FEB 09, 2023 6:17 AM PST

Do Cannabis Topicals Work?

WRITTEN BY: Helaine Krysik

For users who to consume cannabis because of the health benefits, but are not into smoking, vaping, or eating their cannabis, they need to look no further than topicals. Cannabis topicals include creams, salves, oils, and lotions, and are infused with THC, CBD, or a hybrid combination.

While first time users are intrigued by the idea of topicals, as they are typically looking for something different, one of the first questions they ask, is, do cannabis topicals really work?

The answer is yes, they work, but it depends on what the user is looking for. No, topicals do not get you high. They do not work if the user is looking to get high from applying a THC infused topical cream, as a substitute for consuming THC via smoking or eating. Topicals do not penetrate the skin deeply enough to reach the user’s bloodstream and get the user high.

However, topicals are very effective if the user is looking to alleviate pain or inflammation, particularly in a specific area of their body, or they simply want an effective way of cooling down muscles and joints after a workout. Anecdotally, users also report positive results when using topicals to treat skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.

Typically, a full-spectrum cannabis topical is considered superior to a THC-isolate or CBD-isolate topical. The main reason is that a full-spectrum solution contains several different cannabinoids that complement and amplify one another, magnifying the overall effects of the topical for the user, which is referred to as the entourage effect.

Side effects from topicals are minimal, and tend to be along the lines of minor rashes and/or itching, usually alleviated by reducing the size of the dose. Furthermore, topicals do not get users high, nor do they cause a user to overdose or fail a drug test.

Cannabis topicals are a great alternative to traditional pain relief medications. However, if a user is hoping to get high from applying topicals, they need to look elsewhere.


Sources: Leafly, Weedmaps, Healthline

About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Helaine is a cannabis industry writer and marketing consultant. She has been active in the Illinois cannabis industry since 2020, and writes for a variety of national publications.
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