does not show up in blood or urine tests after consistent use of THC-based topical products.
Types of Cannabis Topicals
Topicals come in many forms, including body lotions, salves, balms, oils, body sprays, and transdermal gels and patches. They can be made with CBD, THC, or THCA (the non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in raw plants).
The most common types of topicals are fat-based products like oils and salves, or alcohol-based products, such as lotions and tinctures.
A list of popular topical brands of cannabis available in Canada will soon be published on this platform
How To Use Cannabis Topicals
Topicals should be used as directed on a product-by-product basis, but, generally, they can be used liberally and often because there is no risk of overuse or abuse.
It is recommended that new users start with a small fingertip of the Cream to gauge how much they need. The effects last one to four hours, but it can be reapplied as much as needed thanks to “a complete lack of side effects”—unless you count “very soft skin” as a side effect.
It is important to note that since every person’s endocannabinoid system is unique, reactions may vary. Many cannabis lotions, oils and balms are made with a variety of other essential oils and ingredients. With this in mind, people with allergies and sensitive skin should take caution when trying a new topical.
Additionally, people with sensitivity or allergic reactions to airborne plant pollens may develop hives or itchy skin from contact with cannabis. Individuals who cannot use alcohol-containing products should avoid those made with pure alcohol extracts.