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How to Make Cannabis Lotions — Cannabis Topicals 101

Revolutionary is a pretty big word but can definitely be used in the context of cannabis-infused lotions and balms. They provide medicinal benefits without the psychoactive effect of THC.

Cannabis has been with us for centuries, but innovation and curiosity have made a huge impact on how we enjoy this age-old plant. While more traditional methods of cannabis consumption like smoking a joint or using a bong are still popular, edibles, vaporizing, and topicals are gaining more traction.

Let’s take a closer look at cannabis topicals and discuss what they are, how they work, and how you can make your own cannabis-infused lotions at home.

What Are Cannabis Topicals and How Do They Work?

Cannabis topicals come in a variety of forms, including creams, balms, lotions, oils and lubricants. These products work by delivering cannabinoids and terpenes found in the cannabis plant directly to receptors in the epidermis and dermis.

What Are the Benefits of Cannabis Topicals?

Cannabis topicals have a unique range of benefits. Topicals containing THC, for example, can deliver the powerful effects of this cannabinoid without the head high, which for some people can be undesirable or unpleasant. Unlike smoking or vaporizing, which deliver cannabinoids and terpenes into the bloodstream and to a variety of receptors all around the body, topicals have the benefit of acting on a very localized area.

Check out other benefits of cannabis topicals:

  • They’re easy to use. Dabbing or smoking can be tricky, especially for people new to cannabis. Using a topical, however, is as simple as smearing cream or lotion on your body.
  • They’re simple to dose. It can be easy to overstep the line when smoking, vaping, or eating weed. With topicals, however, dosing is super simple, and taking a larger dose won’t cause any unwanted side effects.
  • They offer a slow, steady, and controlled release. The effects of smoking or vaping cannabis can set in very quickly, while edibles can take up to 1 hour to take effect. Both edibles and smoked/vaped cannabis can seem overwhelming for some users. Topicals draw a nice middle ground between the two, offering a fast onset with a steady release and the ability to re-apply when necessary.
  • They omit the lungs. While cannabis connoisseurs are quick to defend smoking weed, research has shown that cannabis smoke contains many of the same harmful compounds found in tobacco smoke.
  • They avoid first-pass metabolism. When you swallow cannabis, be it in the form of a brownie, capsule or oil tincture, it usually loses concentration (and potency) by the time it reaches the bloodstream. Cannabis topicals bypass this problem because they don’t pass through the digestive tract.
  • They avoid drug fluctuation levels. When you smoke or vaporize cannabis, the number of cannabinoids and terpenes delivered to your system can fluctuate dramatically depending on your smoking pattern. Topicals, on the other hand, offer a steady flow of cannabinoids and terpenes to your system, which is great for anyone using cannabis medicinally and those in need of lasting relief.

What Can Cannabis Topicals and Lotions Do for You?

Thanks to their mechanism of action, cannabis topicals can offer relief to people dealing with a wide variety of issues, affecting mainly muscles and skin. Best of all, as we mentioned earlier, topicals offer this relief without the psychedelic effects of THC-rich cannabis.

Potential anti-inflammatory [1] properties of both THC and CBD have been widely researched. When using topicals, you’re able to deliver these cannabinoids directly to the areas needing them most. This localized mechanism of action could help soothe muscles when injured or strained by exercise.

But the powerful effects of cannabis can do much more. If you are dealing with skin imperfections, like blemishes or redness, or you are looking for creams to help with rough or sensitive skin, you can also consider trying cannabis-infused creams. Rather than smoking, vaping, or eating your bud, using a cannabis lotion can offer faster and more targeted relief, by working directly on the affected regions of the skin.

You can also use cannabis topicals, like lotions and creams, as part of your daily moisturizing or skincare routine to promote general health of the skin. Studies have shown [2] , for example, that the endocannabinoid system may play an important role in promoting skin homeostasis, which suggests that using cannabis-derived topicals may be an excellent holistic approach to the overall health of your skin.

What Are Transdermal Cannabis Patches?

Unlike topicals, which only reach receptors in the epidermis and dermis, transdermal cannabis patches penetrate through the skin, delivering cannabinoids and terpenes to blood vessels in the hypodermis (also known as the subcutaneous layer).

Once applied to the skin, the compounds contained in a transdermal patch travel down through the skin until they reach the capillary vessels in the hypodermis. From there, they enter the bloodstream and are capable of reaching other receptors in the area. Transdermal patches can offer wider-reaching and longer-lasting relief.

How to Apply Cannabis Topicals

  1. Wash your skin with mild soap and warm water, then dry it completely.
  2. If you’re trying a new brand or type of lotion for the first time, consider spot testing it on a small area of skin first, just to check how your skin reacts.
  3. Apply a thin layer of cannabis lotion and rub it into the skin gently. If you’re using the lotion to treat sore muscles, try massaging the area gently for extra relief. Reapply if needed.
  4. Wash your hands to remove any excess lotion.

Quick Guide to Making a Cannabis- Infused Balm

Now that you know about cannabis topicals, it’s time to get hands-on. Although at home you don’t have the possibilities of multi-national companies when it comes to accurate production processes, you can still create your very own natural cannabis balm. From a technical point of view, the production of cannabis lotions and creams is very similar to making cannabis-infused butter. If you know how to make cannabutter, you pretty much know how to make lotions.

