Is CBD Effective Topically?

May 27, 2022

We know cannabidiol (CBD) can be taken in various ways. You can eat, inhale, or apply it to your skin. All these methods enable you to access CBD's health-impacting properties. But we also know that the overall efficacy of CBD is determined by the method of use.

Topical CBD formulations have become more popular in recent years, perhaps because they are used externally. This means you are unlikely to have incidences of overdosing. 

Still, most users undoubtedly wonder if topical CBD is effective. Well, is it? 

 

How are topical CBD products used?

 

Since its discovery, the use of CBD has increased considerably. Presently, CBD is touted to have pharmaceutical benefits, especially in managing pain and anxiety. 

Even though most of the evidence regarding CBD's numerous health benefits is anecdotal, the increasing uptake of CBD coupled with emerging research findings indicates that there's still much more to come from this cannabis compound.

Topical CBD products like lotions, balms, and creams are typically used externally on the skin. Not to be left out, manufacturers in the cosmetic industry have taken to adding CBD to their products.

They first mix it in oil, such as MCT or hemp seed oil, then use it as one of the ingredients in lotions and creams.

 

Do topical CBD products work?

 

Bottle of FOCL Relief Cream floats on water on a sunny day.

 

We'll primarily rely on empirical evidence to offer a more definitive answer to this query. So here goes.

Multiple studies suggest that CBD has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can help alleviate symptoms associated with some skin conditions like acne and eczema. 

Furthermore, CBD creams and lotions may have remedial effects on joint pains. This notwithstanding, research organizations like the CDC have proposed more studies to determine whether CBD can be as effective as other medications such as ibuprofen and aspirin in managing pain.

Analyses of existing research findings provide valuable insights into why topical CBD products may be effective.

For instance, a meta-review of decades of research on cannabis and cannabinoids by the National Academies of Sciences, Medicine, and Engineering concluded that adult patients with chronic pain "were more likely" to experience a significant reduction in pain when treated with cannabinoids or cannabis.

Further, a 2016 study published in the European Journal of Pain corroborates these early findings. In the study, researchers investigated the effect of a topical CBD formulation on rats injected with knee-joint pain.

The pain was artificially induced after injecting the rats to model arthritis pain. Thereafter, the rats were treated with a topical CBD gel applied to the wound area.

There were two variants of the CBD gel used in the study – one contained 10% CBD and the other 1% CBD. The researchers established that the rats treated with the high-concentration CBD gel exhibited fewer pain behaviors and lower levels of inflammation than those treated with low-concentration CBD gel. 

While these findings do not suggest that similar results will be obtained in human trials, they signal that CBD is potentially effective in mitigating pain. Perhaps more interesting is that rats and humans have similar physiology, including CB1 and CB2 receptors. 

Nonetheless, researchers have come close to proving the efficacy of CBD in reducing pain. In a clinical trial, full hemp CBD extract was used in 131 chronic pain patients who had been using opioids to manage pain for at least 12 months.

After an 8-week observation period, 53% of the participants had reduced or altogether stopped using opioids. Ninety-four percent (94%) of the study participants reported significant improvements in quality of life.

Another recent study on the efficacy of CBD as an anti-pain agent yielded almost 'similar' results. Unlike in the first study, the researchers focused on cannabis products known as nabiximols, which usually contain CBD and THC. Their overall finding was that THC-CBD-based treatments for pain have been more promising. 

The downside of THC is that it's psychoactive, but as numerous studies indicate, CBD and THC combinations are usually more effective in pain management than CBD alone.

However, at FOCL, our CBD products are 100% THC-free. For example, our FOCL Relief Cream combines powerful menthol and soothing botanicals with 500mg of US-grown hemp CBD to quickly eliminate pains and aches. Apply it directly to your sore and achy muscles and let its reinvigorating ingredients nurse your muscles back to peak performance.

 

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CBD Topical vs. Oil

 

As mentioned earlier, CBD topicals are used externally. This affects their absorption and eventual bioavailability in the long run. On the other hand, CBD oils are taken orally, either sublingually (placed under the tongue) or ingested directly, as is the case with gummies and fruit chews.

Even though there is no doubt that CBD topicals work, their efficacy is affected by their inability to penetrate all layers of the skin. In any case, CBD topicals are not designed to penetrate deep into the skin and enter your systemic circulation. 

There is no need to because CBD binds with CB2 receptors in the skin that comprise part of the endocannabinoid system. From this point, the CBD is able to exert its soothing and healing properties.

The case is different for transdermal CBD products that use a carrier medium that penetrates the epidermis to reach the dermis. At this point, the CBD permeates into the hair follicles and enters your blood circulation system.

Normal CBD topicals have low bioavailability because they cannot penetrate the skin and reach systemic circulation. Generally, bioavailability refers to the rate at which a substance is absorbed from an application area into the bloodstream. 

In other words, apart from the application area, you are unlikely to feel the effects of CBD in other parts of your body. For this reason, CBD topicals have a more localized impact than CBD oils, whose effect tends to be more generalized. But why, you may ask?

CBD oil is taken either sublingually or swallowed directly (ingested). The implication is that it enters the bloodstream in larger quantities. Barring the effects of the 'first pass' process, people who use CBD oil generally register better outcomes than their counterparts who use CBD topicals. 

This is why our FOCL Premium CBD Drops will give you quick relief from everyday stress. Made with the highest quality MCT oil and premium hemp CBD, this product combines high-quality organic ingredients and a fresh minty taste to ensure they are easy to take.

