Finally, you have receptors called TrpV1 that detect and regulate your body temperature. When activated, they put out heat, soothing your pain receptors. Using this channel, CBD makes these pain receptors hyperactive for a period of time, causing them to get hot, desensitizing them and downregulating those pain-sensing nerve endings.
If you read the ingredient list, often everything in the jar is straight from mother earth. As long as that's indeed the case with the cannabis cream you have your eye on, the formula is immensely safe, chemically, says Gregory Gerdeman, Ph.D., neurophysiologist who researches cannabinoid biology and pharmacology at Eckerd College in Saint Petersburg, FL. And since hemp pain relief creams are formulated to be topical (absorbing into the top layer of skin) and not transdermal (which would pass through the skin and into your bloodstream) there's no risk of getting high, explains Gerdeman. (P.S. Here's How Marijuana Affects Athletic Performance.)
So cannabis lotions may be safe, but there's one problem: There's practically no scientific data to support the idea that a CBD-infused topical pain relief cream is any more effective than other topical pain relievers, such as Tiger Balm, BenGay, or Icy Hot. Michelle Sexton, a San Diego-based naturopathic doctor and medical research director of the Center for the Study of Cannabis and Social Policy says that her patients do seem to have a great interest in cannabis creams and ointments, and roughly 40 percent of them have indeed tried one. However, these people are in her office now because the topicals didn't work for them. "As a medical professional, my opinion is there's little evidence to back up the claims being made—it's all marketing for now," she says.
How CBD and Cannabis Might Help Pain Relief
"When it comes to cannabis-based topicals for muscle soreness or other pain relief, there's absolutely no reason why it should be a big deal to try," he says.
But there is an argument to be made for simply believing the CBD adds that special something. "Scientific literature says there's a 33 percent chance of the placebo effect helping people, so for some, just using a cream they believe can help will provide some relief," adds Dr. Colberg.
Science has shown that cannabis is an effective pain reliever, reinforced in a massive new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. But there's a big difference between ingesting cannabis or its individual chemicals orally and absorbing it topically through your skin.
There is an argument to be made for the simple fact that science hasn't caught up to the trend (and laws) of cannabis yet. (Here's what research has to say about the potential benefits of CBD and cannabis so far.) And there are doubtlessly researchers testing the efficacy of CBD creams for pain relief as we speak.
If you have a headache because your neck is tight but you apply the cream to your lower back, you’re not going to get the relief you’re looking for. Find the source of your pain and the CBD cream will do a much better job of alleviating the symptoms.
The nice thing about CBD cream — one of the many nice things, actually — is that it might take the place of another medication that causes unwanted side effects.
When you begin investigating the world of CBD topicals, you’ll quickly see that “CBD cream” is a catchall term for a product that comes in a wide variety of forms.
1) Decide Where To Apply Your CBD Cream
Yes, it will make the symptoms more bearable, but it isn’t going to cure, remove, or solve the underlying problem.
Some CBD creams are moisturizing lotions. Some are balms. Some are salves, liniments, or ointments that produce hot or cold sensations (think Tiger Balm or Bengay) in addition to the CBD effects mentioned above.
The only way you might experience any side effects is if you ate the cream (don’t do it!). CBD ingested into your body (either eaten, smoked, or administered sublingually) can cause:
But if there’s dirt, sweat, and dead cells on the surface of your skin, they’ll get in the way of the CBD molecules and prevent them from reaching the source of the pain and tightness.
Transdermal cannabis products are a different story. With a transdermal patch, the medication is designed to penetrate through the skin or mucosal membranes, and does its work into the bloodstream, away from the application site and throughout the body. Meant to release medicine over time and at a controlled rate, the effects generally kick in after a couple of hours but endure longer than a topical, with some people reporting relief for as many as two days or more.
Transdermal cannabis delivery has a very active effect and will send a consistent dose through the bloodstream.
A cream, balm, or oil even if it contains THC, will not get you high. A transdermal patch that contains THC will. Not all patches contain THC.
A topical has an effect at the actual application site, which makes it a soothing salve for skin irritations, muscle soreness, and arthritis. When absorbed through the skin, cannabis molecules linger in fat cells. Even when the topical is absorbed into in the body, THC molecules – the ones that get you high – are not absorbed into the bloodstream and remain at the site where they were applied.
Hemp topicals have been shown to deliver relief for common skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, acne, and can also be helpful in relieving pain from bug bites, scratches, and wounds. Topicals are ideal for treating skin conditions because, as mentioned, the cannabinoids linger in the skin.