How do cannabis topicals work?

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When considering use of a cannabis topical product it’s good to keep in mind these products won’t get you high. THC does not penetrate the skin and enter the bloodstream. If you see THC in the ingredients of a topical product, it’s solely to provide the entourage effect. Especially when the topical is used to treat pain externally. An ideal ratio for CBD and THC when treating pain is 2:1.

Your body has cannabinoid receptors all over the body, including in the skin. CBD and THC work in concert to engage certain receptors in the skin. Research has found cannabinoid receptors in the skin can regulate things like inflammation. If topicals are being used to treat pain, a good strategy is to apply the medical cannabis externally, and at the same time ingesting a similar pain-fighting cannabis product internally. That way you can hit it from both sides.



The majority of cannabis creams are topical creams infused with cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabis compound which is non psychoactive and is believed to have medicinal properties, particularly for pain relief.

Creams can be made from a wide range of base products, and can even be made at home using coconut oil or some other fatty substance that cannabis compounds can bind to.


One of the easier ways to apply medical cannabis externally is with an easy to carry spray applicator. Messy hands are part of the deal when rubbing creams and oils in, but roll ons or sprays make it simply spritz a bit of infused oil on a spot and let it seep in on its own. 


Cannabis oil is pretty straighforward. It can be the same oil you find in tinctures taken orally. External cannabis oil products offer some bonus opportunites. Producers like Maya Elisabeth, co-founder of Whoopi & Maya have perfected recipes of doctored cannabis oil with additional natural healing products.

Oils are easy to use—just massage it into the skin where the healing needs to happen.


For extended relief from medical cannabis, transdermal patches have caught on in popularity.

Much like nicotine patches, the patient simply removes the patch from the packaging and sticks it onto their body where they want the medicine released. Ideally, the patches slowly release THC and/or CBD into the skin over several hours. 

Additionally, they don’t have much odor and aren’t messy making them a viable option for people trying to treat external pain areas. 

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