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Saturday August 22, 2015

By Abby Hutmacher


Of the many ways to consume marijuana, one of the most exciting might very well be topically. And, although topical cannabis won't produce the "high" that comes with other modes of ingestion, the benefits of applying marijuana topically are plentiful.

What are marijuana topicals?

Topical cannabis, or topicals, are simply cannabis-infused products for use on the surface of the skin. They can come in the form of balms, lotions, oils, tinctures or personal lubricants and can be applied directly to an affected area for fast-acting relief.

Many infused topicals are strain-specific as well, which benefit specific ailments. For example, sativa-dominant strains will help improve circulation while indica-dominant strains (which contain higher concentrations of CBD) can reduce pain, inflammation and skin irritations. Other additional ingredients may include cayenne pepper, lavender or tea tree oil depending on the intended use of the topical.

How do cannabis topicals work?

All mammals are equipped with an Endogenous Cannabinoid System designed to maintain homeostasis within the body. The system is composed of cannabinoid receptors throughout the entire body which are activated by cannabinoids. Some cannabinoids are produced internally (endocannabinoids) while others are produced externally (like the phytocannabinoids found in cannabis).

Skin, the largest organ in the body, contains a large amount of cannabinoid receptors. When cannabis is applied directly to the skin, cannabinoids are absorbed quickly into the affected area without wasting time metabolizing or breaking through the blood/brain barrier. This means that more cannabinoids can be utilized by the body (and more efficiently) without the risk of overconsumption.

Because cannabinoids cannot penetrate much past the upper epidermis (unless accompanied by a carrier agent like oleic acid or dimethyl sulfoxide), there is no risk of intoxication. Nevertheless, topical cannabis can relieve many superficial skin irritations, improve fungal infections and reduce inflammation in joints, especially those close to the surface like fingers and knees.

Topical cannabis uses and applications

Though research is minimal, anecdotal data suggests that topical cannabis can relieve many medical conditions including arthritis, psoriasis, allergies and skin infections. It has also been shown to relieve muscle pain after exercise and reduce the severity of migraines. Other uses for topical cannabis include:

  • Burns

  • Menstrual cramps

  • Bug bites

  • Hemorrhoids

  • Acne

  • Warts

  • Fever blisters

  • Muscle spasms

  • Skin rejuvenation

  • Primary Orgasmic Dysfunction

What Kinds of Marijuana Topicals are Available?

There are many different forms of topical cannabis to choose from depending on your medical needs. Lotions, for example, are great for muscle and joint pain while lip balms are ideal for cold sores and fever blisters. Here are some of the most common forms of marijuana topicals along with their benefits and drawbacks.


Cannabis-infused lotions are great for everyday pains associated with arthritis or muscle fatigue. They are often integrated with other herbs and essential oils and are therefore not recommended for open wounds or use around the eyes. Many lotions are also strain-specific which can be either invigorating or relaxing depending on your choice of strain.

Lip balm

Lip balm that has been infused with marijuana is both a topical and an edible. It can be used to treat oral infections like herpes or cold sores and replenish moisture to the lips. Unlike most other topicals, it can cause a slight "stoned" feeling when applied regularly throughout the day. Cannabis-infused lip balm is especially popular for those who wish to medicate discretely.

Bath salts

Cannabis-infused bath salts are perfect for times when the whole body aches. Whether the result of strenuous exercise, a bout of the flu or a visit from Ol' Aunt Flow, a warm marijuana-infused bath can help relax all of those pains away.

Medicinal patches

Unlike most other forms of topical cannabis, medicinal marijuana patches actually can pass through the blood/brain barrier (thanks to the help of carrier agents) resulting in a high similar to an edible high. Because it is absorbed through the skin rather than ingested, the resulting high is much more subtle and longer-lasting (though it can be removed at any point), utilizing a larger quantity of cannabinoids in the process. Patches come in a number of different cannabinoid profiles, some of which can even help counteract an uncomfortable case of overconsumption.

Where Can I buy Topicals

If you live in a 420-friendly state, chances are you'll be able to find topical cannabis at a dispensary near you. Many dispensaries will sell local brands including Mary's Medicinals in Colorado, Kush Creams in Washington, Empower Oil in Oregon and Doc Green's in California.

Make Your Own Topicals

For those with a crafty side, cannabis lotions and balms can be made at home using only a few simple ingredients. Though there are a number of products you can use to extract cannabinoids from marijuana (specifically, fat alcohol), perhaps the best option for creating soothing topical creams is coconut oil. Not only can coconut oil retain more cannabinoids than many other lipids (thanks to an almost 90 percent fat content), it works wonders on the skin, too!

To make your cannabis-infused lotion, start by infusing coconut oil with cannabis. After the oil is strained but still warm, add an equal part of beeswax and a double part of olive or almond oil. Feel free to add additional ingredients like Vitamin E and essential oils then mix thoroughly. Pour into a resealable jar and label accordingly.

To make lotion bars, simply omit the olive or almond oil and pour the mixture into molds before storing.

With legalization sweeping the nation, many more people are turning to this form of "alternative care" to treat their many ailments. For those who want the relief of cannabis without the high, topical cannabis is becoming a popular option. It heals, protects and smells amazing.

What kind of topical cannabis are you most likely to try?


Abby Hutmacher Abby Hutmacher

Abby is a writer and founder of Cannabis Content, a marketplace designed to connect cannabis writers and creatives with businesses in the industry. She has been a professional cannabis writer since 2014 and regularly contributes to publications such as PotGuide and M&F Talent. She is also the Content Director at Fortuna Hemp, America’s leading feminized hemp seed bank. Follow Abby on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin.

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