While many of us are familiar with cannabidiol (CBD)’s benefits when consumed, most of us never have considered its potential benefits when used topically in a cream, ointment or salve. Cannabidiol tinctures, oils and vape products continue to be far more popular than topical options, but this disparity is likely due only to a lack of public knowledge. Many recent studies are demonstrating just how beneficial CBD ointments can be for relieving muscle pain, soreness and tightness.
On top of this developing scientific data, there is a long history of topical cannabis use within plant-based traditional medicines. There are indications of cannabis-based creams and salves being used from ancient Egypt to ancient China, where it is believed these preparations were used not just for pain relief, but also to treat skin irritations, inflammations, and wounds.
Why Use Topical CBD
Cannabidiol has the potential to replace many over-the-counter ointments and creams, which often contain a long list of pharmaceuticals. These ingredients are usually all unpronounceable and most of the time, unknown to the patient using the product. A well-sourced cannabidiol ointment typically only contains all natural compounds, which all should be recognizable and much more environmentally friendly than those creams found in pharmacies. Even though CBD creams do not contain any harsh chemicals, they often have been found to offer a similar level of relief.
CBD cream’s most common use always has been for pain relief, which isn’t surprising considering CBD's current track record in the area; pain relief is what CBD is famous for. While other cannabinoids are considerably less absorbable through the epidermis (the skin’s top layer), CBD is much more permeating, making it an excellent candidate for topical applications. Unlike when consumed, CBD doesn't enter the bloodstream when used topically, since it only can permeate through to the skin’s top layer, to roughly a centimeter (0.39 inches) deep.
According to a recent study entitled “Topical preparations for pain relief: efficacy and patient adherence” in the Journal of Pain Research, cannabinoids such as CBD have been found to effectively relieve acute and chronic pain when applied topically. Researchers believe this is because cannabinoids seem to reduce the ability to feel pain through the activation of CB1 and CB2 receptors within the endocannabinoid system. In another study of note, researchers discovered that topical applications of CBD were able to reduce inflammatory and neuropathic pain in animal models.
Current research has found preliminary evidence supporting the use of topical cannabinoid creams for relieving pain related to multiple sclerosis, arthritis, and inflammation. Cannabidiol already has been proven to be an effective anti-inflammatory agent when consumed, so the potential to provide relief through topical applications is extremely promising. In many cases of inflammatory pain, for example with athletes and arthritis patients, topical solutions often are preferred because they provide progressive delivery of pain relief without any of the side effects that often are associated with long-term use of traditional pain medications.
Beyond pain relief, many people have self-prescribed topical CBD for a wide variety of issues. These applications remain to be tested through rigorous clinical trials, but nevertheless still are being used by many people seeking relief when other medications have failed. Some of these uses include:
- Stimulation of healing for minor wounds, cuts, and abrasions
- Soothing of skin irritations, such as rashes, eczema, psoriasis and dry skin
- Possible treatment of nerve pain
- Help with hemorrhoids
- Soothing joint pain caused by injury, arthritis, etc
How To Use Topical CBD
As with all cannabinoid products on the market today, dosage and application guidelines will vary widely depending on what brand and what product you are using. Always refer to the product-specific guidelines to ensure proper usage. With that rule in mind, there are some points to keep in mind when using topical CBD products for the first time.
While CBD has been found to be safe to use and extremely compatible with all skin types and people, including both the young and the old, it's always a good idea to test a small amount of any new cream on the underside of your wrist. All CBD creams were not created equal, and some can contain additional medicinal ingredients or scents that could lead to an adverse reaction. The underside of your wrist is sensitive enough to indicate potential response without also triggering a significant painful irritation. To test, simply rub a small coin-sized amount of the topical CBD ointment, cream or salve onto the underside of your wrist. Wait for at least eight hours before confirming that no reaction has occurred before going on to use it on other areas of your body.
Another thing to note is the considerable difference in skin tone and texture between the young and the old. Naturally, both seniors and children have much thinner skin than adults, and usually topical treatments absorb quite quickly. Because of this dermatological difference, they also may prove to be slightly more susceptible to skin irritation. Again, it's highly recommended to test first before full treatment.
It is also recommended to apply medicinal creams less liberally than you would for an adult because a child or a senior will absorb a higher percentage of the active ingredients. When it comes to treatment of adults, many topical ointments recommend a liberal application, especially when using for pain relief.
Finally, and this applies to all topical medicine therapies, always rub the CBD cream into the skin thoroughly and allow the area to dry first before covering it with anything. Not only will it ensure that none of the cream goes to waste, but it also will keep your clothing free from oil or cream stains. After application it may take up to two days to notice any results; however, reapplication after a few hours is completely safe.