Cannabidiol (CBD) is here with us, and it may be for a long time. Its rise to global fame can only be described as "meteoric." So fast has it been that medical researchers are playing catch-up, trying to explain how a plant as unconventional as marijuana could potentially have so many health benefits.
From relieving pains and aches to promoting better sleep and calming your mind, CBD's therapeutic properties are exceptional. So, it is unfortunate that past prejudice against cannabis may be why researchers are green about this plant.
Nonetheless, a growing body of scientific studies appears to corroborate the opinions of most cannabis users. So, it is hardly surprising that a recent survey shows that 68% of CBD users find it effective.
This may be compounded by the fact that CBD is highly versatile. Besides the usual tinctures and oils, CBD now comes in various forms – vapes, creams, lotions, capsules, edibles, and drinks. This means its administration methods can be altered to achieve specific health objectives.
Using CBD cream for anxiety
That nervousness before a potentially life-changing event or difficult situation echoes our original "fight-or-flight" response mechanism. It is still vital today because it underpins our survival; it awakens our "danger" sensors and enables us to respond accordingly.
In the early ages, a wild animal in the vicinity was a sure anxiety trigger. Today, we get anxious due to problems with our families, finances, relationships, work, and health: same principle, different context.
The American Psychological Association (APA) defines anxiety disorder as "recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns." Roughly 40 million Americans have anxiety disorders, making anxiety the most common mental illness in the country.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are typically prescribed for anxiety disorders. However, these may have undesired side effects, such as loss of appetite, insomnia, and weight loss.
So, natural supplements have emerged as potential alternatives for those who react negatively to SSRIs and SNRIs. CBD-based supplements have, in recent years, been getting rave reviews from consumers regarding their ability to treat the symptoms associated with various conditions, including chronic anxiety.
Just as well because CBD's health-impacting properties are gradually being accepted in mainstream medical circles.
The Permanente Journal, a peer-reviewed publication focusing on innovative healthcare and scientific research, published the findings of a 2019 study that showed the potential effectiveness of CBD in helping reduce anxiety symptoms.
The researchers noted that 79.2% of the 103 adults who participated in the experiment exhibited "decreased anxiety levels" within the first month of receiving CBD treatment.
Similarly, a 2015 review of clinical and epidemiological studies that assessed CBD's effects on various anxiety symptoms concluded that it demonstrated "strong potential" for treating anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder.
These studies provide some empirical basis for CBD's use in managing anxiety disorders. But, we are more familiar with ingestible CBD.
The science behind it is simple: oral CBD goes to the gastrointestinal tract and is absorbed into the systemic circulation. Once in the blood, it targets specific receptors, upregulating or downregulating their activity to induce the desired effects.
But can CBD creams also relieve anxiety?
Here is the thing; the skin is porous so that it can absorb substances. There are three ways substances enter the skin: via intercellular absorption, intracellular absorption, and follicular absorption (or transappendageal absorption).
In intercellular absorption, ingredients go through the skin via the "glue" that holds the cells together in the stratum corneum (uppermost skin layer). This glue is a fatty composition of cholesterol, cholesterol esters, ceramides, and fatty acids.
Oily creams absorb better through this glue than water-based creams since oil and water don't mix anyway.
In intracellular absorption, substances force their way through the stratum corneum. The upper layer of skin is a collection of functionally dead cells, so only very tiny molecules get absorbed this way.
As for follicular absorption, compounds enter the skin via openings (hair follicles). These act as conduits between the skin's upper and lower layers, where they come into contact with blood vessels that nourish the skin.
When the ingredients reach the dermis (second skin layer), they enter blood vessels, elastin, and collagen and begin circulating in the blood and lymph nodes. From this point, the science is similar to how oral CBD works.
How to use a CBD topical
Now that we've established that it is possible to dose CBD via the skin, let's elucidate how to use topical CBD.
If you are a newbie to CBD, it is okay to wonder how a topical application may help with a primarily mental problem. The point is that as long as CBD can get into systemic circulation, it will reach cannabinoid receptors and directly affect the endocannabinoid system.
For optimal results, target strategic spots that allow CBD to be absorbed into the skin. Recall that the cannabinoid receptors are located throughout the body, including the skin.
Apply to the correct area
As opposed to pain and inflammation, where you apply CBD cream directly to the affected area, anxiety is somewhat opaque because there is no specific target area. However, you can target regions generally affected by tension.
These include the forehead, temple, and sections where the skin is thinner, e.g., the underarms, and the face. The underarms for instance, have a 100% absorption rate, so they are great zones to target.
Other tension areas include the neck, hips, stomach, and shoulders. A full body scan may help you identify areas in your body that feel tense.
Massage these areas with CBD cream. Keep in mind that the duration of contact also plays a critical role in determining how much CBD enters the skin. So, take your time to allow as much CBD as possible to penetrate the skin.
Use the right amount
Figuring the amount of CBD in capsules and gummies is simpler because this information is often contained in the label. So, if a gummy contains 10mg of CBD, you know you should take three gummies for a 30mg CBD dose.
It is a bit complicated with creams and lotions because their packages typically state the total amount of CBD in the product. There is a way out though: divide the total quantity of CBD by the package volume to have an idea of the amount of CBD in a unit measure, say, a milliliter.
For example, if a CBD contains 500mg of CBD in 98.5 grams of cream. This means a gram of this cream has about 5.23 grams of CBD. If your daily dose is 50mg of CBD, for instance, you'll need roughly 9.5 or 10mg of the topical.
