Cannabis Topicals

Cannabis Education: Topicals

In short, any cannabis product intended to be applied to the skin is called a cannabis topical.

Cannabis topicals include lotions, oils, salves, lip balm, lubricants, transdermal patches and suppositories.

The skin is the largest organ in the body. Endogenous cannabinoid system receptors exist in nearly every organ in your body: including the skin. Specifically, there is an abundance of CB2 receptors in your skin. Cannabis topicals such as lotions, salves, and rubs applied to the skin interact with the endogenous cannabinoid system receptors located in your skin and sometimes your muscles and nerves.

To have a psychoactive cannabis experience, cannabinoids have to reach our brain, which requires that the cannabinoids reach our bloodstream. Topical lotions, salves, or rubs applied to the skin are not psychoactive because they reach only the endogenous cannabinoid receptors in your skin, sometimes extending to your nerves and muscles (not making it to your bloodstream). Transdermal patches can be psychoactive, depending on the cannabinoid ratios, due to technology designed to carry the cannabinoids to the blood via the skin. Suppositories and lubricants (if used inside your body cavity) can cause intoxication, depending on the ratio of the cannabinoids in the product. These products reach the blood via a mucosal lining of a body cavity.

CBD and THC interact differently with the receptors in the endogenous cannabinoid system. Often having both cannabinoids present can make the topical more effective. You can find varying different ratios of THC and CBD in other topicals. Each person’s body is unique, and each person’s endogenous cannabinoid system will respond differently to different ratios of cannabinoids.

You can make a cannabis-infused oil base and use it to make cannabis salve, as detailed in our blog. If you have a great lotion recipe, feel free to use the cannabis-infused oil in that recipe as well. You can also use your cannabis-infused oil base for making suppositories or lip balm!
For lotions, salves and rubs simply apply the topical to your skin and massage the topical into your skin.
The best location to apply a transdermal patch is in an area of your body where the skin is thin and highly vascular: inside of the wrists or inside of the ankles. You do not need to apply the patch to the area you are looking for effects. When you apply a transdermal patch, cannabinoids will reach the bloodstream, with systemic effects. Always avoid skin that has a tattoo, excessive hair, or sensitive skin.
Yes, you can estimate the size of the dose based on the total milligrams of cannabinoids in the whole patch. For example: if the patch contains 60mg of CBD and you cut the patch into 4 equal parts, you know that each quarter of a patch has roughly 15mg.