INGREDIENTS AND EQUIPMENT:

  • 250–500ml of coconut oil
  • 15–30g of dried cannabis flower
  • Cooking pot
  • Cheesecloth (or any kind of fine mesh material)
  • Beeswax, shea butter, almond oil or other ingredients designed to boost skin health (feel free to customize these based on your skin’s needs)
  • Storage containers

METHOD

  1. Grind your flower and decarboxylate for 45 minutes in an oven preheated to 110°C.
  2. Pour your coconut oil into the cooking pot. Heat gently on low heat.
  3. Add your decarboxylated ground flower to your oil and gently simmer for at least 3–4 hours.
  4. Add any additional ingredients you wish to use to enrich your topical with, then remove the mixture from the heat and let it cool a bit.
  5. Strain through the cheesecloth into your storage containers. Remember to squeeze the mass of flowers through the cheesecloth to avoid wasting any of the product.

When making your own cannabis topicals, we highly recommend to experiment with different ingredients to create a final product tailored to your skin needs. Remember, any ingredient you find in a store-bought cream or lotion (from almond milk to shea butter and anything in between) can be a great addition to your homemade cannabis lotion. Get experimenting and get ready to experience cannabis like never before.

Are you interested in trying cannabis-infused creams and lotions? Discover the properties of cannabis topicals and learn how to easily make them at home.

More about Topicals

What are Topicals?

Topicals are cannabis-infused products you apply directly to your skin to relieve an ailment. Cannabis used in topicals will allow cannabinoids to be absorbed into the bloodstream at a slower rate than smokable or edible cannabis, so the effects of topicals are typically felt only where they’re used without the THC that causes intoxication.

They can include lotions, oils, patches, sprays, soaps, lubricants, bath salts, and cool or warm balms, and are often made with essential oils and other organic materials. You might find tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), or tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) in topicals, but whether they have an intoxicating effect depends on the cannabinoids used and where on your body they are applied.

How Topicals work

What does topically mean when it comes to cannabis creams? Your body’s natural endocannabinoid system (ECS) regulates your appetite, mood, and pain and pleasure receptors, among other functions. Cannabinoids THC and CBD, the active compounds in cannabis plants, are chemicals that activate that system. Your body also makes its own natural versions of these compounds, called endocannabinoids.

Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

THC and endocannabinoids are also similar in that they both bind to cannabinoid receptors called CB1 and CB2 receptors. These receptors, and the molecules that bind to them, are responsible for a wide range of biological functions, such as anti-inflammation and pain relief.

Can You Absorb THC Through Your Skin?

When you use cannabis-infused topicals, THC can bind directly to CB1 receptors present in skin, muscle tissues, and nerves, and that brings relief to the affected area. It also makes its way into the bloodstream, where it interacts with CB2 receptors. Topical cannabis can get distributed to the rest of the body via the blood, but this happens so slowly that most people don’t detect any mental effect.

What are the Side Effects of CBD or THC Cream?

As a prospective topical consumer, you may wonder, do topicals get you high? Based on anecdotal reports, if the cream you’re using is CBD- or THCA-based, there will be no intoxicating side effects. THC-based cannabis cream may cause the euphoric effects typically associated with THC, but the effects are typically mild.

Since there’s usually little to no high, topicals can be a great choice for people who want the relief without the full intoxicating side effects.

Health Benefits — What does THC and CBD Cream Do?

Pain and Inflammation

Topicals can treat breakthrough pain, neuropathic pain, and chronic pain. In fact, some studies have shown cannabis to be better for treating chronic pain than opioids . And since arthritis pain is frequently caused by joint inflammation, treating the inflammation itself relieves pain . This is why CBD oil or infused topicals are often seen to reduce pain for conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or multiple sclerosis (MS).

Skin Conditions

Researchers at the University of Colorado found that cannabis Topicals can effectively treat a variety of skin diseases including psoriasis, severe itching, and atopic and contact dermatitis.

If you have eczema , topicals can treat the itching and inflammation, and the antimicrobial characteristics of cannabinoids may even help manage Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, which are a complication and a driving factor behind eczema. Be sure the product you choose is for the reduction of pain, inflammation, and skin irritation, not something developed for muscle and joint pain.

Acne sufferers, rejoice! CBD has been shown to inhibit lipid production in skin cells, thus effectively regulating how much oil your skin produces.

Topical cannabinoids have antioxidant properties that can protect against skin damage, and may also be the new frontier for those who want to look younger.

Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

Dystonia, Dyskinesias, and Tics

Movement disorders are worse in patients who are anxious, so cannabis may be able to help. A 2015 study was somewhat inconclusive, but did show potential promise for cannabis topicals in the treatment of dyskinesias, tics, and possibly dystonia.

Wounds

In 2016, research showed topically applied THC and CBD cannabinoids could provide effective pain and symptom management in the healing of malignant wounds. The antibacterial properties of cannabinoids may also help address antibiotic resistance .

Headaches

Cannabis cream or lotion can be rubbed directly into your temples. There are even some preliminary studies showing that cannabis cream and other topicals could be effective for migraine relief.

Sexual Pleasure

From lube to suppositories , topicals can bring more pleasure and comfort to the bedroom (or wherever you get busy). It should be noted that these types of products are capable of causing euphoric effects if they are THC-based. This method of consumption can be compared to dosing with a sublingual tincture. The kinds of skin and mucosa we have in the oral cavity and on the genitals are very similar, both high in blood vessels that take up cannabinoids immediately.

What to Expect When Using Topicals:

The effects of some topicals can be felt right away, while others can take hours. And keep in mind that while most topicals will not get you high, some transdermal patches will, because they allow THC to enter the bloodstream. Similarly, while many cannabis creams won’t cause you to fail a drug test, there are no guarantees, so proceed accordingly.

A lotion or ointment that is applied directly to a part of the body. Topicals are utilized for fast-acting localized relief of inflammation and pain.