cbd ointment usesDecember 15, 2021
More recent research suggests that many of CBD’s effects may occur outside of CB receptors, Jordan Tishler, M.D., medical cannabis expert at InhaleMD in Boston, tells SELF. In fact, according to a recent review published in Molecules, CBD may have effects on some serotonin receptors (known to play a role in depression and anxiety), adenosine receptors (one of the neurological targets for caffeine), and even TRPV-1 receptors (more commonly associated with taste and the sensation of spiciness).
But that’s not quite as exciting for CBD as it sounds: “We don’t know cannabidiol’s effects on its own,” says Cooper, who was part of the National Academies committee that put together this report. “[The conclusions about cannabis and cannabinoids] were based on what we know about THC or THC plus cannabidiol.”
But if you’re reading this, you are probably not a rat, which means these results aren’t directly applicable to your life. Although we know that rats do share much of our physiology—including CB1 and CB2 receptors—these studies don’t really tell us if humans would have the same results with CBD.
What is CBD?
Both THC and CBD act on a system of receptors in your body called cannabinoid receptors. You have cannabinoid receptors throughout your body and, so far, researchers have identified two major types: CB1 (found primarily in the central nervous system, including parts of the brain and spinal cord) and CB2 (found mainly in immune system tissues). Interestingly, both have been found in skin. Researchers have also found that while THC can bind to and activate both types of receptors, CBD seems to modulate and somewhat block the effects of CB1 and CB2 receptors. So, any effect that CBD has on CB receptors may actually be more related to regulating and even counteracting some of the actions of THC and other cannabinoids in the brain.
The most common medical reason for which people report using CBD is to manage chronic pain, followed closely by managing arthritis or joint pain. But does it actually work?
Then the researchers measured the inflammation in each rat’s knee joint, the level of CBD that made it into their bloodstream, and their pain-related behaviors. They found that the rats that were given the two highest doses of CBD showed significantly lower levels of inflammation and lower pain behavior scores compared to those that got the control. The two lower doses didn’t show much of an effect.
All of this points to how hard it is to study the specific effects of CBD on its own—which might be why it’s tempting to claim that it’s the cure for everything without a whole lot of research to actually back up all of those claims.
It’s totally possible (and actually pretty likely) that any effect you get from a commercially available topical CBD product is a placebo effect or related to some other aspect of the product. But there are a few things going on here that are more complex than they seem.
The studies we do have about CBD for pain are all animal studies. For example, in a 2017 study published in Pain, researchers gave rats an injection into one of their knee joints to model osteoarthritis. Rats then either received doses of CBD or saline directly into an artery in the knee joint. Results showed that, after receiving CBD, rats showed less inflammation in the joint area and fewer pain-related behaviors (like shaking or withdrawing the affected paw or not being able to bear weight in that paw) compared to those that received saline.
Here’s what the research says about using CBD for pain.
You don’t need me to tell you that CBD (cannabidiol) is everywhere. You can eat it, you can drink it, you can vape it, you can even bathe in it. And although there’s still plenty to learn about this fascinating little compound, fans of it claim that it has some pretty impressive benefits—particularly when it comes to managing pain.
“Cannabidiol is a super messy drug,” Ziva Cooper, Ph.D., research director of the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative in the Jane and Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and the department of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences, tells SELF. “It has lots and lots of targets and it’s not clear how much of its effects on each target contribute to the potential pain relieving effects.”
Why does the body have receptors for compounds in cannabis? Well, it doesn’t exactly. Cannabinoids like THC and CBD are similar enough to compounds that your body naturally makes, called endocannabinoids, that they can interact with this system. Normally, the endocannabinoid system is thought to play a role in a variety of functions in the body, helping to regulate things like parts of the immune system, the release of hormones, metabolism, and memory.
In fact, the most compelling research they found for using cannabinoids for pain came from a large review and meta-analysis published in JAMA in 2015. For the study, researchers looked at results from 79 previous studies of cannabinoids and various medical conditions, including chronic pain. However, of those studies, only four involved CBD (without THC)—none of which were looking at pain. So although we might assume that CBD is doing something to help address pain—according to the studies involving the whole cannabis plant—we don’t have great evidence to prove it.
So…is CBD cream just an expensive placebo?
“It might be that cannabidiol by itself is helpful for pain, but at this point we don’t know that,” Cooper says.
When the National Academies of Sciences, Medicine, and Engineering evaluated decades of cannabis research, they concluded that "in adults with chronic pain, patients who were treated with cannabis or cannabinoids are more likely to experience a clinically significant reduction in pain symptoms."
Personally, I always keep a few jars of it at my desk to help with the shoulder and neck muscle tension inherent in a job consisting mainly of typing and holding a phone next to my face. But it turns out that the research behind these claims is pretty sparse, to say the least. Here’s what you need to know before you give topical CBD a try.
“It actually is a very promiscuous compound,” Kevin Boehnke, Ph.D., research fellow in the department of anesthesiology and the Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center at the University of Michigan, tells SELF. “It will bind to receptors in multiple different pathways,” which makes it difficult to know how it might cause noticeable effects.