 

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But then again, this depends on why you use CBD. If your needs are more internal-based such as better sleep quality or stress relief, then CBD oils are your logical option. 

Conversely, if your needs are external-based such as relief from sore muscles or skin inflammation, then it makes sense to go with CBD topicals. So it would be fundamentally erroneous to say that CBD oils are better or more effective than CBD topicals. It's simply a matter of using the correct tool for the right job!

 

Is CBD Effective Topically?

 

Short answer, yes. 

CBD topicals have been shown to help people with various medical issues find relief. One area where topical CBD products are widely used in managing musculoskeletal pain. 

For instance, a 2019 report by the Arthritis Foundation showed that from a group of 2,600 arthritis patients surveyed, 76% had seriously considered using CBD to help with the pain. Twenty-nine percent were already using it. Of those using CBD, 55% applied a topical CBD product on their joints.

Anecdotal evidence from people like Eileen Donovan, who resides in Ayer, Massachusetts, supports the notion that CBD topicals work. Eileen has osteoarthritis and aches. Being allergic to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), she opted for alternative sources to relieve pain. Since 2019, she has applied CBD lotion to her joints twice a day, and the results have been life-changing. She now stands and walks without pain.

But if you're the type of person who is skeptical about word-of-mouth evidence, then hear this. A 2020 study on the effects of topical CBD showed that it might provide pain relief in patients with peripheral neuropathy. Further, the researchers also found that CBD significantly reduces itchy sensations, sharp and/or intense pain, and cold.

Other studies further suggest that CBD topicals may be effective in treating muscle and joint pain brought about by related conditions like migraine and arthritis. 

Other research has shown that topical CBD can potentially cure certain skin disorders. This conclusion was arrived at in a 2019 study investigating CBD topicals' effect on inflammatory skin conditions. The researchers concluded that CBD ointments were "safe and effective" in treating those conditions.

Lastly, the American Academy of Dermatology equally proposes that topical CBD may offer long-term relief from eczema, acne, and psoriasis due to its anti-inflammatory properties.

So, where does this leave us? There is mounting evidence that topic CBD may effectively manage many health conditions.

 

How effective is CBD oil topically

 

Put another way, on a scale, how effective is CBD oil? Well, there is no definitive answer to this question mainly because research on CBD is nascent. However, in clinical studies, a drug's effectiveness is the extent to which it achieves its intended effect.

Can we unequivocally say that CBD oil is effective? Well, this depends.

Many people use CBD products, especially CBD oil, to manage various health conditions. The increasing use of CBD suggests that it has largely given its users the desired effect, e.g., pain relief or better sleep. Thus far, evidence collected from a growing body of studies suggests that CBD oil may reduce inflammation, pain, and overall discomfort. 

If you're using topical CBD oil, you're likely applying it to your skin. So, we guess you are looking for relief from skin conditions like acne, dryness, itchiness, wrinkles, premature aging, bacterial skin infections, etcetera. 

Studies indicate that CBD oil contains antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that can help improve your acne. This prognosis is the result of independent research studies that explored the wide-ranging properties of CBD.

In one of these studies, the researchers examined the effects of CBD on sebocytes (sebum creating cells) and discovered that CBD prevented the overproduction of sebum. Too much sebum on the skin has been linked to acne development.

A second study identified the potential of CBD's antifungal and antibacterial properties in reducing skin infections like acne. These findings show that CBD oil could be effective in preventing acne as well as treating acne scars.

If dry and itchy skin is the reason for your discomfort, then good for you. A 2019 study established that CBD could help treat common skin conditions like itchiness and dryness. This ability was mainly attributed to CBD's anti-inflammatory properties that were noted to inhibit potential triggers of psoriasis, dermatitis, and eczema. 

The same properties could help reduce skin irritation, hence ideal for people with sensitive skin.

Aging is a natural process that we cannot do much about. However, if you look visibly older than your peers, you may be prematurely aging. One of the causes of premature skin aging is oxidative stress. Luckily, CBD contains antioxidative properties that may help reduce premature aging. 

Further, cannabidiol's antifungal and antibacterial properties may also play a role in treating skin infections.

All these findings seem to suggest that CBD oil may be effective topically after all.

 

Is topical CBD absorbed into the bloodstream?

 

With regular CBD topicals, the CBD does not penetrate the skin deep enough to enter the bloodstream. However, with transdermal CBD, there is a high probability that the CBD will be absorbed into the bloodstream. 

This is possible because the patch containing CBD attaches to your skin, allowing the CBD to be absorbed into your systemic circulation over time.

 

Is topical CBD oil safe while breastfeeding?

 

MHRAs like FDA strictly prohibit the use of CBD in any form pre and post-pregnancy, i.e., when breastfeeding. The reason is that CBD is essentially an unknown entity in research. Therefore, for these agencies, it is better to err on the side of caution.

But beyond this cautious approach, an animal study showed that CBD could be potentially harmful to the unborn child. This is because fetuses of the test animals given CBD during pregnancy exhibited brain and cognitive declines soon after birth.

Furthermore, THC is present in a mother's milk for up to six days after marijuana use. Since CBD is a cannabinoid like THC, researchers are uncertain whether it might behave differently. But more importantly, CBD is not regulated by MHRAs leaving quality and safety in the hands of the manufacturing companies. 

With the influx of questionable CBD products on the market, you just cannot risk the safety and wellbeing of your baby.

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