However, the potency of the cream is also a consideration. High-potency creams can provide as much as 8mg of CBD per application, while low-potency ones can offer 3mg.
Overdosing CBD topically is not common because it makes no sense to over-apply CBD cream when a much smaller quantity does the same job.
At the end of the day, you want value for your money, so wasting CBD by overdosing simply makes no sense. In any case, CBD has very few side effects and is almost non-toxic to humans.
Keep it clean
This is common sense, right? If you want to absorb as much CBD as possible via the skin, clean it. This removes potential barriers like dust, lotions, and any substance that may make it hard for the cream to penetrate.
Also, exfoliating before applying CBD cream helps remove dead skin cells, making the skin thinner for CBD to penetrate easily. Fruit enzymes are great exfoliating agents, so get papaya juice to wipe the skin.
Do a patch test
Patch tests help determine how your skin reacts to a product before full-body application. While CBD is non-toxic to humans, the other ingredients added by manufacturers may not be.
So, apply CBD cream to a small part of your skin and wait at least 24 hours to see the effects. In some cases, you may wait 48 hours. Afterward, check for any signs of swelling, redness, or itchiness. If you experience any side effects, stop using the product immediately.
Warm the skin
Warm skin absorbs better than cold skin. So, before applying CBD cream, make your skin warmer using a warm, moist towel.
Use CBD in support of other wellness efforts
Despite the hype CBD has generated, it is not a miracle product. Medical professionals advise against quitting conventional anxiety medications when starting on CBD.
Take note also that some medications (e.g., Xanax) may react negatively with CBD. Therefore, consult your doctor before mixing two or more drugs for the same condition.
Potential benefits of CBD topicals
So, what are the benefits of using CBD topicals over oral CBD?
Has a calming aroma
Pure CBD does not have an odor, so sometimes, manufacturers add fragrances to make them more appealing. However, full spectrum (or broad spectrum) CBD topicals may have an earthy, grassy scent that many people find repulsive.
This is not a significant problem. Adding artificial scents like lavender or cinnamon usually does the trick. Of course, no one wants to walk around smelling weedy!
Promotes a restful night's sleep
CBD's sedative effects have been established in many scientific studies. It can provide relief at the surface and deeper tissue levels, aiding relaxation and helping the individual sleep better.
Experts believe that CBD promotes sleep by bringing together all the ingredients of good sleep, calming your mind, relaxing your body, and soothing physical pain.
Contains 0.0% THC
The legalization of cannabis in the United States followed the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. Among the provisions of this bill was a requirement that hemp-based products should not have high THC content. The maximum amount of THC allowed was capped at 0.3%—barely enough to induce its psychoactive effects.
So, any CBD product on the market today is legally required to have less than 0.3% THC content. Otherwise, the products—and their manufacturers—risk legal problems.
Suggested uses for CBD cream
CBD's excellent safety profile and versatility mean it has many uses. Here are some of them:
CBD cream can be used multiple times daily
Overdosing topical CBD is rare and probably unheard of. One reason is that a person would have to ingest nearly 20,000mg of CBD oil in under 24 hours for it to be toxic to their system!
For context, most CBD gummies contain 10-30mg of CBD. This would mean ingesting 666 gummies (30mg) or applying 40 containers of most standard CBD creams within a day! Besides the health implications of such a feat, the financial costs would be colossal!
Subsequently, CBD creams can be used multiple times daily without the risk of overdosing. Researchers and the World Health Organization concur that CBD is unlikely to cause serious side effects, even in large doses.
Apply generously to chest and neck
The neck, shoulders, and chest areas are "high tension areas," which is why masseuses often focus on them. Applying CBD creams to these areas may help relieve the tension and reduce anxiety.
Use before bedtime to create a calm environment
Another advantage of CBD is that you can integrate it into your routines to harness its therapeutic properties.
In fact, people who integrate CBD into their routines tend to enjoy its benefits more. This is because CBD is not a "one-off" type of supplement. You have to use it consistently and persistently to feel its impact.
Applying CBD cream before bed is ideal because it gives its ingredients all the time they need to get into the skin and do their thing.
Use meditation and yoga to enhance relaxation
It has been shown that augmenting CBD with other relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation greatly helps. So, apply CBD before your sessions to get you into the right frame of mind (get rid of pre-session anxiety) and relax your muscle tissue afterward.
Apply during your skincare routine to support a youthful-looking complexion
CBD contains beneficial compounds that may help rejuvenate the skin, making it youthful. Its antioxidants are considered more potent than both vitamin C and vitamin E.
Antioxidants slow the aging process by neutralizing free radicals, which degrade collagen – the compound that keeps the skin firm and tight.
Where to apply CBD cream
Ideally, apply CBD cream to areas with thinner skin and a rich supply of capillaries to speed up CBD absorption. Some places you can start with are:
Besides having thinner skin, the armpit area contains millions of sweat pores and glands (apocrine glands). This makes them ideal for applying CBD cream due to higher absorption rates.
The scalp's skin contains a richer network of blood vessels, hair follicles, and sebaceous glands than any other body part. These provide more than enough conduits for CBD to enter the bloodstream, making the scalp a prime area to apply CBD cream.
The temple forms part of the face, so the skin here is thinner and more sensitive than most body parts. Thinner skin means faster CBD absorption into the systemic circulation.