The world of modern cannabis is all about choice and accessibility—from traditional flower to vapes and concentrates, from edibles to topical lotions and creams, there’s something for everybody.
While the array of products at the neighborhood dispensary can feel overwhelming sometimes, knowing a little bit about how cannabis works in the body goes a long way in finding the best options for your needs.
There are a lot of reasons to choose products like cannabis topicals because they provide different effects that many find appealing compared to other methods of consumption. Here are a few benefits of cannabis topicals:
1. Localized, External Effects
While research on cannabis topicals is still in its early stages after decades of prohibition, there is a general understanding of the body’s endocannabinoid system, which has a network of receptors throughout the body. Cannabis topicals are thought to directly benefit tense muscles, tendons and ligaments underneath the skin where you apply an infused lotion, cream or salve.
Unlike smoking a joint or eating an edible, which delivers cannabinoids such as THC and CBD throughout the entire body, cannabis topicals offer localized effects. Think of the difference between applying a topical after-workout cream to a tender tennis elbow versus taking an ibuprofen tablet or similar non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) for the same aches—both have pros and cons, depending on what you’re trying to achieve.
Some of the benefits of cannabis topicals are the targeted effects you can gain from applying THC and / or CBD externally, rather than internally as with other consumption methods. Consider vitamin C, for example. This valuable nutrient can help boost the immune system and prevent conditions like scurvy when consumed orally. When you apply a vitamin C serum to your skin, however, your epidermis benefits from the boost in antioxidants and may display fewer signs of sun damage.
Vitamin C can produce powerful effects in either case, but the way it behaves orally versus topically is very different. Cannabis is no different in that regard—using topical cannabis affects the body differently from consuming it internally.
Cannabis-infused creams have their own desirable traits when used externally that are surprisingly different from the methods of consumption you may be most familiar with. They also lack some of the pronounced side effects associated with more traditional forms of consumption.
2. Cannabis Topicals Are Largely Non-Intoxicating
One reason this product category has become especially popular is that anyone can use cannabis topicals. One reason they’re so broadly accessible is that they lack the intoxicating qualities cannabis can have when it’s smoked or taken orally. In particular, infused creams and lotions are less likely to create the “high” feeling many associate with smoking and vaping, or eating an edible.
It’s the systemic and cerebral response to THC that creates an intoxicating high. Because cannabis topicals act locally where they’re applied, the active ingredients rarely reach the bloodstream in sufficient quantities to trigger an intoxicating response in the brain’s cannabinoid receptors. That greatly minimizes the risk of feeling high when you use cannabis topicals, even if you reapply throughout the day.
3. Fast, Targeted Onset
Some people like to smoke a joint because of the fast onset of THC via a quick route to the bloodstream through the lungs. Cancer patients, for example, may seek quick relief from chemotherapy-induced nausea symptoms. Sometimes tinctures or edibles are preferred because they provide a more delayed onset and longer-lasting effects to smoking or vaping.
One of the benefits of cannabis topicals is quick, predictable onset. Depending on which type of cannabis topicals and other factors such as where on the body they’re applied, onset of effects can happen in about 15 minutes. They can also be used throughout the day as needed, reapplying as soon as or even before the last dose has worn off.
You can also combine cannabis topicals—for example, use the Unscented Relief Cream in the morning with your other skincare products and switch to the Menthol Relief Cream after your end-of-day workout. That makes it easy to get the exact level of relief you want, when and where you want it.
4. Topicals Are Discreet to Use
A downside of smoking cannabis is the tell-tale skunky scent. Smelling like your favorite strain of Lemon Haze or Garlic Breath isn’t always compatible with the day’s activities, or your favorite brand of cologne or perfume.
Cannabis topicals provide a more discreet way to enjoy the benefits of cannabinoids, minus the rich herbal odor. Instead of your smelling like a recently extinguished joint, many cannabis topicals are formulated with lovely scents like Rose and Bergamot, Lavender, or even Cedar and Black Pepper. That can really come in handy when you’re partaking in a public place, like applying a cannabis topical after your workout at the gym or before heading into a meeting.
You might also enjoy: Can I Smoke and Use Cannabis Topicals? Learn more on the Escape Artists blog.