Cannabis products have been all the rage as of late and topical products are no exception. They are used for pain and inflammation and in skincare. I’m going to give you an overview of the active components of cannabis, the types of oils available and what they’re good for.
First, a little science. Bear with me here, as there has been a lot of confusion created by marketing; either to avoid problems with governments or to fool you, the consumer. There are two types of cannabis plants. First, there’s Cannabis indica which is a typical marijuana plant. Second, there is Cannabis sativa, another type of marijuana plant but also the name for the hemp plant. And most marijuana plants are now hybrids. These plants contain over 100 hundred types of cannabinoids (chemical compounds).
TetraHydroCannabinol (THC) is the best known and is psychoactive (can make you stoned, paranoid, etc.) and can be used for:
- neurological disorders
- mild to moderate pain.
CannaBiDiol (CBD) is non-psychoactive and can be used for:
- reducing pain
- neutralizing the psychoactive components of THC.
Cannabis or marijuana oil can be made from dried flowers/buds and infused into oil. It can be used as is or in a lotion or balm and applied topically, without a psychoactive effect. THC works topically by binding to our pain receptors and it won’t reach the bloodstream, preventing any psychoactive effects. These oils contain both THC and CBD and relieve localized pain, muscle soreness, arthritis, headaches, cramping and inflammation but are said to be most effective for nerve pain. From my personal experience and from the experience of others, it can start relieving pain in as little as five seconds (and longer, depending on how deep the pain is). The amount of THC and CBD will vary depending on the strain of the cannabis plant used but you can expect 5-27% THC and less than 1-15% CBD in the flowers themselves. The oil would contain less as some would be left behind in the flowers. I can’t confirm the proper naming for the ingredients label but the one I make for my husband I label as Cannabis indica (flower) extract. You may also find Cannabis sativa (flower) extract but remember, this may also refer to the hemp plant.
CBD oil can come from the marijuana or hemp plant and has a higher amount of CBD (18-24%) and less than 0.3% THC. If you’re buying this, make sure you’re getting actual CBD oil and not hemp oil. It should be listed as cannabidiol, full spectrum hemp, hemp oil or phytocannibinoid rich (PCR) hemp extracts in the list of ingredients. You may also find broad spectrum which is full spectrum CBD that is THC free.
Hemp (seed) oil is extracted from the seeds of the hemp plant (a variety of the cannabis plant) and contains less than 0.3% THC and trace amounts of CBD and is high in vitamin E. It’s good for dry, irritated skin and has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It is used in cooking and skincare products. This is listed as cannabis sativa (seed) oil on the ingredients list.
For skincare, little scientific information is available. Beauty magazines report that CBD is beneficial for acne as it helps with inflammation and decreases sebum production as well as for anti-aging as it contains antioxidants. Many other plant oils have the same benefits and CBD oil hasn’t been proven to be superior to other sources. CBD oil is also said to be soothing and suitable for sensitive skin.
Research has been limited to studies on allergic and post-herpes skin reactions and pain relief. It may help psoriasis, some types of dermatitis and itching, wounds, pimples, corns, certain nail fungus, rheumatism, sore throat, bronchitis, colds, asthmatic problems with breathing, cancer, aging (study was done on mice), etc.
Did you know our bodies produce endocannibinoids? These are similar to cannibinoids and they affect your sleep, mood, appetite, memory, metabolism, pain, inflammation, motor control, stress and reproduction as well as other systems.
20% of the population has a genetic mutation that releases our endocannibinoids into our bloodstream which makes topicals less effective. My observations lead me to believe that people with high pain thresholds, who are happy all the time, good sleepers, frequent eaters and have memory problems are likely to have this mutation.
Our bodies production of endocannibinoids may reduce with age. Eating essential fatty acids (hemp, flax, chia, walnuts, sardines, anchovies, eggs), chocolate, herbs, spices and tea stimulates production. Meditation, yoga, massage, sunlight, masturbation (presumably sex too), exercise, social time and play time also helps. Avoid pesticides, phthalates and moderate to high alcohol consumption which will impact your production.
Now that marijuana products are legal, I have high hopes that more research will be done!