What Are Cannabis Topicals and How Do They Work?

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In recent years, cannabis has gained attention for its numerous health benefits. While the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes is still debated, one aspect that has become quite popular of late is topicals. These products, such as lotions and balms, offer a great way to find relief from pain without the psychoactive effects typically associated with cannabis. In this article, we will explore the concept of topicals and how they function.


Understanding Cannabis Topicals:

Cannabis topicals are cannabis-infused products containing cannabinoids, which are compounds found in marijuana plants known for their interaction with the body’s nervous system. Unlike other forms of consuming cannabis, like smoking or ingesting, topicals are directly applied to the skin to target areas in need of relief. These products can take various forms, such as creams, lotions, ointments, salves, and even patches.

How Do Cannabis Topicals Work?

When we apply a cannabis topical onto our skin, it primarily interacts with localized receptors without entering our bloodstream the way other consumption methods do. The cannabinoid receptors found on the surface of our skin serve as entry points into our bloodstream’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). One of the core functions of this system is to regulate processes such as perceiving pain, responding to immune challenges, and managing inflammation.

When we apply products containing cannabinoids to our skin cells, they bind with the endocannabinoid receptors and trigger a response at the cellular level. This response can result in pain relief and reduce inflammation. Depending on the formulation of the product used, which may include ingredients like essential oils or herbal extracts, there could also be additional benefits beyond just relieving pain.


Benefits of using topicals

There are many benefits of using cannabis topicals instead of consuming cannabis in other ways:

1. Relieving Pain:

Many people turn to cannabis topicals because they have properties that can alleviate pain. By interacting with receptors near the area where it is applied, topicals have shown potential in reducing pain associated with conditions like arthritis, muscle soreness, and even skin conditions such as psoriasis or eczema.

2. Anti Inflammatory Effects:

Inflammation is a response by our body to injury or infection. However, persistent inflammation can be harmful and contribute to pain. Cannabis topicals have demonstrated immense potential as anti-inflammatory agents by interacting with cannabinoid receptors found in our skin cells.

3. Easing Muscle Tension:

For athletes or individuals experiencing muscle discomfort due to tension, cannabis topicals may offer relief. The combination of cannabinoids and other natural ingredients can help relax sore muscles.

4. Use Properly:

The potential benefits of topicals in skincare routines are still being tested and require further clinical trials. However, some individuals incorporate these topicals due to the antioxidant properties found in cannabinoids, which can potentially protect the skin from damage caused by free radicals and promote overall skin health.


Considerations for Optimal Effects

When it comes to applying cannabis topicals on the skin, there are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Start with Dry Skin:

Before applying the product, it is essential to ensure that the area you intend to apply it on is clean and dry. This helps with the absorption of cannabinoids and other beneficial ingredients.

2. Apply Generously and Massage:

Take a generous amount of the product and directly apply it to the affected area. Gently massage the product into your skin using circular motions until it is fully absorbed. The massage itself can provide relief by promoting blood circulation in that area.

3. Be Patient for Results:

Unlike other forms of cannabis consumption that offer psychoactive effects, topicals may take some time to show results. It’s common for individuals to experience relief within minutes or up to an hour after application, depending on factors such as concentration and formulation.

4. Follow Product Instructions:

It’s crucial to follow the instructions provided with the product for usage. Please make sure to follow any safety instructions provided by the manufacturer, such as avoiding contact with your eyes or broken skin. It’s also an excellent idea to start with a lower concentration of cannabis topicals, especially if you’re new to using them, and gradually increase the amount if necessary.

Things to keep in mind

Despite the many benefits that cannabis topicals come with, there are a few salient factors to keep in mind:

1. Non Psychoactive Effects:

Since topicals don’t enter your bloodstream, they won’t cause the psychoactive effects associated with consuming cannabis through smoking or edibles.

2. Patch Test:

If you have sensitive skin or are trying a topical product for the first time, it’s recommended to do a small patch test before applying it all over. Apply a small amount on an area of your skin and wait for 24 hours to check for any allergic reactions or irritation.


Cannabis topicals are an excellent option for localized pain relief without experiencing any intoxicating effects. These topicals interact with receptors on our skin’s surface, providing analgesic and anti-inflammatory benefits thanks to the cannabinoids derived from cannabis. While research on topicals is still ongoing, many people have reported finding relief from chronic conditions by using them. By gaining an understanding of the functionality and correct usage of these products, people can tap into the wide range of advantages that cannabis topicals bring forth.

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