Cannabis Topical Cream: How and When to Use It

by | Jul 27, 2023 | Florida, Marijuana and Skin Care

Cannabis Topical Cream: How and When to Use It

How and When to Use Cannabis Topical Cream

There are many different types of medical cannabis products to choose from. Patients who are looking for help with symptoms of pain and inflammation may try edibles, tinctures, or smokable medical marijuana. But many patients are not aware of the value of using cannabis topicals.

Consuming medical cannabis can provide relief throughout the body. But what if you also need localized relief? Using cannabis or CBD topicals can help patients who suffer from joint pain, skin irritation, back and muscle discomfort, severe dry skin, and arthritis pain.

Cannabis-infused topicals can be used with other types of medical cannabis as part of a doctor-supervised treatment plan and may provide good results. Patients who use THC-infused topicals may find that the anti-inflammatory properties help with pain relief and other symptoms.

What Are Cannabis Topicals?

Cannabis topicals work much the same way as transdermal patches. When applied to the skin, THC topicals may provide therapeutic effects and provide localized relief. Utilizing cannabis topicals to treat joint pain and other conditions can be effective when used with other therapies.

Topicals are specialized products that are infused with cannabinoids. Topical products typically contain both tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Cannabidiol or CBD topicals have less than 0.30% THC content, whereas medical cannabis topicals have a higher THC content, averaging from 200mg to 600mg per bottle.

If you have visited a dispensary or two, you may have noticed a wide variety of therapeutic creams made from the cannabis plant. Everything from balms to thick creams, massage oil, roll-on ointments, and more. But if you have never used THC topicals before, you may have some questions about how they can help you manage symptoms better.

How Are Cannabis Topicals Made?

All medical cannabis products, except raw or whole flower (smokable), are processed. Cannabis flowers and stems go through an extraction process, where useful cannabinoids and terpenes are separated through C02 extraction or by using an ethanol extraction process.

Once the cannabinoid-rich oil is extracted, it can be used to make a variety of products, including vape liquid, edibles, and topical products. The extract is combined with a healthy carrier oil, such as coconut, shea butter, aloe vera, jojoba, tea tree oil, or hemp seed oil.

Some ingredients which may help with pain relief or other symptoms are combined with the extracted oil. A topical product will contain herbs and other ingredients, which are also applied to the skin. Many topicals include Vitamin E and often CBD isolate, extracted from agricultural hemp plants.

By combining different cannabinoids (the entourage effect), cannabis topicals work with the body’s endocannabinoid system and cannabinoid receptors. That can help reduce inflammation, aid relaxation, and stress relief, and also help provide pain relief.

Potential Benefits of Cannabis Topicals

If other medical cannabis products are available at the dispensary, why would patients want to try topical products? After consulting with a medical professional, patients that experience sore muscles, moderate to severe menstrual cramps, migraines, arthritis, and other problems may find it helpful for symptom management.

Cannabis lotions may help patients who suffer from the following:

  • Arthritis.
  • Eczema.
  • Psoriasis.
  • Pain.
  • Migraines.
  • Muscle spasms.
  • Joint pain.
  • Anxiety.
  • Minor burns.
  • Acne and other skin irritations.

When applied topically, some people begin to feel relief within thirty minutes to one hour. Lotions are also portable, scent-free, and can be used anytime. The use of hemp cream dates back to ancient traditional medicine practices and can provide long-lasting relief in the affected area.

Can THC Topicals Cause Impairment?

Some patients need daytime relief while at work or outside the home and do not want to experience any psychoactive effects. The use of transdermal patches or full-spectrum THC lotions does not cause impairment, but it may help provide more than one therapeutic effect that can help make symptoms more manageable. Particularly when taking medical cannabis may not be an option at work while traveling or in other circumstances.

Can I Fail a Drug Test Because of THC Topical Cream?

When a topical cream is applied to treat pain or another symptom, it is absorbed into the skin. Your skin cells have both CB1 and CB2 receptors. When the topical product is absorbed (whether a cream, ointment, or from transdermal patches), the cannabinoids engage with your body’s endocannabinoid system. And start working right away to help with inflammation and can provide other therapeutic effects.

Although THC-infused topicals interact with cannabinoid receptors, the cannabinoids themselves do not pass into the bloodstream. If you are using only topicals, you should not test positive on a THC drug test. The same thing holds true for CBD creams with less than 0.30% THC.

The topical can provide relief when applied to the skin but will not cause impairment because it does not enter the bloodstream. Topical creams will also not increase impairment if you are using other types of medical cannabis to help with symptom management.

What Other Ingredients May Be Found in Most Topicals?

You can find a variety of different topicals at your local dispensary. There are many different types of formulations to explore, depending on your wellness goals and the symptoms you would like to address. Natural ingredients, including herbal extracts, are often included and may provide other health benefits.

