How to Use CBD Topicals – and How Do They Work?
Since the 2018 Farm Bill legalized industrial hemp which contains 0.3% THC or less, the CBD industry has very clearly skyrocketed. Since then, safety and refining measures have been put into place to truly optimize the quality of CBD products. Now, we see more users than ever start incorporating CBD into their daily lives.
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is the most abundant compound found in the hemp plant and the most abundant non-psychoactive component found within cannabis plants. Though it is considered non-psychoactive compared to THC, it does still have a variety of medicinal properties that are still being studied to this day. In fact, it can’t be completely called “non-psychoactive” because it does influence the central nervous system – however, when compared to THC, it is non-psychoactive for all intents and purposes.
So far, we have promising research from clinical trials and publications regarding CBD. While we mostly have animal studies to go off of right now, animals share a big thing in common with us: they also have endocannabinoid systems.
How Many People are Using CBD?
As of August 2019, in fact, at least 14% of adults in the United States are already using a CBD product of some kind. The majority of users in the poll this statistic is based on use CBD for a specific set of purposes. The most popular symptoms reported included pain, anxiety, and sleep, with other symptoms including headaches, arthritis, stress, depression, skin health, inflammation, general wellness or overall health, and much more.
Since the rise in popularity of CBD products, users across the nation have narrowed in on their favorites. While the most popular method might still be CBD tinctures, CBD topicals are also rising in use and favor. The sheer variety of CBD topicals on the market make it easy to find a topical right for you, too. From creams to lotions to anything in between, there are a tremendous array of topicals to choose from.
The Issue with All These Choices
From your face to your feet, there is a CBD topical out there formulated to be the most effective. Unfortunately, the problem with variety is that it can become too difficult, even downright overwhelming, for users to choose a CBD topical themselves. Another issue is the variety and countless options for CBD brands means lack of consistent quality for some brands.
Today, we want to touch on CBD topicals that are best formulated to be effective. Let’s dive into what CBD topicals are, how they work, and everything in between.
What are CBD Topicals?
A CBD topical works targeted areas across the body for pain, inflammation, and other symptoms faster than certain other CBD methods. The biggest difference between CBD topicals and most other CBD products is the topical never has to be ingested to be consumed.
Some researchers believe that topical applications may work faster by breaking through the skin barrier instead of metabolizing through the digestive system. Unlike most commercially available ingestible CBD products, though, CBD topicals are not meant to reach the bloodstream, so they may not have the same effect on you as an ingestible CBD product.
How Do CBD Topicals Work?
Our endocannabinoid system is made up of different types of cannabinoid receptors; namely, CB1 and CB2. While CB1 receptors are primarily found in the spinal cord, parts of the brain, and the central nervous system, and CB2 receptors are found mainly in the immune system, it is interesting to know both receptors are also found on the skin.
Now, you may be thinking – does that mean our body specifically has receptors for the compounds found within cannabis plants? Well, not exactly.
CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids simply look almost molecularly identical; not just to each other, but also to the natural cannabinoids we produce. Since the molecules look similar enough, some can activate CB receptors across the body, like THC, and some can interact to better regulate those receptors, like CBD.
Our endocannabinoid system, also known as the most recently discovered bodily function, may play a role in a massive variety of other functions throughout the body. From our immune system to the release of hormones in our brain, to memory and metabolism, our endocannabinoid system plays a part.
CBD topicals work by interacting with the cannabinoid receptors across our skin, but it interacts with these receptors by binding to other receptors involved in multiple different pathways. People report the most common medical reason for using CBD is to manage chronic or joint pain, so the fact that CBD salves and other topicals are becoming more popular makes sense. Salves are one of the easiest ways to get relief from target areas across the skin that cause pain, inflammation, and more.
What to Consider Before Buying Topical CBD Products
First, CBD creams have the lowest chance of side effects, because they are not meant to be ingested. In fact, some studies found essentially zero side effects, even for high doses of CBD up to 900mg. Likewise, drug interactions between CBD and other prescriptions are not found when CBD is used topically instead. This is an important reason someone might consider using a topical instead of a transdermal treatment option.
In addition, the use of the term “topical” means that a CBD product has to be effective enough to penetrate the skin to produce an effect, but not deep enough that it hits the bloodstream. A topical cream absorbing well enough into the skin to hit the bloodstream is considered a “transdermal” skin application, rather than truly topical.
Once it’s in your bloodstream, it has the chance to hit the other CB receptors throughout your body, including the ones in your brain. Some may find a bigger benefit to that, though their topical CBD product would still be mislabeled.
If you are worried your CBD product is more transdermal than topical and you run the risk of it getting into your bloodstream, remember that this is unlikely. As of yet, there are limited patents on “water-soluble” CBD, which would make the CBD molecules much easier to pass through the skin barrier. Instead, most CBD products are hydrophobic, staying on the outer layer of skin or accumulating in the sebaceous glands.
Is CBD Cream Just a Placebo?
With limited information available on the subject, some are willing to believe that CBD topicals are just another snake oil gimmick. Likewise, with the CBD industry so under-regulated, commercially available CBD topical products may not provide the sufficient dose needed for relief.
Always pay attention to the ingredients in your CBD topical, however. We do not always know what’s in a CBD product, so use your best researching skills to look at a CBD brand’s web platform in full before deciding to buy. They should have a section where you can see their third-party lab results for every batch of product, as well as list the ingredients in each formula visibly in each product description.
What the Research Says About CBD Topicals
In a rat model of arthritis, researchers looked at the effects of transdermal cannabidiol on inflammation and pain-related behaviors. The study examined the true efficacy transdermal CBD applications might have on the reduction of pain and inflammation, as well as assessing any adverse effects that could happen to the rats.
The results from the data shows that CBD topical applications might have a therapeutic potential for relieving arthritis-related symptoms, such as pain and inflammation, without any evident side effects. Since a whopping 50 million US adults were diagnosed with arthritis in the years between 2007 and 2009, solutions to providing relief for such a condition is becoming crucial.
A larger review looked at the most compelling research that’s been found for using cannabinoids for pain, examining 79 previous studies to cross-analyze the results and discover some conclusions. Unfortunately, only 4 of the 79 studies looked exclusively at CBD instead of CBD and THC together. The results demonstrated that we can assume CBD might be able to help address pain relief, but we don’t have the evidence we need to support it just yet.
Instead, we primarily have animal studies leading the charge. And while we do have positive results for those, we’re eager to see human study equivalents that can better test and confirm the hypotheses we’ve set up.
We now know more about CBD topicals and how they’re used. Today, you learned everything to consider when buying your first CBD topical product. Have you ever tried a CBD topical before? Did you find pain or inflammation relief across target areas on your body? We look forward to learning about your experience