CBD topicals 101

CBD is everywhere, and if you’ve ever wondered about what it is and how to use it, here is your primer: CBD topicals 101.

CBD, short for cannabidiol, has been on the market for a while now. It comes in various forms, such as oil, gummies, vapes, tinctures and topicals. CBD is one of about 100 components derived from the hemp plant. These components are known as cannabinoids. You will not get high from CBD, because it has 0.3% THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol.

Although the other forms of CBD have therapeutic possibilities, I’ll only deal with topicals for this blog.

Endocannabinoid System

Cannabinoids are molecules that interact with CB receptors found throughout the skin and other body systems. CB receptors are part of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) found in all mammals. The ECS maintains homeostasis, or balance, in the body. CB receptors and the cannabinoids our bodies make, called endocannabinoids, make up the ECS.

In an instance of imbalance, maybe a joint or muscle injury, arthritis pain, a skin condition, applying a CBD topical can help kick-start CB receptors to scurry through the body to restore equilibrium. As CBD binds to receptors in the muscles, skin and nerves, it can help ease pain and inflammation.

Image of CBD components


What are CBD topicals?

A CBD topical can be a cream, salve, lotion, gel or balm. You apply it directly to your skin where there is pain, inflammation, rash, dryness or injury. As you apply the topical and massage it into your skin, it penetrate

s beyond the surface, sinking into the dermal and subdermal layers. Unlike ingested or inhaled CBD, the CBD in the topical does not enter the blood stream. As a result, relief can occur within minutes instead of hours.

The CBD interacts with receptors and enzymes in the skin to ease pain and inflammation. CBD combined with carrier and essential oils make good use of all the components of CBD and the essential oils. In fact, this combo provides an entourage effect, which means the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

What are the benefits of CBD topicals?

CBD is versatile. It’s a known anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, analgesic and antioxidant, so it can address a number of issues. Here are just some of the issues CBD topicals can address:

Burns and wounds

CBD can promote faster healing of burns and wounds by activating the CB-1 and CB-2 receptors in the area of the burn or wound. While it reduces inflammation, its antibacterial qualities also protect your skin from bacteria that can cause infection. As an analgesic, it helps reduce the pain associated with burns, including burns from radiation treatment. Finally, it keeps the skin moist around the affected area, so healing can continue without the skin cracking open. Its antimicrobial qualities keep the area free of germs and bacteria. A perfect healing environment.


As already noted, CBD acts quickly for pain such as arthritis and joint and muscle pain. In fact, “Reliable topical CBD products don’t just mask pain or inflammation as some over-the-counter topical pain relief creams do. They actually can make the pain go away for a certain time period, says Matthew Halpert, an instructor of immunology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. “This is because of the high concentration of cannabinoid receptors on the skin. Cannabinoid receptors are part of the body’s endocannabinoid system, a bodywide system discovered in the 1990s that affects many important functions.”

It’s estimated that 350 million people suffer from arthritis and deal with swelling, pain and inflammation. A 2019 report from the Arthritis Foundation showed that of 2,600 patients surveyed, 79% said they used CBD or considered using it. But, of the 29% currently using it for arthritis symptoms, 55% used a CBD topical applied directly to their joints. Studies have shown that CBD topicals reduce inflammation, which then help relieve the pain and swelling.

Psoriasis, eczema and rash symptoms

CBD topicals for rash promote moisture and relieve dryness. It adds essentials vitamins and fatty acids to the skin that help promote elasticity and ward off infection. Using CBD for these conditions is especially beneficial and here’s why.

It’s an anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial. Rashes are essentially an inflammation. Usually a they occur as red, scaly, itchy patches on skin or scalp. Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, CBD can relieve the intensity of the inflammation and soothe the itch. But it also interacts with the endocannabinoid system we all have in our bodies to promote healing.

Are there side effects?

According to this article in the, An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies, “In general, the often-described favorable safety profile of CBD in humans was confirmed and extended by the reviewed research. The majority of studies were performed for treatment of epilepsy and psychotic disorders. Here, the most commonly reported side effects were tiredness, diarrhea, and changes of appetite/weight. In comparison with other drugs… CBD has a better side-effect profile. This could improve patients’ compliance and adherence to treatment.” Not many other medications can make that claim.

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