First off, we don’t know much about the correct dose of CBD needed for a pain-relieving effect. The doses in the rat studies that were effective were pretty large (for a rat, obviously). And the human participants in the Phase 2 clinical trial we mentioned received 250 mg of synthetic CBD topically per day—as much as many consumer topical CBD products contain in a single jar.
This menthol salve is meant to relieve sore and tight muscles with several liberal applications daily. The menthol also provides cooling and moisturizing effects alongside the nourishing mango butter base.
“When CBD is used topically, it does not reach the bloodstream,” says Robert Milanes M.D., founder of Holistic On Call and a doctor with Heally, an alternative medicine telehealth platform.
The Plant People Relief+ Cooling Body Cream is meant for targeted pain, inflammation and stiffness relief on affected areas of your body. In addition to CBD, the cream contains CBG and CBC, as well as cooling menthol, turmeric and arnica flower extract.
Appalachian Standard Menthol Salve Full Spectrum Hemp Oil.
Each topical CBD product may have unique directions, however. Some may instruct you to use a small amount while others encourage using a liberal amount.
Cost : A 3-ounce container of RE Botanicals Menthol Muscle Rub with CBD containing 600 milligrams of CBD costs $34.99.
Milanes and Fuentes warn that while CBD itself might be safe, there is a chance you might be allergic or sensitive to another ingredient in a CBD topical, which could cause adverse effects. To avoid unpleasant reactions, they suggest reading ingredient lists carefully.
Cost : A 1-ounce container of Vermont Organic Science Organic CBD Balm containing 1,100 milligrams of CBD costs $35.
Cost : A 3.3-ounce container of Plant People Relief+ Cooling Body Cream containing 750 milligrams of CBD costs $54.99.
At the highest price point and with one of the highest potencies on this list, Active Botanical Co.’s Therapeutic Formulation CBD Topical Salve is 99.9% pure CBD isolatecombined with the company’s proprietary terpene profiles to help your body get the most relief from the plant compounds. By using CBD isolate, the salve dilutes the earthy scent often associated with hemp.
Cost : A 2.5-ounce container of BATCH CBD Original CBD Balm containing 1,250 milligrams of CBD costs $49.99.
Vermont Organic Science Organic CBD Balm.
The Lazarus Naturals Relax + Unwind CBD Balm is a potent topical with plenty of CBD per application. The balm is geared toward relieving localized muscle pain and inflammation. The balm also passes third-party tests for the exclusion of pesticides, heavy metals and molds.
This Menthol Muscle Rub with CBD aims to provide relief from pain and inflammation with the added cooling effect of menthol. The travel-size product is meant to be rolled on for easier application. What’s more, it’s certified by the Detox Project to be free of glyphosate residue, a pesticide chemical that can be harmful in large amounts.
“Additionally, using CBD topically reduces the likelihood of experiencing side effects typically associated with CBD use, such as drowsiness, fatigue and diarrhea,” says Dr. Milanes.
“Because it’s localized, it’s not the best method of delivery for trying to help yourself sleep or for anxiety,” says Steven Phan, founder of Come Back Daily, a CBD dispensary in New York.
On Penguin's Secure Website.
BATCH CBD Original CBD Balm.
Cost : A 3.4-ounce container of Redeem Therapeutics CBD Pain Cream containing 1,500 milligrams of CBD costs $59.99.
Vermont Organic Science bills this CBD balm as a soothing treatment for sore muscles. The balm is infused with menthol for an additional cooling effect. The balm also includes the non-psychoactive compounds cannabigerol (CBG), which is known for its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antioxidant properties, and cannabichromene (CBC), which can have anti‐inflammatory and antinociceptive (pain-blocking) effects.
$45 per container.
$55 per container.
Cost : A 6-ounce container of Medjoy Full Spectrum CBD Cream containing 300 milligrams of CBD costs $46.95.
Phan also recommends talking to your doctor before using CBD if you’re on any medications— especially blood pressure medications because CBD can also lower blood pressure.
Creams, lotions, and salves: These are typically used for inflammation and pain relief.
Experts from the American Academy of Dermatology have also suggested that topical CBD products might be used to treat eczema, acne, and psoriasis. As a bonus, these products don’t have the typical side effects of oral medications, and they provide additional skincare benefits.
The best method will depend on all of the details.
Still, especially for those with skin issues or joint and muscle pain, CBD topicals are often more effective and quicker. Topical CBD formulations typically include additional ingredients to enhance an analgesic, anti-inflammatory effect. So although there are many ways to try CBD, a topical may be your best bet if you need to treat skin issues or relieve aches and pains.
You can also take CBD using a tincture, oil, or spray by holding it under your tongue (sublingual) and allowing it to absorb directly into the bloodstream for 60 to 120 seconds. You can feel effects within 15 to 45 minutes, although you will also taste the preparation. Full-spectrum CBD oils in particular have a strong plant taste.
Can You Use Oral CBD Oil Topically?
