The cannabis market is not limited to just smokers and medical users. Lately, the healing properties of marijuana have begun expanding their way into new forms, including topical creams and dermal patches. Marijuana is reaching an entirely new audience of people who are looking for pain relief without the intoxicating effects.
What are cannabis topicals?
Cannabis topicals can be lotions, balms, or oils that can be absorbed through the skin to provide relief for conditions such as pain and inflammation. Such topicals are designed to maximize the medicinal benefits of cannabis rather than the psychoactive ones.
How do topicals work?
Throughout the body, there is a vast network of cannabinoid receptors that respond to both naturally-produced endocannabinoids and cannabinoids from cannabis that make their way in from the outside. Cannabis-infused topicals are able to bind to these receptors in order to bring pain relief to the applied area. The good news is that you won’t get high from using the topical — even if there is active THC in it, it will not cross through into your bloodstream. Instead, the cannabinoids will only provide surface-level relief. Furthermore, most cannabis-infused creams and salves contain THCA instead of active THC, which is the acid form of THC. A handful of studies have been performed exploring the extent of THCA’s medical benefits on patients with various conditions. In particular, some findings that stood out included anti-inflammatory properties (for arthritis and lupus, specifically), anti-seizure and anti-epileptic properties, protection from neurodegenerative diseases (such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia), relief from appetite-related conditions like nausea or appetite loss, and properties that helped slow down the progression of different diseases and cancer. For topical forms of cannabis that penetrate the bloodstream with active THC, try using a transdermal patch.
What can topicals treat?
Topicals are best for symptoms like inflammation, muscle pain, joint pain, stiffness, or soreness. They’re the perfect remedy for post-workout aches and arthritic pain. A lot of products on the market contain menthol and peppermint, which provide a cool tingling to the painful area. In addition, topicals have been reported to help other symptoms like headaches, cramps, psoriasis, and dermatitis.
Some topicals are created to mimic a specific strain of marijuana. The producer will try to create a terpene and cannabinoid profile that matches the desired strain, resulting in different ratios of THC, CBD, THCA, and other cannabinoids. CBD and THCA in particular are utilized for their anti-inflammatory properties.
Depending on the ingredients and cannabinoid profiles of various topicals, products may have slightly different effects on the body. The best way to figure out which topical is best for you is to try a few different salves and creams and take note of their effects on your symptoms. There is a growing market for medicinal cannabis, and as more studies are conducted on the topic, consumers will likely see an increase in non-psychoactive uses for marijuana.