Cannabis Topicals

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About Topicals

While hemp seed oil has long been used as a topical medicine due to its skin-nourishing essential fatty acid content, its THC-forward twin has only gained popularity in the cannabis community in the last couple of decades. To be clear, a number of cultures have created their own form of cannabis topicals throughout time - perhaps most notably in Mexican and Central American traditions, where raw plant matter was soaked in alcohol or oil and rubbed on the skin and muscles for pain relief. This straightforward method has been updated and modified with cannabis brands infusing creams, balms, salves, or oils that can be applied to the direct area causing discomfort.

These newer versions of THC and CBD topicals are designed for pain relief, reducing inflammation, muscle soreness, and soothing aching joints. They are an excellent example of the kind of benefits cannabis preparations can provide, as well as helping to change the perception of how cannabis can be used.

How are Cannabis Topicals Made?

Topicals are made by infusing cannabis into a base lotion, oil, or balm either via using solvents to extract the cannabinoids from the plant material or by directly using the plant material in the formulation and later straining it from the final product. These procedures are monitored carefully and performed using controlled heat to ensure the vital cannabinoids are not destroyed in the infusion process. Once complete, this creates a cannabinoid-rich product that is often combined with other beneficial plants and oils to increase the pain-relieving power of topicals.

Different bases will result in different textures and certain formulations will be better suited to certain needs. For this reason, we at Grassdoor encourage everyone to explore the topical category and contents of each product when choosing a cannabis topical.

What are the Benefits of Cannabis Topicals?

We are able to experience the pain-relieving qualities of cannabinoids thanks to the body’s EndoCannabinoid System (ECS), which regulates a host of bodily functions and sensations, including our response to pain. Receptors for the ECS are distributed throughout the body, the brain, and even the surface of our skin! Cannabis topicals work by interacting with cannabinoid receptors on our skin to provide comfort, flexibility, and mobility to the joints, muscles, and other areas of the body. Topicals are usually not made to be applied to broken skin, as certain ingredients can be irritants to any exposed wound, so we advise only using topicals as directed. They are usually full-spectrum products, as both the primary cannabinoids - THC and CBD - can help reduce inflammation and pain signals from the brain to provide pain relief.

This makes topicals a great choice for rubbing down your muscles after a tough hike or an intense workout, soothing the discomfort of aging joints, or gently massaging stiff necks and shoulders to help relax tension in the body. Cannabis topicals come in many shapes and forms, so be sure to explore Grassdoor's selection for the one that's right for you.

For non-cannabis consumers or those new to the plant, topicals are great for localized pain relief without an intoxicating effect - as cannabinoids do not reach the bloodstream, only penetrating the first few layers of skin. This makes topicals a truly universal option, as no prior cannabis experience is required, they are easy to apply, and results can be felt within minutes.

FAQ About Cannabis Topicals

When first using topicals, how big of a dose should I use?

Most topicals suggest using a nickel-sized amount for the first application and waiting 30 minutes before re-applying if the desired effects are not felt. This is a good rule of thumb as a small amount of cannabis topical can often spread well on larger areas such as arms and legs. It is worth noting that the amount of topical used will also be determined by how much surface area it needs to cover, so start with a nickel-sized amount and increase accordingly.

How do I store cannabis topicals?

Cannabis topicals should be stored in a cool, dark space, and depending on the texture may need to be refrigerated in certain climates. For example, oil-based balms and salves can become very liquid in the heat, making them harder to apply. In general, any cannabis-infused products should be kept away from heat and light, which are two of the main elements that degrade cannabinoids. When properly stored, topicals should retain their efficacy for up to a year.

How do I choose the right topical for my needs?

Topicals are available in various textures and various ratios of cannabinoids. It is always advisable to research the products you are considering to decide whether the ingredients, the amount of cannabinoids, and the texture of the topical is right for you. Generally, CBD topicals will be more suitable for managing any inflammation-based discomfort and pain, such as swollen joints or tense shoulders, while THC-rich topicals are typically better for episodic pain, such as muscle soreness from a strenuous workout.

How long do the effects of weed topicals last?

Topical's typical efficacy window is around 2-4 hours, depending on the concentration of cannabinoids in the topical. More concentrated topicals will usually have a longer duration, but it is essential to remember one of the advantages of topicals is that they can be dosed gradually and reapplied as needed throughout the day if or when they are needed.

Will topicals make me feel ‘high’?

A true topical will not make you feel high, as it is only working on the first few layers of the skin, interacting with cannabinoid receptors in these skin layers. Some topicals are designed to be transdermal, meaning that they contain ingredients that allow cannabinoids to pass through the skin and into the bloodstream. The majority of cannabis topicals available from licensed producers are designed purely as an option for topical pain relief, which means they will not make you feel high. For cannabinoids to create a cerebral high they must enter the bloodstream, travel to the brain, and bind with receptors that trigger a psychoactive response.

What are some of the supporting ingredients in cannabis topicals?

Balm-based topicals are often prepared with beeswax and coconut oil, while lotions can feature vitamin E oil and shea butter. Examples of other botanicals and plants used in topicals are peppermint, tea tree, eucalyptus, lavender, lemon, and jojoba oil. These bases and supporting ingredients are typically selected for topical production because they already offer their own skincare benefits.