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is cbd or thc topicals better for pain

In this article, we'll look at the best CBD creams for pain, which have been medically reviewed by Ashley Jordan Ferira, PhD, RDN.

Medterra goes above and beyond when it comes to quality standards and transparency. It follows cGMPs for topical manufacturing, and its products are formulated with soothing natural ingredients to alleviate pain sensations. Every Medterra product has a detailed third-party lab report available that breaks down cannabinoid and terpene content, as well as pesticide and heavy-metal testing. This is a great CBD lotion to try if you want to avoid THC.

Our top 7 CBD creams for pain at a glance:

While CBD is safe for use, there are a few caveats you'll want to keep in mind when incorporating a hemp topical into your pain-management regimen. 

Cornbread Hemp CBD Lotion + Menthol is made using a unique flower-only hemp extract that leaves out the stems, leaves, and stalks for a purer and more potent CBD. It's USDA orgranic and contains organic menthol, lemongrass, and eucalyptus for naturally cooling relief with no oily residue. Plus, it's free from parabens and preservatives.

This article has been medically reviewed by Ashley Jordan Ferira, PhD, RDN, the Senior Editor of Health & Wellness Strategy at Remedy Review, an independent CBD reviews site. Dr. Ferira completed her PhD in Foods & Nutrition at The University of Georgia, where she researched the role of vitamin D in pediatric cardiometabolic disease. The products featured in this article were tested at ProVerde Laboratories in Milford, MA and Avazyme, Inc. in Durham, NC.

Eloise was a board director for the American Cannabis Nurses Association (ACNA) (2014-2016) where she helped develop the first on-line core curriculum program for nurses on cannabinoid therapeutics. She currently serves on the scope and standards committee for the ACNA. She is working to help further legalize and destigmatize therapeutic cannabis therapy. She’s a regular speaker at industry events and teaches classes at universities in the San Francisco Bay Area.

For over 17 years, Eloise Theisen has been a dedicated and patient-focused nurse specializing in aging, cancer, chronic pain, dementia, Alzheimers, Parkinsons, anxiety, depression, fibromyalgia, and various auto-immune and neurological diseases. The founder of Radicle Health (formerly Green Health Consultants), she started her career at John Muir Medical Center caring for patients suffering from cancer, terminal illnesses, respiratory failure/complaints, drug overdoses, acute alcohol ingestion, gastrointestinal bleeds, traumatic brain injury, and multiple traumas and from there worked her way up to management. Following that, her work with Aunt Zelda’s and the American Cannabis Nurses Association gained her an extensive knowledge of the Endocannabinoid system and how cannabis and cannabinoids can be used successfully to treat patients.

Typically, the onset of a topical will occur within 10-20 minutes and last 2-3 hours. Cannabis can enter the body through the skin by topical application of plant extracts. There is very little data to detail the pharmacokinetics of topically administered cannabinoids. In fact, there remains some disagreement about whether topicals enter the bloodstream. Cannabis is a fat-soluble medicine and this limits the absorption of cannabinoids in topical, oral, sublingual and rectal administration. Topical cannabis generally only penetrates a few layers of the of skin, which is why it is unlikely to produce any systemic effects. However, if there is an opening in the skin, like a cut, the topical cannabis can enter the bloodstream and therefore produce systemic effects. Another way cannabis can enter the bloodstream is with the assistance of a transdermal agent. Transdermal products have chemical agents that help cannabis penetrate the skin and enter the bloodstream.

Not surprising, many patients are using topical cannabis to relieve pain, itching, inflammation, and burning of the skin. Skin related conditions such as acne, eczema, dermatitis and psoriasis can be effectively treated with topical cannabis. In these conditions, a CBD dominant topical may provide better reduction in inflammation than a THC topical.

Determining whether to use a CBD versus a THC topical may simply be based on personal preference. If you find that a THC topical is ineffective, then I recommend trying a CBD topical and vice versa. Not all products are created equal in potency, absorbency and quality.

Research shows that humans have cannabinoids receptors on the skin. When the cannabinoid receptors are activated through topical cannabinoids, skin issues such as pain, inflammation, itchiness and temperature can be reduced. Cannabidiol (CBD) and Cannabinol (CBN) have been shown to penetrate the skin 10 times better than delta-8 THC. In more severe cases of pain, itchiness and inflammation, a CBD dominant topical may be more effective than a THC prepared topical product. Potency of the topical may also play a role in the effectiveness of the topical for symptom relief. Currently there are no human studies that have evaluated dosage and concentration of topical cannabinoids. As with most cannabis products, some exploration will occur.

Pain is more difficult to treat with a topical application. Depending on the type of pain and location, a topical application of cannabis may only provide limited relief, if any relief at all. Topical cannabis has been shown to help with arthritic pain in the hands, ankles, neck and shoulders. Pain from spinal stenosis, sciatica or neuropathy is less likely to respond to a topical. Chronic pain that is deep and constant will benefit from treating it systemically rather than topically.