Are you aware of the science behind CBD topicals? Of course, I’m assuming you know what CBD is and how to use CBD topicals. If you haven’t heard about CBD, you haven’t been paying attention. Right now CBD is hot. But you’re right, let’s step back and start with a quick CBD primer.
What is CBD?
Short for cannabidiol, CBD “is the major nonpsychoactive component of Cannabis sativa,” and one of more than 80 naturally occurring compounds called cannabinoids found in cannabis plants, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Ancient civilizations knew its health benefits and used it to treat numerous medical conditions. Researchers have only been studying why it’s beneficial for the past few decades. CBD balms, creams, lotions and salves interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) everyone has. The ECS, in conjunction with CB receptors, helps maintain homeostasis (or balance) in our bodies.
The topicals are often used to relieve pain, inflammation, as well as inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, nerve pain, neuropathy, arthritis and more. CBD also is known to enhance circulation and cellular regeneration.
What does the science behind CBD say?
Researchers began studying cannabinoids in the 1940s. Mostly the focus was on THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid. Then, in 1964, Raphael Macheoulan, an Israeli professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, identified what has come to be known as the endocannabinoid receptor system present in mammals. In short, he determined that the human body in particular has cells that are receptive to the cannabinoids present in the cannabis plant.
In the 50 years following his discovery, volumes have been written about the potential medicinal benefits of both the THC and CBD components of the cannabis plant. With THC (the psychoactive cannabinoid in marijuana) listed as a schedule 1 narcotic, attention has more recently shifted to the potential medicinal benefits of the CBD component (nonpsychoactive).
According to Dr. Holly Lucille, “Research has demonstrated that certain factors have the ability to prolong or inhibit the actions of endocannabinoids, suggesting that modulation of ECS activity may be an effective therapeutic target for various health conditions…”
Emma Chasen, co-founder of Eminent Consulting, a cannabis consultancy firm weighs in on the role CBD plays in the ECS.
“There is research to support that phytocannabinoids, like CBD, interact with receptors and other enzymatic factors within our skin that modulate pain and inflammation,” she says. “Because the skin is actually quite thick, when you apply CBD cream, the CBD soaks into the skin but does not make it to the bloodstream. It interacts with CB1 receptors — if THC is also present — and other receptor families such as the TRPV receptors and factors such as PPAR-gamma and COX-½ and TNF-alpha. With these interactions, CBD can modulate the pain and inflammatory response.”
Benefits of CBD topicals
By applying CBD rather than ingesting it, topicals go to work immediately hydrating the skin to relieve symptoms such as pain and itching. It also kick-starts CB receptors in the skin that help the ECS maintain normal bodily functions.
In your brain, producing cannabinoids is essential for proper function. Stress and poor diet can cause damage to brain cells. CBD oil, rich in Omega-6 and -3 and linoleic acid, boosts cannabinoid production to make necessary repairs. Plus, its calming effect on the brain can reduce anxiety and depression.
But the benefits don’t stop at the brain. In several studies, CBD has been shown to relieve pain because of its anti-inflammatory properties. Conditions such as neuropathy, nerve pain, arthritis and others respond well to CBD topicals and oil.
Common skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, poison ivy, hives or athletes foot respond well to CBD topicals, too. So do acne, rosacea, scaly dry skin, dermatitis and cold sores. Plus, the itching from bug bites also abates when you apply CBD.
CBD topicals have few if any side effects, unlike most over-the-counter products. That alone may convince you to look more closely at using CBD topicals for your health and beauty needs.
We have learned a lot in the past 50 years, but research is still in its initial stages. With the growing interest in CBD, you can rest assured that researchers will double-down on studying its benefits and how it works in the human body. Just make sure you’re getting the real deal, not a CBD knockoff.