Guide to CBD Topicals

CBD, or cannabidiol, is gaining popularity among the health and wellness industry. This natural chemical compound comes from the cannabis plant, but unlike its notorious counterpart, THC, it contains no psychoactive properties. As a result, CBD does not get you high.

What it does do, however, is provide a whole host of health benefits. The research is still in its infancy, but scientists are finding that CBD has the power to relieve a variety of health conditions, from chronic back and arthritis pain to anxiety and epilepsy.

CBD can be ingested in several ways. Some people inhale it, others eat it. Many enjoy using CBD topicals, such as skin creams and balms. These topicals allow people to experience the effects of CBD without the taste or odor. They also appear to be particularly therapeutic for people who use CBD to treat skin issues, chronic pain, or general stress relief.

What are CBD topicals?

CBD topicals are designed to be applied topically to the skin, through rubbing or massage. Topicals themselves can take a few different forms, including:

  • Lotions and skin creams: CBD lotions and skin creams have a similar texture to the creams you use as body lotion. Like skin lotion, they include other restorative skin health-promoting ingredients, like shea butter and aloe vera.
  • Balms and salves: Like lip balms or salves you apply to your skin, CBD balms have a thicker texture due to the inclusion of beeswax and similar ingredients.
  • Oils: CBD topical oils are similar to massage oils. They have a slicker, more oily feel. (Note: CBD topical oils are distinct from “CBD oils” as a product category. In general, CBD oil describes any CBD product, as the product is made from CBD oil extracted from the hemp plant.)
  • Others: These are the main varieties of CBD topicals you’ll find today, but manufacturers are inventing innovative new formats all the time, like bath bombs and more.

With any of these varieties, it’s common to find healthy essential oils and other minerals in the ingredients list. Manufacturers add these to help promote the end result of the product’s intended use, such as adding shea butter to a CBD skin care cream.

As with any kind of CBD product, it’s mostly personal preference that determines the best topical for you. Some people simply prefer the texture of one over another.

It can also depend on what you are using the topical for. If you’re using CBD for general relaxation, you might prefer a lotion which you can easily apply all over your body. If you’re using CBD to treat lower back pain, you may find it more effective to rub a salve into your back or have a massage therapist use a topical oil.

How do CBD topicals work?

With other forms of CBD, such as inhalation or edible ingestion, the CBD enters your bloodstream directly. CBD topicals are unique in that you apply them to your skin, as opposed to ingesting them directly into your body.

Your skin isn’t very permeable, so when you rub topicals into your skin, very little CBD will enter your bloodstream. Instead, it interacts primarily with the endocannabinoid receptors located throughout your body’s endocannabinoid system.

Both endocannabinoids your body produces, as well as external cannabinoids you ingest ike CBD, can bind to and interact with these receptors. This is why CBD can be so effective; your body has built-in receptors that were designed to interact with it.

There are two main types of endocannabinoid receptors. CB1 receptors are located in your central nervous system, while CB2 receptors are located in your peripheral nervous system, immune system, and digestive system. It is these CB2 receptors that CBD topicals primarily interact with, while other forms of CBD ingestion can access both types of receptors by entering your bloodstream.

When you apply a CBD topical, the CBD engages these endocannabinoid receptors in your skin and absorbs the anti-inflammatory properties, allowing the CBD to soothe pain or relieve acne in the targeted areas.

Why use CBD topicals?

Some people prefer topicals over other types of CBD products because they enjoy the opportunity to relax and give themselves a massage. Others find CBD topicals to be particularly effective for treating chronic pain, improving skin health, and providing general relaxation.

  • Chronic pain: In a 2016 study, rats with arthritis pain were given a topical CBD gel. Within four days, the rats displayed reduced joint swelling, better paw movement, and a lower pain response.
study of cbd shows CBD topical gel relieves arthritis pain in rats
  • Skincare: The same anti-inflammatory properties that help CBD relieve pain also help it treat acne, dry skin, and psoriasis, according to multiple studies. CBD creams and lotions can soothe inflamed and irritated skin.
  • Relaxation: CBD’s analgesic and anti-anxiety properties also help it relieve general stress and pain, whether from an anxiety disorder, temporary stress, or post-exercise muscle strain.

Can CBD cream get you high?

No, CBD cream will not get you high. Unlike THC, CBD does not contain any psychoactive properties. Both THC and CBD are found in marijuana and hemp strains of the cannabis plant, but THC is the cannabinoid responsible for creating a “high” feeling. Like most CBD products, CBD creams are primarily sourced from industrial hemp, which contains 0.3% THC or less, so it will not get you high or show up on a drug test for marijuana.

Not only will CBD not get you high, but studies indicate that it can actually counteract the high produced by THC when both are ingested.

The fact that CBD can provide many of the same health benefits of marijuana, but without the high, is a large part of what makes it so attractive to people seeking out natural therapies for their health issues. It’s also popular due to its extremely rare side effects.

In fact, it’s uncommon to experience any side effects at all when using CBD. Some tiredness may occur, but it’s most common when a person is just beginning a CBD regimen. Other side effects, although rare, may include dry mouth, nausea, diarrhea, changes in appetite or weight, and low blood pressure.

Generally, CBD is very safe and well-tolerated, even in high doses. However, pregnant or breastfeeding women, as well as children, should avoid CBD. Not enough research has been done regarding the safety of CBD in these populations.

Also, if you are taking other medications, it’s best to speak with your doctor first before using CBD, in order to avoid any unpleasant side effects. When side effects do occur, they are most commonly among people taking other medications, due to the interaction between the CBD and their medication.

How to use CBD topicals

Whichever product you purchase will contain directions for use. Review these carefully and follow them. Beyond those instructions, there are also some general best practices you can follow when using topical CBD products.

  1. Only apply the topical when your skin is dry and clean. This allows your skin to fully absorb the CBD. Avoid applying CBD right before you take part in any activity where the topical is likely to wear off from water or sweat. This might include showering, swimming, or working out.
  2. Next, choose the area you want to treat. For skin issues or pain, apply it to the affected area. For overall relaxation, feel free to apply the CBD wherever. Or, choose areas that tend to benefit more from massage (in order to enhance the effect), such as your joints, wrists, shoulders, neck, or feet.
  3. Clean and dry the area first, to avoid rubbing bacteria you’ve come into contact with during the day further into your skin. Cleaning will also remove any other skincare products or lotions you may have applied
  4. Finally, apply liberally. You may even want to apply more than once. Rub the topical vigorously into your skin (not in a painful way, but in a way that really works the topical into your upper layer of skin).
  5. After applying, wash and dry your hands.

Typically, you should start to feel the effects of the CBD fairly quickly, within 5 to 20 minutes. Your pain should subside, and you should feel generally more relaxed. For skin issues, it will take more time for the CBD to work its magic.

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