If the recent announcement from CVS Pharmacy to begin stocking CBD topicals in its stores across the U.S. is any indication, the popularity of CBD products and (topicals in particular) has exploded within the past few years. This explosion has undoubtedly prompted the FDA’s recent approval of hemp-derived CBD in beauty and pain products and has even prompted CVS Pharmacy’s biggest competitor, Walgreens to get in on the evolving industry. It was only a few short years ago that non-psychoactive CBD or Cannabidiol was a relatively unregulated form of cannabis being sold at marijuana dispensaries in a handful of states or by unscrupulous, overseas retailers online. A buzz began to circulate when its astonishing effects on epileptic patients and ADHD sufferers were discovered. In 2015, the FDA finally decided to relax many of their regulatory requirements, allowing researchers to conduct CBD trials. Researchers and patients alike, found that CBD had a host of undeniable benefits, with the top three being reported as relief from pain, anxiety, and depression.
What is CBD?
CBD or Cannabidiol is a non-psychoactive (unlike THC) cannabinoid derived from cannabis and hemp-based sources. CBD is normally extracted into an oil and much like THC, studies indicate that cannabinoids interact with the body’s natural cannabinoid receptors. These receptors play a significant role in pain relief. CBD’s side effects are minimal, but some users have reported drowsiness, dry mouth, and dizziness as well as interactions with some medications. CBD itself will not produce any of the ‘highs’ that THC products will, however, many users report feelings of calm, relaxation, and even drowsiness depending on dosage as well as method of ingestion.
How can CBD help my pain?
For those who suffer any form of chronic pain, CBD’s increased availability has been embraced as a safer and effective alternative to opioids, steroids, and NSAIDs. Though these options continued to dominate the pain relief market (bringing side effects and a number of health risks right along with them), CBD pain relief creams are becoming stiff competition due to its analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective properties without the additional health concerns.
According to its users, essential CBD hemp oils and other products can help tremendously with a variety of chronic pain conditions:
- Muscle & Joint Pain
- Joint Swelling
- Back Pain
- Skin conditions: eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis, rashes, fungal infections, dry skin, blisters, etc.
- Faster healing of wounds, cuts, scrapes and bruises.
- Muscle soreness, sprains and other mild injuries.
- Nerve pain/sciatica
- Muscle spasms
- Migraine headaches
- Menstrual cramps
How effective are CBD Topicals?
CBD topicals are at the forefront of the movement, attracting a multitude of consumers who would rather apply creams, lotions, balms, salves, and oils rather than ingest cannabis products to get some relief. Studies suggest that highly-concentrated salves and balms are great options for wound healing and small cuts, while extra strength CBD pain relief creams, lotions and ointments are best for alleviating itchiness, dryness, burns, rashes and otherwise inflammatory skin conditions.
Oils tend to be higher in potency and can either include psychoactive THC or just CBD. Oils are most likely to be mixed with other beneficial herbs or essential oils which penetrate the skin for deeper healing. CBD hemp oils are also more versatile, since they can also be ingested. It’s no secret that high-dosages of cannabis oil have been used to effectively treat epilepsy, kill cancer cells and much more. As far as home use, treating ear infections and migraines is also much easier when using CBD in oil form.
Lastly, transdermal patches containing CBD or THC which are applied directly to painful areas are highly popular amongst pain relief seekers. Patches adhere to the skin and can therefore last longer than other topical options. Patients can sleep with their patches on and can participate in a large range of activities while wearing them, whereas a creams or lotions can rub off easily. In fact, transdermal absorption of CBD into the skin beats oral use when it comes to effectiveness, given that it bypasses gastrointestinal processes. According to a study conducted by the National Institute of Health in 2015:
The transdermal administration of CBD has long-lasting therapeutic effects without psychoactive side-effects. Thus, use of topical CBD has potential as effective treatment of arthritic symptomatology. At present, one in five (21%) adults worldwide are diagnosed with some form of arthritis by their physicians. The data presented suggest transdermal CBD is a good candidate for developing improved therapies for these debilitating diseases.
The study also noted a dramatic improvement in swelling and decreased inflammation in painful muscles and joints when CBD is applied topically.
Why do some CBD topicals include THC?
CBD topicals can be powerful pain relief agents on their own, however, many researchers have found that the synergistic effects of CBD and THC might have an even stronger therapeutic impact when working together. Cultivators and producers of cannabis have traditionally extracted one compound at a time when manufacturing cannabis products. AS CBD grows in popularity, many researchers now support the Entourage Effect, which is the combining of compounds found in the cannabis plant that create a better chemistry as well as improved results for many users. The desired ratio of CBD to THC is an even 1:1 for those interested in optimizing relief.
Will a CBD/THC topical make me feel high?
We know that CBD is non-psychoactive, but what about a CBD/THC topical? The short answer is no. Even a high THC topical won’t produce any ‘high’ effects. The main reason for this being that THC must enter the bloodstream in order to produce effects. Most creams, balms, oils and salves only penetrate deep enough to keep pain at bay. However, keep in mind that transdermal applications (patches) are created to deliver medicine deep into the skin and into the bloodstream. A transdermal patch containing THC will indeed produce a high effect for this reason.
What is the best way to apply CBD topicals?
Topical CBD absorbs into the skin and is most effective with liberal application in the affected areas and strong dosing for optimal effects. When applying topical CBD cream, be sure to cleanse the area first with soap and water to remove excess dirt, oil buildup, or previously applied lotions or creams. Doing so will ensure that there are no barriers between the ointment and the skin and will create the best environment for absorption.
For children and elderly patients, apply smaller amounts of ointment to begin with due to thinness of skin, so as not to overmedicate. For adults, apply the ointment liberally to the affected area and allow it to absorb for several minutes before covering with clothing and/or bandages so that it does not rub off. Be sure to watch the area for bad reactions such as itchiness, redness, soreness, rashes or bumps.
Retailers will often list the recommended rate of use which usually ranges from 1-3 times per day, as needed. Again, how often you use the product will depend on the severity of the condition and the level of CBD and THC content. Extra strength CBD pain relief creams or oils will allow you to use smaller doses. Many retailers recommend that patients begin with doses as low as 2-3 mgs and increase the dosage if needed.
Overall, CBD has provided an exciting new wave of side-effect free pain relief derived from natural sources. For a growing percentage of the population, this safe and powerful alternative is helping people of all age groups (not to mention pets). All in all, CBD topicals are a low-risk, highly beneficial option that can restore your wellbeing. It’s worth a try!