Some of the most common medicinal herbs and extracts found in cannabis topical creams include:

Arnica Montana

This perennial herb is a relative of the sunflower family and originates in mountain areas of Europe. It is an herbal extract that has also been therapeutically used for thousands of years. Some of the active compounds in Arnica Montana include lactones, flavonoids, and sesquiterpene.

Medicinally, Arnica Montana is one of the popular essential oils used for pain relief. It can also help with bruising, swelling, and injuries from sprains and strains. Some people also use creams with this herbal extract for minor skin irritations, insect bites, and rashes.


A hybrid plant bed from watermint and spearmint, peppermint not only has a pleasing scent when added to topical creams, but it can also provide many medicinal benefits. One of the most common uses of peppermint is for relief of migraines and muscle pain. It can provide anti inflammatory and antimicrobial benefits as well.


Zingiber Officinale is the root of a flowering plant from Southeast Asia. The therapeutic compounds or bioactive ingredients inside ginger include gingerol, shogaol, and paradol. When applied in a topical cream, ginger offers very potent anti inflammatory benefits and can help with muscle soreness, migraines, and menstrual pain.


Native to Australia, there are more than 700 species of Eucalyptus trees, and the oil from the leaves has been used for centuries in natural medicine. Eucalyptus oil has antimicrobial and antiseptic properties and powerful anti inflammatory potential when applied as a topical cream.


Curcuma Longa is a relative of the ginger family and is found mostly in India and Southeast Asia. It is one of the highest known sources of curcumin, which is a powerful antioxidant and anti inflammatory. Clinical studies suggest that turmeric can help with symptoms of arthritis and chronic inflammation.


Inside the wood of camphor trees found in Asia is a crystal white substance that has a strong aroma. The medicinal uses of camphor include relief of itching and skin irritation and pain relief. It also has strong antibacterial and antifungal properties.


Also called Pot Marigold, it is a vibrant flowering plant that is related to the daisy family (Asteraceae) and found primarily in Europe. Extracted oil from the flowerheads of calendula can nourish sensitive skin and help with dryness, rashes, and irritation. It is also used for natural wound healing and offers antioxidant and anti inflammatory benefits.

How to Use Cannabis Topicals

if you are new to using THC-infused topical creams or ointments, there are a few steps to follow to ensure you get maximum results. You have a better chance of feeling the non psychoactive benefits of using THC topicals on your skin if you follow these six tips.

1. Clean and Exfoliate Skin

To get the most benefit from your cannabis topical cream or balm, you want to make sure you are preparing your skin properly. After a bath or shower is the ideal time to apply cannabis topicals. Not only is your skin clean, but warm water helps to open the pores on your skin. And that helps the cannabinoids and medicinal extracts absorb better into your skin.

Gently exfoliate your skin to remove dried or dead skin cells. Then, use a towel to pat the area dry with a towel. To get maximum absorption of your cannabis topical cream, make sure that it is applied to the skin within ten minutes after you have left the bath or shower.

2. Confirm Use Guidelines Provided by the Manufacturer

Each bottle of cannabis topicals has a use guideline on the label. While cannabis topicals will not cause impairment (they do not pass through the blood barrier), using too much topical cream can, in some cases, cause skin irritation. Check the label to make sure you are following the instructions provided.

3. Apply Generously

When using cannabis-infused topicals and lotions, you want to apply the product generously to the affected areas. Some lotions are formulated for fast absorption, but to make sure that cannabis topicals are fully absorbed, you want to make sure that you are applying the correct amount.

Again, follow the manufacturer’s daily maximum use guideline to determine the quantity of full-spectrum cannabis-infused products you apply daily. If you plan on reapplying cannabis topicals more than once a day, divide your maximum use amount equally based on the number of times you plan to use the topical.

4. Wash Your Hands

Make sure that you wash your hands thoroughly after you have applied the cannabis product. Some types of topical cannabis products have extracts that provide a cooling sensation, which can feel strange on your hands when the active ingredients are absorbed.

Some people prefer to wear gloves when applying cannabis-infused products or topical creams. However, the natural warmth of your hand can actually help effectively massage the active ingredients into your skin, with less wasted product.

5. Wait at Least One Hour Before Assessing Results

Topical cannabis products can take up to one hour before you may feel any sensations. When you begin using topical products to help with pain, inflammation, anxiety, or other conditions, it takes some time to determine the right amount to use.

Wait for sixty minutes before reapplying cannabis topicals. Some patients keep a journal to help them track how much they use and the locations where they apply the THC topicals. For example, if you have lower back discomfort, you may find applying a cannabis-infused topical higher up on your back helps. Muscle tension in surrounding areas

6. Reapply if Needed

When you have figured out the maximum amount of transdermal gel, CBD cream, or other topicals you can use on a daily basis, monitor your results. Some patients see better-localized relief and pain management benefits when they apply topicals twice daily.


If you are interested in learning more about how cannabis topicals work, visit your local dispensary for advice. Or talk to your MedWell Health physician to discuss whether topicals can help you reach your symptom management goals.

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