Cannabidiol (CBD) now comes in every possible form, so it’s important you know when to use what. CBD is perhaps most often ingested somehow, through eating or smoking. However, CBD is being put into things that have caused some curious onlookers to question their efficacy. Let’s take a look at CBD topicals — typically a lotion or salve — and see what they are and if they work. As with any cannabis product, your mileage may vary because our body chemistry is different, and our ailments may be symptoms of a larger issue. Consult a doctor if you have specific concerns.

Naysayers who think cannabis is just for smoking are naturally inclined to disbelieve in the therapeutic uses of topicals with CBD in them. In fact, cannabinoids like THC and CBD operate on the body’s cannabinoid receptors. There are two main types of these receptors: CB1 and CB2. Of course, the body makes its own endocannabinoids, which it uses to help regulate all sorts of things in the body. What’s interesting is that our skin also has CB1 and CB2 receptors. The problem? So far science hasn’t figured out if we’re getting enough CBD through topicals into the critical layer under the skin but before the bloodstream. In other words: There’s more research to be done on the effectiveness of CBD applied through the skin.

That’s not to say some don’t swear by CBD topicals, be they salve, poultice, cream, or lotion. In fact, for thousands of years humans have made various lotions from oils of plants, and hemp is definitely near the top of the list. Like many cannabinoid-based products, these topicals appear to work best synergistically with other compounds. Combining CBD with essential oils that open up pores a bit — mint or citrus — can allow them to penetrate deeper into the skin. Menthol seems particularly helpful as well. 

Looking to buy a CBD topical but don’t know where to start? The shelf life of these products is similar to other lotions; about six months to a year. You can find them at your local market, perhaps, but pay close attention to the ingredients. Mixing in some CBD of questionable origin with petroleum-based products isn’t likely to help you. Plant-based, natural products are the best way to start. Follow the product directions for application, but you should also have an idea of how much CBD is in what you’re putting on your skin. If not, start with very little product and increase to see if there’s any effect. You can expect to pay anywhere from a few dollars to near $100 for the better quality stuff, but the higher-end products may have lab reports available to detail their composition and potency.

You can’t overdose on CBD, and there’s really no way to O.D. on topical products with CBD unless you’re allergic to another compound in them. So try away! Effects will only last a few hours, and it could be a helpful boost to edibles or other ways you’re taking CBD for things like pain or inflammation. While the science is a little more unsettled in this area, it’s also provided benefit to some, and the products are now readily available.

Image via Flickr 


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