8 Ways Cannabis Topicals Benefit The Skin

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Discover the incredible health benefits of cannabis applied directly to the skin. Cannabis topicals like balms, salves, and lotions may help relieve pain and anxiety, have a quick onset time, and product no intoxicating high effects.

8 Ways Cannabis Topicals Benefit The Skin

The Benefits of Cannabis Topicals

Cannabis topicals are any type of cannabis products that are applied directly to the skin. Popular topical products on the marketplace today include cannabis oils, balms, ointments, bath salts, salves, lotions, perfumes, personal arousal products.

Topicals continue to grow in popularity as cannabis use grows across the country, and as consumers quickly see their benefits ranging from pain-relief to inflammation-relief.

Historically, ancient Chinese medicine has used cannabis topical applications to treat skin ulcers, fungal infections, and wounds, and more. Today, many of my cannabis students have already discovered the pain-relieving benefits of cannabis topicals and love their fast-acting response time.

Applying cannabinoids to the skin provides localized pain relief along with important anti-inflammatory benefits. Delta-8, 9 THC, and THCV exert anti-inflammatory effects when applied topically. Anti-bacterial activity is found in CBD, CBG, and their acid forms.

Cannabis topicals have been scientifically proven to treat a variety of skin conditions from acne, contact dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, pruritus, psoriasis, skin cancer, and more (1).

Anecdotally they have been claimed to provide relief from arthritis, skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, fungal infections, and other skin ailments like cuts, scrapes, and bug bites.

Topically Applied Cannabis Will Not Get You High

One of the major benefits of applying cannabis to the skin is that it will not produce intoxicating effects as often seen with cannabis inhalation or cannabis edibles.

This means that cannabis applied to the skin, even THC, will not get you high. 

Depending on your desired experience, this no-high application method may be a major benefit and great alternative for using cannabis, especially for new cannabis consumers.

When cannabinoids are applied directly to the skin, they interact with our CB2 cannabinoid receptors, a part of our Endocannabinoid system. This is the reason topicals provide a localized, anti-inflammatory response.

Cannabinoids, like CBD or THC, applied directly to the skin penetrate into epidermis only and are not absorbed directly into the bloodstream. Because THC applied topically does not enter the bloodstream, it, therefore, does not produce an intoxicating effect.

Additionally, it is not believed that topically applied cannabinoids like THC will show up in the bloodstream or urine when tested (2). 

Full-Spectrum Cannabis Topicals Are Best

The cannabis plant itself contains over 500 biologically active compounds. It is believed that the combination of all of the different compounds – cannabinoids, terpenes, and more – make cannabis so effective. This term for synergy is known as The Entourage Effect. 

Full-spectrum means that a wide range of cannabinoids are included, including THC. You will get the most benefits from a full-spectrum topical because all of the cannabinoids work together synergistically to provide the body with what it needs.

For example, it is believed that:

  • Cannabis topicals have antibacterial activity due to the concentration of cannabinoids of CBD, CBG, and their acid forms, CBDA, and CBGA, respectively
  • Cannabis topicals have the benefits of multiple forms of THC. THCA, Delta-9 THC, and THCV exert anti-inflammatory effect when applied topically 

Topicals May Be An Option for Children

Because the cannabinoids like CBD and THC are not directly absorbed into the bloodstream, cannabis topical applications may be a viable application option for using cannabis with children. 

The lack of intoxicating effects ensures no unwanted outcomes, while still delivering important cannabinoid medicine as needed. Of course, this should be discussed with your healthcare provider. 

Topical Onset and Duration Times

Cannabis applied to the skin will have a typical onset time of effects anywhere from 15-30 minutes and have an average duration of effects anywhere from 2-4 hours. 

Remember, because topical cannabis is not absorbed into the bloodstream, it can be reapplied as often as needed throughout the day.

8 Ways Cannabis Can Benefit The Skin

8 Ways Cannabis Can Benefit The Skin

Many people are now beginning to appreciate the benefits of adding cannabis-infused products to their skincare routine.

Cannabis-infused skin care products tout both the nutritional benefits of hemp seed oil and the medicinal benefits of cannabinoids in CBD oil.

However, it is important to remember that hemp seed oil is not the same as CBD oil. Using cannabis directly on the skin may result in the following positive results:

1. Topicals Provide Pain Relief

Anecdotal reports have identified cannabidiol, CBD, as providing immense pain-relieving effects, and now scientific studies are beginning to support the theory. 

As stated by Harvard Health, “CBD may offer an option for treating different types of chronic pain” (3). They also mention several studies that show the beneficial use of CBD for arthritis pain. Additional studies show that CBD may help reduce chronic pain and inflammation.

2. Potentially Reduce Anxiety and Depression

Cannabis oils, applied topically or otherwise, are often used to manage the symptoms of anxiety and depression, under the care of a medical doctor or not. The cannabinoid CBD, cannabidiol, has the most evidence to support its antidepressant and anti-anxiolytic properties  (4). 

There is not yet enough significant clinical evidence to support the use of topical cannabis to treat anxiety or depression, but that doesn’t mean many people don’t use cannabis for this exact reason.

A lack of better medical options or unwanted side effects associated with prescription medications is just a few major factors that have led to many living with these disorders to embrace a more natural approach to healthcare.

