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  • Writer's pictureOlympia Team

What are Topicals?

These days there are so many new ways of consuming cannabis, many of which aren’t even intended to get you high. Cannabis-infused topicals in particular, are revolutionizing the perception of marijuana, and making medical cannabis products more accessible to new users than ever before.

What exactly are ‘topicals’?

Topicals are cannabis-infused lotions, balms and oils that are 'transdermal' - in other words, absorbed through the skin. Many people use topicals for localized relief of pain, soreness, and inflammation. Often combined with other ingredients like essential oils for additional relief, topicals are non-intoxicating, which means they offer therapeutic effects without the ‘high’.

How do topicals work?

The cannabis extracts in topical products are absorbed into the skin and bind to a network of cannabinoid receptors in the immune system called CB2, which are part of the endocannabinoid system. (Learn more about your endocannabinoid system here.)

Topicals offer much different effects on your body than other methods of consuming cannabis. When cannabis is ingested, it can produce effects that are similar to those experienced when cannabis flower is smoked or vaped. When cannabis is inhaled, its THC is absorbed by the blood in the lungs and moves quickly to the brain, which can produce an almost immediate whole-body effect, possibly within minutes. However, when cannabis extracts are applied topically, the effects will generally only be felt locally, on the area the product is applied.

Even if a topical contains active THC, it still won’t give you that intense “high” you’d get from smoking or ingesting cannabis. This is because with most topicals, cannabinoids can’t breach the bloodstream; they only penetrate for localized relief.

What are Topicals used for?

Topicals are most popularly used for localized pain relief, muscle soreness, tension, and inflammation, but new evidence has shown topicals may be effective for treating a wide range of other ailments, like psoriasis, dermatitis, headaches and even menstrual cramps.

For example, the THC-rich body rub, Apothecanna Body Cream, is infused with cooling menthol and peppermint, great for winding down from a brutal workout or hike. Soothe Nourishing Hand Treatment is made with CBD that helps calm irritation and tackles rough spots, while other natural ingredients like argan oil, shea butter, and allantoin restore moisture to your skin and provide a protective barrier against the elements.

There are even water-based CBD lubricants on the market, like the Water-based Unisex Lubricant by Proofly, which can offer increased sensitivity and relaxation.

Depending on how the THC and CBD in topicals is processed and the ingredients they are paired with, the effects can vary. But if you struggle with pain or inflammation, topicals might be a treatment worth exploring.

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