How do they work?
Topicals are cannabis-infused salves, lotions and oils that are absorbed through the skin for localized relief of pain, inflammation and soreness.
They are non-intoxicating so patients who want the therapeutic benefits of cannabis without the psychoactive effects associated with other delivery methods tend to favor them.
Cannabis-infused salves, lotions, oils and other transdermal methods of relief work by binding to a network of receptors called CB2. These CB2 receptors are found throughout the body and are activated either by the body’s naturally occurring endocannabinoids or by cannabis compounds known as phytocannabinoids. CB2 receptors are found in the skin’s epidermal cells and sensory nerves. When cannabis topicals are applied, the cannabinoids fuse to the receptors in these cells causing specific effects such as pain relief and/or anti-inflammatory response. Needless to say the exact effect of a cannabis topical all depends on the ingredients, including the cannabinoid content.
A topical containing active THC it will not cause one to have the psychoactive effects associated with the “high” from smoking or ingesting cannabis. With most topicals, cannabinoids can’t breach the bloodstream; they only penetrate to the system of CB2 receptors, it needs to enter the bloodstream and pass the blood/brain barrier to have any psychoactive effect.
However as everyone’s endocannabinoid system is unique, there is circumstantial evidence of people experiencing psychoactivity from having a very low tolerance, higher potency topicals, or a combination of both. As with any new cannabis medicine, one should investigate how they will react when free of obligations in order to fully comprehend how the medicine interacts with their body.
Topicals are popularly selected for localized pain relief, tension, inflammation and muscle soreness, but anecdotal support is beginning to show an increasing range of even more potential benefits, from headaches and cramping to dermatitis, itching, eczema and even psoriasis.
Different topicals have different benefits to offer depending on the ingredients used and how they are processed. For instance, a CBD rich salve infused with cooling essential oils such as peppermint or wintergreen is a great way to soothe sore tired muscles after a workout or extreme hike. Whereas a THC nourished salve with heat activating sensations is excellent for localized pain relief from arthritis or inflammation from joint or nerve pain.