If you are brand new to using cannabis, be sure to check out this Beginners Guide to Using CBD Oil to Manage Anxiety

3. Alleviate Cancer-Related Symptoms

Cancer-related side-effects that stem from cancer treatment such as nausea, pains, and vomiting can be treated with cannabis and is one of the main qualifying conditions of receiving a Medical Marijuana Card. 

Cannabis oil may help alleviate cancer-related pain. One study found that cannabis oral sprays containing both CBD and THC “generally well tolerated, with no evidence of a loss of effect for the relief of cancer-related pain with long-term use” (5). 

4. Alleviate of Symptoms Associated with Neurological Disorders 

Oral sprays containing CBD, like prescription medication Sativex, have been used in order to reduce muscle spasticity and reduce epilepsy seizures in children. They may also prevent neurological degeneration of people with Alzheimer’s disease, as CBD has been found to be a powerful neuroprotectant (6).

Many caretakers who care for loved ones with advancing neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s or dementia use cannabis topicals to bring pain relief and a sense of calm to their loved ones, without introducing any potential intoxicating effects.

5. Reduce Signs of Aging Skin

It is believed that hemp seed oil may play a key role in ensuring your skin stays healthy, hydrated, and good looking. While hemp seed oil does not contain cannabinoids, producers claim that using hemp seed oil-infused products may still reduce the visible signs of aging on your skin due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

6. Alleviate Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a chronic illness that causes the appearance of patches of abnormal skin, forming of scales, and red spots. While more scientific research is needed, there is preliminary evidence to suggest that cannabis may be a novel treatment for psoriasis (7).

Both hemp seed oil and CBD oil contain anti-inflammatory features which may be attributed to the soothing effect often seen by individuals managing psoriasis. 

7. Serve As a Potential Solution for Acne

Could hemp seed oil or CBD oil be the next big trend in acne solutions?

It is believed that cannabis oil has the ability to inhibit oil production, a major underlying factor in the cause of acne (2). Additionally, it is known that hemp seed and CBD oil  has anti-inflammatory properties. These properties may help to reduce the unwanted effects often seen on acne-prone skin.

8. Cannabis Can Moisturize The Skin

When applied topically, cannabis oil helps to hydrate and moisturize the skin. Cannabis-infused oil has the perfect balance of nutrients to help prevent or stop the peeling of skin, rough patches and cracks. 

Cannabis Topicals Wrap Up

Cannabis topicals have tremendous potential health benefits. They are currently being used to help people manage pain, inflammation, anxiety, skin conditions and more.

One of the major draws to cannabis topicals is that they do not produce any intoxicating effects when applied, even THC. This no-high is perfect for new cannabis users or people who do not want to get high.

If you are looking for more in-depth information on cannabis topicals and how to use them to improve your specific conditions, I invite you to learn more in my Cannabis Compass Online Course. I have an entire lesson dedicated to cannabis application methods, including topical applications. 

Make Your Own Cannabis Topicals At Home 

There are many benefits of making your own cannabis topicals at home including cost savings and control over your ingredients and final products. Below are our favorite cannabis topical recipes that you can try at home including our favorite cannabis lip balm, cannabis massage oil, and cannabis salve.

Purchase Your Own Cannabis Topicals to Try Today

There are many wonderful cannabis topical products out on the market today. Below are a few of my favorite store-bought CBD topicals you can buy and have shipped directly to you!

Purchase My Favorite Cannabis Topical Products

Make Your Own Cannabis Topicals at Home


Updated June 7th, 2020
1 – Eagleston LRM;Kalani NK;Patel RR;Flaten HK;Dunnick CA;Dellavalle RP; “Cannabinoids in Dermatology: A Scoping Review.” Dermatology Online Journal, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30142706/.

2 – B;, Hess C;Krämer M;Madea. “Topical Application of THC Containing Products Is Not Able to Cause Positive Cannabinoid Finding in Blood or Urine.” Forensic Science International, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28122323/.

3 – Grinspoon, Peter. “Cannabidiol (CBD) – What We Know and What We Don’t.” Harvard Health Blog, 22 Apr. 2020, www.health.harvard.edu/blog/cannabidiol-cbd-what-we-know-and-what-we-dont-2018082414476.

4 – de Mello Schier AR;de Oliveira Ribeiro NP;Coutinho DS;Machado S;Arias-Carrión O;Crippa JA;Zuardi AW;Nardi AE;Silva AC; “Antidepressant-like and Anxiolytic-Like Effects of Cannabidiol: A Chemical Compound of Cannabis Sativa.” CNS & Neurological Disorders Drug Targets, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24923339/.

5 – Johnson, Jeremy R., et al. “An Open-Label Extension Study to Investigate the Long-Term Safety and Tolerability of THC/CBD Oromucosal Spray and Oromucosal THC Spray in Patients With Terminal Cancer-Related Pain Refractory to Strong Opioid Analgesics.” Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, Elsevier, 7 Nov. 2012, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0885392412004393.

6 – Echo. “CBD Has Antioxidant and Neuroprotective Properties. What Does That Mean?” ECHO Connection, 13 Dec. 2017, echoconnection.org/cbd-has-antioxidant-and-neuroprotective-properties-what-does-that-mean/.

7 – M;, Derakhshan N;Kazemi. “Cannabis for Refractory Psoriasis-High Hopes for a Novel Treatment and a Literature Review.” Current Clinical Pharmacology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27164964/.

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