Cannabis Topicals: A Beginner’s Guide

Photo Credit: Leaf Science

Photo Credit: Leaf Science

Many medical marijuana patients look to cannabis topicals like ointments, creams, and lotions, for symptom relief without any psychoactive side effects. When applied to affected areas of the body, topicals can provide localized pain relief from sore muscles, itchiness from skin conditions like eczema, or joint pain from arthritis. Unlike other methods of ingestion, topicals can target specific areas of the body without affecting others. With topicals, cannabinoids are absorbed through the skin before interacting with the endocannabinoid system. According to Dr. Ethan Russo, MD., both CB1 and CB2 receptors are present in the skin and involved with regulating pain, itching, and inflammation caused by many dermatological conditions. The skin acts as a difficult barrier, so THC is prevented from entering the bloodstream and therefore does not produce the psychoactive effect so commonly associated with marijuana. In fact, one study published in the journal Forensic Science International found THC is not evident in blood or urine tests after consistent use of THC-based topicals.

One study from the University of Bonn's Department of Dermatology and Allergy looked at the uses of topical THC for allergic inflammation, and found cannabinoids should indeed be utilized for the treatment of inflammatory skin diseases. Another study from 2009 and published in the journal Experimental Dermatology suggested cannabinoids had "immunosuppressive properties and could be considered as potential anti-inflammatory drugs," and that topically administrated cannabis has antiprurity (anti-itching) properties for pain relief. Authors concluded, "On the basis of the current knowledge, therapeutic possibilities of cannabinoid usage in skin diseases seem to be unquestionable... Possibly, in the future, cannabinoids will be widely applied to treat pruritus, inflammatory skin diseases and even skin cancers.”

This information has been provided by Leaf Science and approved by our Chief Medical Officer.