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Cannabis Topical: How to Make, Use and Select?

Nicole Flanigan

Written by: Nicole Flanigan

Updated on December 29, 2023

Cannabis Topical How to Make, Use and Select

When you think of cannabis products, what comes to mind? Chances are good you think of raw flower, edibles, and maybe oils and tinctures. But did you know that you can also find topical products? Cannabis topical products come in a wide range of types, and they can offer some interesting differences to more traditional options. From THC creams to weed lotion formulations, there’s something for just about everyone.

What Is a Cannabis Topical?

What are marijuana topicals? These are products specially designed to be applied to the skin rather than consumed orally. They’re also infused with THC. You’ll find THC creams, marijuana lotions, ointments, and oils. These products can also be applied to the body in different ways. For instance, you might roll one on while another is designed to be rubbed into the skin. Some of them are even designed for soaking.

In addition to the variety of product types and application methods, you’ll find that cannabis topical options also come with different ingredients. Some of them contain just THC, while others may contain a combination of THC and CBD. Yet others contain CBD and other cannabinoids but no THC. This variety ensures that you’re able to find a cannabis rub or weed lotion that offers the effects that you prefer.

Now that you know a little more about what cannabis topicals are, let’s dig into their benefits.

What Are the Benefits of Cannabis Topical?

Cannabis topicals are nothing new. They’ve been used for thousands of years around the world to alleviate pain, reduce swelling, and offer other health benefits. However, modern medicine is just now catching on that these products may be able to help today’s patients. Some of the potential health benefits you may see from using THC creams, ointments, oils, or salves include the following:

  • Anti-inflammatory Action: Medical marijuanas cream and other topical products may be able to reduce inflammation when applied to the skin. That’s good news for those who suffer from all types of arthritis.
  • Pain Relief: When applied to the skin, products that contain THC can also alleviate pain. That benefits those with arthritis, but also those suffering from certain nerve-related conditions, such as peripheral neuropathy.
  • Wound Healing: Weed topicals don’t just improve pain and treat inflammation. There is evidence that they can also accelerate wound healing, which is good news for those struggling with slow-to-heal wounds.
  • Skin Health: Skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis cause discomfort, pain, and itching. Weed topicals show promise in stopping that itching and discomfort. They may also help reduce the duration of outbreaks and flare-ups.
  • Tension and Anxiety: Anxiety is the disease of our time. More people than ever seem to be affected by it. A cannabis rub could help ease those emotions and reduce tension. In turn, that reduction may also reduce stress and stress-related health impacts.
  • Acne Treatment: Cannabis topicals contain powerful antioxidants that can work to help clear up acne and leave skin looking healthy, young, and fresh.

Side Effect of Cannabis Topical

While cannabis does not have the same problems we associate with prescription drugs, it can cause side effects. It’s important to understand the potential implications of using cannabis topical products. One of the most important is that cannabis interacts with hundreds of medications, so always talk to your doctor before using a weed lotion, ointment, cream, or lotion.

CBD also interacts with medications, so don’t assume that just because your product doesn’t contain THC it’s free of side effects. Other potential side effects that you may see include skin irritation and rash, headaches, dry mouth, reduced appetite, drowsiness, and more.

Some patients have reported skin blistering and discoloration. However, most side effects are rare and affect fewer patients than prescription topical products do.

How Do Cannabis Topical Work?

How do cannabis topicals work? The secret lies within the body’s endocannabinoid system. Scientists are just beginning to figure out how it works, but they do know it affects virtually every function of the body, from nerve operation to the body’s inflammatory response. The endocannabinoid system is broken into three components.

First, some endocannabinoids work a lot like cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. Second, there are receptors throughout the nervous system that interact with and are triggered by these endocannabinoids.

Finally, there are metabolic enzymes responsible for breaking down the body’s endocannabinoids. Cannabis topicals introduce cannabinoids to the body’s endocannabinoid system, where they interact with the nervous system to create a localized, immediate reaction, such as pain relief or a reduction in inflammation.

Note that both THC and CBD can bind with these receptors, but because the THC doesn’t enter the bloodstream, it doesn’t provide any psychoactive effects (you will not get high from using a THC salve).

How to Make Cannabis Topical Cream?

Interested in making weed topicals? It’s a pretty simple process and you can do it at home without any special equipment. Note that the process we’ll talk about can be used with either THC or CBD.

The first step you’ll need to take is called decarboxylation. This is the process of activating the THC in your flower (you’ll need raw cannabis flower, too). Just line a baking sheet with parchment paper, add your flower, and then bake it at 250 degrees F for around 30 minutes. If you’re shooting for CBD activation instead of THC, you’ll need to bake it for around an hour.

Next, you’ll need to add a cup and a half of coconut oil to the top part of a double boiler. Don’t have a double boiler? Use two pots, one on top of the other. Add water to the bottom and bring it to a boil. Melt the coconut oil and then add in the decarboxylated flower. Cook the mixture for 45 minutes or so, but keep the temperature under 200 degrees F.

When you’re done, strain the oil into a container, such as a large bowl. You can let this cool and use it as is, or you can turn it into a salve by mixing it with melted beeswax and your choice of herbs or aromatics (spearmint, for instance).

How to Use Topical?

Wondering how to use marijuana cream? It’s pretty simple. Just get a small amount on the tips of your fingers and then massage it into the affected area. Reapply it as necessary. You’ll use the same process for most products, including medical marijuanas cream, cannabis ointment, marijuana salve, and other THC topicals. Depending on the product’s formulation, you may want to wear gloves during the application process. If you don’t, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly when you’re done to remove any residual topical cannabis.

How to Select the Right Cannabis Topical?

Choosing the right cannabis topicals is important. They’re not all created equal. You’ll want to consider the condition you want to treat and the ingredients in the cannabis topical you’re thinking about. For instance, mint can create a cooling effect, while cayenne pepper creates a warming sensation. Look for products specifically formulated to address your health concerns, whether that’s treating arthritis, eczema, acne, or something completely different. Make sure to pay attention to the ratio of THC or CBD in the product. The higher the concentration, the more benefits you’ll see, usually.

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Nicole Flanigan
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