While smoking, vaping and edibles are now all mainstream methods of benefiting from medical marijuana, topical applications are still something of a niche area, so much so that they may need a little explanation.

Cannabis topicals are simply a means of delivering cannabis directly onto the skin.  While the skin is the inner body’s barrier against the outer world, it does have a very small degree of permeability in the form of skin pores.  These are what allows sweat to pass through the skin on its way out of the body and they also allow very tiny substances, such as the beneficial cannabiniods (CBD, THC, THCA) to pass through the skin and into the bloodstream.  Once the cannabis topicals are in the blood, they bind themselves to CB2 receptors within the body, which activate their healing properties.  Using cannabis in this way allows users to get the same range of therapeutic benefits as found in smoking, vaping and edibles, but with a minimal high.

What does a Cannabis Topical treat more effectively?Salves and balms made with marijuana

As their name suggests, cannabis topicals are great for when you want to treat pain in a specific location, but they can also be used for general body pain.  At current time, cannabis topicals are mainly used to treat pain relief, muscular soreness and inflammation but as research develops, cannabis topics are becoming both more targeted and more diverse.  For example, commercial producers of topicals are actively seeking out cannabis strains, which are known for their ability to treat specific ailments are are combining them with complementary therapeutic plants for added benefits.  They are also creating remedies for a wider range of conditions, from skin conditions such as psoriasis and dermatitis) to headaches and cramps.  Users who suffer from inflammation may very well find that cannabis topicals are more beneficial for them than other methods of using medical marijuana since active THC is less effective on inflammation than THCA and/or CBD.

Cannabis topicals compared with Rick Simpson Oil

Rick Simpson Oil, also known as RSO, was developed by a man named Rick Simpson as a treatment for skin cancer.  Originally Rick Simpson applied his oil directly to the cancerous growths on his skin, basically using it as a cannabis topical and its success was what convinced him of the benefits of medical marijuana in general and cannabis topicals in particular.  These days, however, RSO tends to be consumed internally, which arguably makes it more of an edible than a cannabis topical.

While the cannabis oil (and other plant extracts) offer the headline benefits, the choice of carrier medium can bring further therapeutic qualities in its own right.  It certainly plays a role in how the cannabis topical acts.

What are the different types of Cannabis Topicals?

Oils – these are very often used in aromatherapy as they are affordable, easy to apply and are absorbed quickly.  As they are essentially liquid, they take up far more storage space than some of the other options and, of course, there is the risk of spillage.  Having said that, they’re still very useful for treating larger areas.

cream mixed with cannabis budsLotions – are somewhat thicker than oils, but more liquid than creams.  This extra thickness can give them a more luxurious feeling than oils.  They are still quite bulky and care has to be taken to avoid spilling them, although if a bottle of lotion is tipped over, it will empty more slowly than a bottle of oil.  Again, lotions are best used for treating large areas.  They take a bit longer to be absorbed than oils, but are still quite quick to act.

Creams – come in varying thicknesses, but even the thinnest of them is much thicker than a lotion.  Their thickness can make them really luxurious to apply, but also relatively slow to be absorbed.  They are, however, more compact to store and less vulnerable to being spilled.  They are best for treatments of relatively small areas, such as the face, hands and feet, which is why the beauty industry tends to sell them for these parts of the body.  Creams are excellent for when you want an overnight treatment and you may find it helpful to invest in gloves and/or socks to wear in bed to prevent the cream being rubbed off.

Balms – the name of balm derives from balsamic resin and refers to the fact that in their solid state balms are thick and sticky.  Their thickness means you can carry a lot of them in a very small space.  They are also absorbed very quickly.  Balms are great for quick treatments of small areas, which is why they’re often used on the lips.marijuana bath salts

Bath salts – are very compact to store although you do have to make sure that they are kept in an airtight container.  The downside to bath salts is that they can only be used when you are in a bath or at least when you can soak the relevant part of your body in hot water.  If, however, you suffer from pain in your feet and hands, then they can be an excellent treatment since you also get the soothing effects of the hot water along with the benefit of the cannabis itself.

Once you have chosen the type of cannabis topical carrier you want, it is highly recommended to check the ingredients in the actual carrier as these can make a big difference to its overall quality and effectiveness and its suitability to your particular situation.  Sometimes there will literally be only one ingredient (as is often the case with oils and sometimes with bath salts) and sometimes there will be many (such as with balms and creams).  Ideally you want to find cannabis topicals in carriers which suit your skin type in the area where you apply it.  For example, if you are younger, you may still have oily skin on your face, but if you do a lot of manual work, you may well have dry skin on your hands.  Hence you would look for different carriers depending on whether you wanted to treat your face or your hands and if you wanted to treat both, you would probably be best to use two different cannabis topicals.