A CBD topical is any CBD-infused lotion, cream, or salve that can be applied directly to the skin. They don’t have enough tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, of course, to get you high.
However, many have other cannabinoids and terpenes and are therefore capable of producing the entourage effect–the effect that happens when all of the plant’s cannabinoids and terpenes work together to produce benefits.
CBD Topicals vs CBD Oil
Taking CBD topically. Apply topical products such as balms, creams, lotions, and salves directly to the skin over a painful area. Simple! But do not apply CBD oils that are designed for taking orally to the skin; they have nothing to suspend them on the skin or make them work there, and they are intended to be in the bloodstream.
Creams, lotions, and salves: These are typically used for inflammation and pain relief.
Oils, ointments, and serums: These are typically used to treat skin-related conditions such as burn ointments or ointments for eczema, acne, dry skin, and psoriasis; and in beauty applications, including anti-aging serums, beard creams, anti-aging products, tattoo ointments and other hair and skin products.
The only thing that comes close is a Phase 2 clinical trial using a proprietary CBD transdermal gel (meaning it’s meant to go through the skin into the bloodstream) in 320 patients with knee osteoarthritis over 12 weeks, which has not been peer-reviewed to date. Unfortunately, in almost all of the study’s measures of pain, those who received CBD didn’t have statistically different scores from those who got placebo. But “they found some reductions in pain and improvements in physical function,” Boehnke says.
But some studies have found essentially zero side effects of high-dose CBD (900mg) and those that researchers do see—like drug interactions—aren’t considered to be issues when CBD is used topically.
But, ultimately, if you like it, you’re not experiencing bothersome or dangerous side effects, and feel like it works, that’s what matters most.
Here’s what the research says about using CBD for pain.
All of this points to how hard it is to study the specific effects of CBD on its own—which might be why it’s tempting to claim that it’s the cure for everything without a whole lot of research to actually back up all of those claims.
Both THC and CBD act on a system of receptors in your body called cannabinoid receptors. You have cannabinoid receptors throughout your body and, so far, researchers have identified two major types: CB1 (found primarily in the central nervous system, including parts of the brain and spinal cord) and CB2 (found mainly in immune system tissues). Interestingly, both have been found in skin. Researchers have also found that while THC can bind to and activate both types of receptors, CBD seems to modulate and somewhat block the effects of CB1 and CB2 receptors. So, any effect that CBD has on CB receptors may actually be more related to regulating and even counteracting some of the actions of THC and other cannabinoids in the brain.
The first thing to be aware of is the amount of CBD that a product claims to contain. Because the studies we have about CBD and pain all looked at systemic administration rather than truly local, we don’t really know what the correct dose would be when applied locally. It’s tempting to go for the highest amount you can find, but it’s really up to you since we don’t even know where to start.
Nevertheless, how do we account for all the people out there (like me) who use these products and feel like they’re doing something? Beyond the placebo effect, it’s possible that something else in the cream could be doing the heavy lifting here. These products don’t just contain CBD, Dr. Tishler points out. In fact, many of them also come with ingredients like arnica, menthol, or camphor, which may all provide a more immediate sensation of soothing or pain relief. So it could be those ingredients (or just the act of massaging the balm into your skin) that makes you feel better.
Results: The study population included 62.1% males and 37.9% females with a mean age of 68 years. There was a statistically significant reduction in intense pain, sharp pain, cold and itchy sensations in the CBD group when compared to the placebo group. No adverse events were reported in this study.
Conclusion: Our findings demonstrate that the transdermal application of CBD oil can achieve significant improvement in pain and other disturbing sensations in patients with peripheral neuropathy. The treatment product was well tolerated and may provide a more effective alternative compared to other current therapies in the treatment of peripheral neuropathy.
Methods: In total, 29 patients with symptomatic peripheral neuropathy were recruited and enrolled. 15 patients were randomized to the CBD group with the treatment product containing 250 mg CBD/3 fl. oz, and 14 patients were randomized to the placebo group. After four weeks, the placebo group was allowed to crossover into the treatment group. The Neuropathic Pain Scale (NPS) was administered biweekly to assess the mean change from baseline to the end of the treatment period.
Background: Peripheral neuropathy can significantly impact the quality of life for those who are affected, as therapies from the current treatment algorithm often fail to deliver adequate symptom relief. There has, however, been an increasing body of evidence for the use of cannabinoids in the treatment of chronic, noncancer pain. The efficacy of a topically delivered cannabidiol (CBD) oil in the management of neuropathic pain was examined in this four-week, randomized and placebocontrolled trial.
Keywords: CBD; cannabis sativa; diabetic neuropathy; hemp; nerve pain; review..