Consumers looking to reap the potential benefits of cannabidiol (CBD), the wildly popular non-intoxicating cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant, will likely run into not only CBD oil, but also many different types of CBD cream and other topical CBD products.
In fact, since the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp-derived CBD products on a federal level in the US and placed them under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration, the health and wellness market has been inundated with an array of CBD creams and other topicals.
While medical marijuana remains inaccessible in many states, the emergence of hemp-derived CBD products has given many people a legal way to seek therapeutic relief. If you're wondering what CBD cream does or whether CBD cream can help with your joint pain or other ailments, you're in the right place. Here, we'll cover CBD cream and other topicals, what kinds of conditions they may help with, and other benefits as well as how to choose, use, and make your own CBD-infused cream.
CBD creams, salves, and lotions
CBD-infused topicals include lotions, salves, and creams that are applied on the skin for relief on the surface or a bit deeper in muscle tissue. CBD cream, as the name implies, is a cream-based topical that contains CBD. Most beauty creams are generally made up of about half oil and half water.
“CBD cream is a topical cream infused with the phytocannabinoid CBD,” said Emma Chasen, co-founder of Eminent Consulting, a cannabis education and consultancy firm. “It may contain the isolated compound CBD; a distillate that contains CBD as well as some other minor cannabinoids; or a broad spectrum oil that contains CBD, minor cannabinoids, and terpenes. It can be used to reduce pain and inflammation and/or help in the management of skin disorders when applied topically.”
The difference among CBD topicals such as creams, salves, and lotions really lies in the consistency of the product. As in non-CBD infused products, it's really up to consumer preference.
Since creams are thicker, they may be more beneficial for very dry skin. Salves, on the other hand, are made with oil and wax, and without water. Creams may absorb faster than salves, so they may be preferable for muscle pain.
Some might consider CBD transdermal patches a topical application as well. But since patches have ingredients and technology designed to propel the CBD beyond the skin and into the bloodstream, we haven't included them here.
What is CBD cream used for?
When topicals are applied to the skin, they can potentially benefit not only the surface of the skin, but also below. When CBD is applied topically to the skin, it penetrates both the dermal and subdermal layers of the skin.
The human body has an endocannabinoid system (ECS) that regulates appetite, mood, and pain and pleasure sensations. Cannabinoids such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and CBD can activate our body's ECS by binding to cell receptors in the skin, muscle tissues, and nerves. This interaction explains why the most common uses for CBD cream are chronic pain and inflammation.
“There is research to support that phytocannabinoids, like CBD, interact with receptors and other enzymatic factors within our skin that modulate pain and inflammation,” Chasen said. “Because the skin is actually quite thick, when you apply CBD cream, the CBD soaks into the skin but does not make it to the bloodstream.”
How to use CBD cream
Generally speaking, using CBD-infused creams and other topicals is extremely easy. Simply apply the topical on and around any painful area that might benefit from local treatment. As will all lotions and creams, CBD cream shouldn't be used on broken skin.
The process of applying CBD topicals is similar to putting on a moisturizing lotion. However, administering the proper dosage of CBD to the skin is not as straightforward. It's important to find out how many milligrams of CBD are in the topical to gauge whether there's enough of this cannabinoid to provide the therapeutic relief patients seek. A CBD cream with a low amount of CBD will be less effective than one with higher concentrations.
Start with a low viable dosage and gradually increase the amount of CBD cream until finding optimal therapeutic relief. When it comes to applying a topical infused with hemp-derived CBD, there are no known side effects to worry about.
Benefits of CBD cream
The key potential benefits of CBD topicals include reducing pain and inflammation, soothing skin problems, and helping to heal wounds.
- Arthritis: A 2017 study published in the journal Pain found that acute joint inflammation in arthritic rats was reduced by local CBD treatment.
- Inflammation: An in vitro study published in Neurology showed that CBD binds to and desensitizes ECS receptors in the skin, which mediate pain perception and inflammation.
- Skin conditions: CBD is a safe, effective treatment for patients suffering from chronic skin conditions like psoriasis and atopic dermatitis along with resulting scars, according to a human study published in 2019 in the Italian journal La Clinica Terapeutica.
- Wound care: A case report published in 2017 in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management showed that CBD and THC applied topically could offer effective pain and symptom management for malignant wounds.
“Much of the scientific evidence points to CBD's ability to modulate pain, inflammation, and the histamine response when applied topically,” Chasen said. “It has been shown to diminish redness, help with painful arthritic joints, and quicken the healing process.”
Though Chasen said there are studies that support CBD's ability to interact with the receptors and factors that are found in the skin, many more medically reviewed studies are necessary. Most of the existing research was conducted on animal models. “We need much more research to elucidate the physiological mechanisms at play, especially in humans,” she said.
Choosing a CBD cream
Chasen said when it comes to picking the best CBD topical or cream for aches and pains or skin problems, research is essential.
“Not all CBD products are created equal,” she said. “Therefore, make sure the product has been tested and that there is a measurable amount of CBD within the product.”
With no regulation of CBD in place, customers must take extra steps to make sure they are purchasing quality CBD products. In study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2017, researchers tested 84 CBD products from 31 companies and found only 31% accurately labeled with the correct amount of CBD. One way to make sure a CBD manufacturer is reputable is by purchasing a product that includes a certificate of analysis (COA) from a third-party testing lab.
Another way to help assure a particular CBD oil's quality is by finding a product that was manufactured in a Current Good Manufacturing Practice (CGMP)-compliant facility, which must follow certain FDA standards to qualify.
Many experts prefer full-spectrum products because of the potential entourage effect, which is the idea that components of the cannabis plant work better together than in isolation.
“Typically products infused with a broad spectrum CBD extract are more effective than products containing isolate or distillate,” Chasen said.
How to make CBD cream
Concocting your own CBD-infused cream can offer more precise dosing and control over the CBD that is used.
For instance, if you have a 30-milliliter bottle with 1,500 milligrams of CBD, that equals 50 milligrams per milliliter. Using these dosing parameters, you can figure out how much CBD oil you should drop into the non-infused cream or topical, depending on the amount you plan to make.
Finding the most effective mixing ingredients that will properly mingle with CBD oil or CBD isolate is also important. A carrier oil, such as coconut oil, shea butter, CBD tincture, or isolate can also be mixed to create a therapeutic homemade topical.
There are several recipes that will allow you to create your topical of choice. Here's the most common method:
- Melt coconut oil or shea butter at 89 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit (32 to 38 degrees Celsius).
- Add an adequate amount of CBD oil to match your preferred dosage.
- In a separate pot, melt 2 ounces of beeswax.
- Once the wax starts to melt, around 144 to 147 degrees Fahrenheit (62 to 64 degrees Celsius), add the CBD-infused oil.
- Stir and heat, adding more beeswax as needed, until it reaches the desired consistency.
- Add essential oils as needed for scent and consistency.
- Cool and store in a jar or other container with a lid.
- Apply as needed.
Since everyone's ECS is different, it may take a bit of trial and error to find the best CBD creams or other topicals for you. Do your research and buy from a reputable manufacturer, or make your own, and you should be on your way to CBD-infused relief.