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Marijuana Topicals: A Closer Look. Marijuana buds and a clear container.

Cannabis Topicals: A Closer Look

In an industry exploding with growth and opportunity, no segment offers more potential for new product development than topicals. For those not yet familiar with topicals and how they can complement the typical flower, concentrates, and edibles found in most dispensaries, let’s define exactly what topicals are and how they can serve the needs of a customers looking for an alternative to more traditional methods of cannabis consumption for the relief of pain and other ailments.

Topical medications are defined as substances applied to specific areas of the body—usually the skin—for relief of a physical malady or side effects, such as itching. Common types of topicals can range from cortisone cream to lotions that moisturize the skin. Many athletes are familiar with over-the-counter topicals like liquid heat or Ben Gay™ to sooth sore muscles and joints. Cannabis topicals have existed since the legal cannabis industry’s inception, but growth, while steady, has lagged behind some of the more obvious cannabis products that are smoked, vaped, or consumed orally.

Let’s take a look at what types of products fall under the definition of traditional topical products. Like the previously mentioned lotions and creams, topicals also include balms, salves, lubricants, ointments, moisturizers, serums, and rubs. They can also include bath products, facial cleansers, scrubs, and exfoliating products. Many of these products are used more by women than by men, but various lines of topical products often have various fragrances and purposes that appeal to both genders.

Rather than systemic absorption of cannabinoids like many cannabis products, such as concentrates, flower, and edibles, cannabis topicals most often provide a localized effect. In other words, they affect the area of the body on which they are used—much like a local anesthetic a dentist administers numbs only a portion of the mouth.

There is a cannabis topical that will work in various ways for nearly anyone. The numerous benefits of these topicals and the best times to use them include the following.

Pain Relief

One of the most common applications for topicals is for the reduction of pain, either acute or chronic pain. A case of tendonitis that can manifest itself in the form of common discomfort like “tennis elbow” or recurring pain from knee injuries are just two conditions well-suited for topical treatment. Many heat rubs available at your local pharmacy help in a similar way, but they lack the amazing healing power of infused tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabidiol (CBD) to provide the amazing relief that only cannabinoids can provide.

Soothing cannabis topicals in the form of creams, oils, and lotions can also ease the discomfort that occurs with muscle pain or swelling. They are known to be fast-acting and effective.

Arthritis Treatment and Inflammation Reducer

Hundreds of millions of people worldwide suffer from various levels of arthritis, and this debilitating condition is pervasive in our society. Cannabis topicals have great potential for providing relief to those suffering from arthritis. Arthritis leads to swelling of the joints and causes pain, and some cannabinoids are known to help both conditions because of their anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties.

Creams, lotions, and oils rich in THCA and CBD help arthritic patients. THC in its acidic form (THCA) and CBD work well together to provide relief to both joint inflammation and the pain associated with it. People afflicted with arthritis pain usually find relief through using cannabis topicals.

Massage Therapy

Nearly everyone enjoys a relaxing massage, and cannabis topicals can provide a wonderfully soothing addition to traditional massage therapy. They complement and enhance the already-relaxing effects of a good massage experience and add potent relief to sore and tense muscles. A massage with cannabis oils can kick the experience into high gear.

In Denver, Colorado, massage businesses and spas that offer cannabis-infused massage therapy are on the rise and are growing in popularity. Feedback from customers is consistently good, so there is no reason these specialized massages won’t continue to grow in popularity in the Rockies as well as in other legal marijuana sectors of the country.

Skin Beautification

Cannabis is known to have anti-aging properties and applications for skin beautification. Sugar scrubs that contain cannabis and cannabis-infused facial creams and moisturizers can reduce crow’s feet and wrinkles, resulting in smoother, softer skin.

Some cannabinoids, including THC, protect cannabis leaves from harmful things in their environment, like excessive UV rays and fungi. We all know that excessive UV rays can damage the skin, too, resulting in serious conditions like skin cancer. Pollutants in our daily environment have a detrimental effect on skin, too. The application of topicals to the skin helps protect it, moisturizes it, and results in a more youthful glow.

Skin Infections and Irritation

Rashes, scratches, abrasions, and sores that can occur from a wide variety of causes will benefit from applying cannabis topicals to the affected areas. Bee and wasp stings, as well as flea bites, can also cause skin irritation, swelling, and discomfort that will respond well to cannabis topicals. Since itching often accompanies these conditions, anti-itching agents as well as cannabinoids for discomfort work in combination to soothe and heal sore areas.

The antibacterial properties in cannabinoids and related topicals products are not yet fully understood and warrant additional research, but there have been many indications they can help heal wounds as well as relieve pain and reduce swelling. Many people find that they not only heal damaged skin but also renew and enhance the skin.

Relaxation and Aromatherapy

Cannabis topicals have wonderful applications for aromatherapy, particularly with bath products. Whether it’s an infused bubble bath, bath balm, or bath salts, submerging oneself in a deep, warm bath containing one of these products is a great way to melt away daily stress.

Cannabis bath bombs are sold in both THC and CBD versions, and many are intended to either rejuvenate or relax. Whether it’s a rejuvenating and energizing peppermint aroma, or the relaxing and soothing aroma of chamomile and lilac, there is a cannabis bath product with the scent and cannabinoid dosage to meet your needs.

Do Cannabis Topicals Get You High?

Cannabis topicals have multiple benefits for the human body without the euphoric high so often associated with marijuana consumption. Regardless of whether a cannabis topical contains THC rather than CBD and regardless of whether or not it’s rubbed into the skin or soothes the skin in a warm bath, cannabis topicals will not get you high—and they will not make you fail a drug test.

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Just like rubbing alcohol that’s massaged into the skin won’t make a person drunk, cannabis topicals do not cause a person to get high. The cannabinoids do not enter the bloodstream because they are applied to the skin and only affect the cannabinoid receptors in the skin. The one exception to cannabinoids entering the bloodstream through contact with the skin is transdermal patches, such as the ones smokers wear when trying to kick the habit of smoking tobacco. There also are transdermal patches that contain THC and/or CBD; these patches absorb into the body differently and absorb into the bloodstream. Using these patches could cause a person to fail a drug test.

To learn more about the benefits cannabis topicals provide, chances are good that your local dispensary or adult-use store already stocks some of these products. Ask to see the products they offer, and if your favorite location doesn’t yet stock them, chances are they will soon. If you want to try them right now, go online and peruse the inventory of cannabis businesses in your area. No doubt you will find a range of interesting products that contain cannabinoids. Try one today, and see why cannabis topicals are a valued and growing segment of today’s cannabis industry.

Fred Hernandez - Cannabis industry expert writer
Fred Hernandez

Fred Hernandez is a highly accomplished and versatile writer, boasting an extensive background in the cannabis industry. With an in-depth understanding of various sectors including cultivators, processors, retailers, and brands, Fred's expertise spans across the entire cannabis landscape. As a prominent contributor to CTU, he consistently delivers insightful articles exploring the latest developments, news, and regulations shaping the cannabis industry. Whether it's delving into the intricacies of cannabis products, cannabis strain reviews, or providing comprehensive analyses of cannabis laws, or sharing expert insights on cannabis cultivation techniques, Fred's wealth of knowledge positions him as an invaluable writer and educator for all cannabis-related subjects.

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