When we hear of marijuana, we automatically picture out a joint or a bong. Cannabis oils and cannabis tinctures are also gaining popularity these days. But topicals? Has anyone heard of cannabis not being smoked, vaped, or taken orally, but applied on the skin instead?
Cannabis-infused topicals offer you a new method of using cannabis and enjoying the benefits of its CBD and THC contents without consuming it and getting high.
What are cannabis topicals?
Cannabis topicals are cannabis-infused moisturizing lotions, creams, balms, liniments, salves, and body oils that are absorbed through the skin to help with localized relief of soreness, swelling, pain, or simple dry skin. They are also used to treat skin conditions like eczema, rashes, and itchiness.
It is entirely up to you to choose which kind of cannabis topical to use.
How do topicals work?
When you use topicals, the chemicals contained in cannabis – called cannabinoids – get absorbed through your skin and get a response from your endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system helps regulate many functions of your body and helps keep everything in balance.
The cannabinoids, including tetrahydrocannabinol or THC and cannabidiol or CBD, interact with our body’s cannabinoid receptors. There are two kinds of receptors in our body: the CB1 receptors, which are found in the central nervous system, and the CB2 receptors, which are the ones found in the immune system. CB1 is the psychoactive receptor and it mediates pain and certain functions of the body. Meanwhile, CB2 is the non-psychoactive receptor and mediates inflammation and pain.
Many cannabinoid receptors are actually found in our skin’s sensory nerves and epidermal cells. They are also present in mast cells, which are associated to allergic and inflammatory responses.
When you apply topicals on your skin, these cannabinoids bind to the cannabinoid receptors in the skin, in the local nerves, and in the muscle tissues. THC binds to both CB1 and CB2 receptors while CBD binds only to CB2 receptors. CBD, however, inhibits the production of an enzyme that breaks down an endocannabinoid called anandamide. This, in turn, allows the neurotransmitter to flourish.
CBD and THC work through independent mechanisms, but they work in a complementary way. They also work very well on your skin, although not as easily absorbed as other forms of cannabis products. This is the reason why cannabis in topicals does not work in the same manner as cannabis that is inhaled or eaten. Topicals produce a targeted and localized effect on the affected area and does not cause a high sensation.
Cannabis extraction process
Heating methods like decarboxylation are applied to heat and activate THC in topicals. There are brands, though, that use raw and heat-free extraction methods, such as pure alcohol or ethanol extraction.
Using cannabis topicals and precautions
Cannabis topicals are applied directly to the skin, on the area of your body that needs treatment, or as directed on the product label. The chemical components of cannabis are then absorbed through the skin and start to take action.
Generally, topicals can be used liberally and frequently, because they don’t have risks of abuse of overuse.
However, new users are advised to start with small amounts on the fingertip to assess its effect. Since every individual’s endocannabinoid system is unique, it can be expected that reactions will vary from person to person.
It should also be noted that many cannabis topicals like oils, balms, lotions, and creams are also made with various other essential oils and botanical ingredients. This is the reason why people who have sensitive skin or have allergies should also exercise caution when trying a new skin product.
Moreover, there are also people who have allergic reactions or sensitivity to airborne plant pollens, and they may develop itchy skin or hives upon contact with cannabis. Plus, people who cannot use products with alcohol content should avoid topicals that are produced with pure alcohol extracts.