When you think of using marijuana, you probably think about smoking it. If you are more experienced in cannabis culture, you might also consider vaping, dabbing, nibbling edibles or other more popular methods of consumption. But, have you ever truly considered applying cannabis to your skin?
As medical marijuana becomes more widespread, and as more studies demonstrate the power of the drug to impact users’ health, more and more cannabis products are becoming available. Though not entirely new, cannabis topicals are appearing in greater abundance inside and outside marijuana dispensaries, and they are rising in popularity. Taking the form of lotions, balms, salves, scrubs and more, cannabis topicals are a foreign concept to almost everyone — so here’s how they work and why they matter.
The Effects of Topicals
When you inhale cannabis smoke or eat cannabis-infused foods, the cannabinoids inside the plant material are pumped into your bloodstream, where they can reach every corner of your body to generate strong and wide-ranging effects. Most notably, your blood carries THC to your brain, where it binds with your endocannabinoid system and makes you feel high.
However, that doesn’t happen when you use topicals. When you massage a topical into your clean skin, the cannabinoids infused in the topical sink only into the surrounding tissues; few if any cannabinoids reach your bloodstream. Because of this, psychoactive THC lacks the opportunity to bind to endocannabinoid receptors in the brain, so you won’t feel high. In fact, there is no way to overdose on cannabis topicals, so they stand as perhaps the safest way to use cannabis, given that you use them as intended.
Instead, you will receive targeted relief confined to the area where you apply the topical. The most prevalent effects of cannabis topicals are pain relief and reduction of inflammation, but cannabis topicals can also serve as skin care and muscle relaxants.
Who Needs Topicals
Because topicals are so safe, pretty much anyone can use them to experience varying benefits. Here are a few groups of users who might have the most to gain from cannabis topicals:
- Arthritis sufferers. Because arthritic pain is caused by intense inflammation at the joints, cannabis topicals can be incredibly effective solutions for those debilitated by arthritis.
- Athletes. Sore, stiff muscles benefit from the effects of cannabis topicals, which can warm and relax muscles after exercise and facilitate recovery.
- Those with various skin disorders. Psoriasis, dermatitis and eczema can be uncomfortable, even painful skin disorders. The extra moisture and soothing effects of cannabis topicals can help.
- Those with aesthetic skin concerns. Aging skin as well as acne-prone skin seems to react positively to cannabis topical treatments, but more research is necessary for confirmation.
Which Topicals Work
Topicals provide relatively minor effects, especially compared to cannabis products that are inhaled or ingested. However, that doesn’t mean you can buy just any topical product with a marijuana leaf in its branding. Many so-called cannabis topicals don’t actually use any kind of cannabis in their formula; others don’t use enough to be useful, and others still have high cannabinoid content alongside more dangerous ingredients, like parabens and sulfates or even lead and formaldehyde. It is imperative that you select only the best cannabis topicals to receive the best possible effects.
The availability of topicals can vary from place to place due to current laws surrounding cannabis products. You might consult with knowledgeable budtenders at Durango dispensaries — or dispensaries in your area — to better understand what products are available to you. However, in Colorado, here are the best topicals money can buy:
- Wildflower Cool Stick. A cooling sensation coupled with pain relief can be useful during exercise or activity that might otherwise aggravate an injury or cause inflammation.
- Dixie Synergy Relief Balm. This balm helps speed recovery by combining the healing power of THC and CBD.
- Lord Jones + Tamara Mellon Stiletto Cream. Designed to help with the discomfort that comes from wearing modern female footwear, this cream provides fast, targeted pain relief.
- Baskin Body Wellness Cream. Baskin develops two different dosages of this cream: 150mg and 400mg. The former is good for pinpoint accuracy and the latter for all-over body relief.
- Baskin Glow. Another product that combines THC and CBD, this lightweight lotion is best applied to pressure points, where the skin is thinnest and where the product is more likely to reach the bloodstream.
- Onyx + Rose Broad Spectrum Bliss Balm. A broad-spectrum CBD product tends to include all the terpenes, flavonoids and minor cannabinoids that assist with health. This balm is best for relaxing the muscles and preventing spasms.
Cannabis topicals really work, and for some sufferers, they can provide even more benefit than other more powerful and more popular cannabis methods. If you are curious about what cannabis topicals might do for you, you should consider visiting a local dispensary and asking about available products.