Some of the most common types of CBD topicals that you might find on the market include these, and here are some of their applications:
The ECS helps achieve and maintain homeostasis in the human body—or in some cases re-establish it. Homeostasis is the balanced, healthy zone within the bounds of which biological systems stay well-regulated. Imagine a human body with ideal blood pressure, blood sugar levels, etc.
A lot of this is related to the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a biological system all mammals share. The ECS is mostly composed of enzymes, endocannabinoids, and CB1 and CB2 receptors for the endocannabinoids. The ECS regulates many functions in humans, including memory, appetite, pain sensation, mood, reproduction, and sleep.
The skin also has its own endocannabinoid system, which helps keep the skin healthy and balanced. Just like for the rest of the endocannabinoid system throughout the human body, the goal is stasis. In fact, CBD topicals are useful and can also produce healthy skin because the root cause of most skin problems is usually some kind of an imbalance in the skin.
Just like other forms of CBD, however, the effectiveness of topical CBD varies depending on things like dosage or serving size, quality, and source.
But, in many cases, people are really looking for CBD creams and other topicals. For example, if you’re looking for the best CBD oil for acne, the best CBD oil for rosacea or eczema? You’re really looking for a CBD cream or similar CBD topical.
In a CBD topical, the base, whether it is oil, cream, wax, or something similar, works as a carrier agent. If you recall our other discussions of how cannabinoids work, you remember that THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids bind with fatty acids. This is why carrier oils are so common.
CBD topicals generally can be used to provide localized relief by delivering CBD to the outer layer of the skin. They often have particular formulations, such as CBD creams for skin-related issues like eczema, acne, rosacea, and psoriasis, and for injuries and problems like insect bites and stings and burns.
The carrier agent works, usually alongside essential oils and other natural ingredients, to smoothly apply the CBD to skin conditions and other affected areas and help it cling there long enough to work.
Unlike edibles, topicals serve a different and unique purpose. They are used mostly to target surface areas to treat muscle pain, spasms, and tension because topical CBD does not reach the bloodstream. Instead of treating your entire body or system, you’re just spot treating a place where you’re having chronic pain.
CBD Topicals vs CBD Oil.
Science on CBD topicals (and the cannabis plant as a whole) is in its infancy, but we do know some promising things:
Most CBD oil is actually formulated to be taken orally. So what is the difference between topicals and CBD oil? That’s exactly what we’ll focus on here.
Lately we’ve been hearing a lot about the “best CBD oil for…” any number of issues. Sometimes, that’s exactly what they’re looking for—the best CBD oil for sleep or certain skin conditions.
Taking CBD by mouth. You absorb CBD that you swallow in capsules, gummies, food, or liquid, through the digestive tract. This makes absorption slow and dosing a bit challenging due to several factors, including recent meals, unknown effects of stomach acids, the delayed onset of effect which is one to two hours, and other factors.
Either way, depending on the type of issue you’re trying to treat and pain management you’re seeking, it is possible to get the effects of CBD topically or orally—if what you’re taking is made for that kind of use. But you wouldn’t eat hand cream, right? So would you put CBD oil on your skin?
There are other miscellaneous CBD topicals, too, like CBD soap and CBD lip balm—all have specific uses.
When you use a CBD tincture, you just place several drops or whatever your serving size is under your tongue. Hold it there for at least a minute, if you can, to hasten the benefits, which you can feel in minutes.
What CBD Products Can You Use On Your Skin?
A CBD topical is any CBD-infused lotion, cream, or salve that can be applied directly to the skin. They don’t have enough tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, of course, to get you high.
Although it is already massive, CBD and skin care are two growing markets that have merged to create a ton of new products. This means that while companies are still developing many new ways to use CBD, the basic CBD oil that is taken orally is still the most common way of administering the cannabinoid.
Oils, ointments, and serums: These are typically used to treat skin-related conditions such as burn ointments or ointments for eczema, acne, dry skin, and psoriasis; and in beauty applications, including anti-aging serums, beard creams, anti-aging products, tattoo ointments and other hair and skin products.
CBD topicals are any CBD products you can use on your skin: lotions, creams, balms, roll-ons, and salves that have CBD in their formulations. CBD lotions, creams, and balms are typically not edible and are intended to be applied directly to specific affected areas of the skin.
With CBD topicals, the effects are more concentrated because the cannabinoid compounds never get absorbed into the bloodstream and they aren’t spread thin throughout the entire body. This makes it a great choice for treating minor, local discomfort in muscles and joints, or soothing skin.
If you’re not sure if it would be better to use CBD orally or topically, you may need to refocus your question to decide which type best suits your needs. Using CBD topically works best if you have a targeted area where you need CBD the most because it allows the cannabidiol compounds to work with the cannabinoid receptors right where you apply the topical cream.
We already know that cannabis sativa has anti-inflammatory properties. CBD topicals may help manage inflammation and pain associated with arthritis more effectively by avoiding the GI system, resulting in more constant plasma levels.
What type of product will work best for you? There are pros and cons for both oral and topical CBD products—so if you apply a tincture or oil to your skin, do you get the same benefits of CBD you’re used to?