CBD is under investigation as a possible topical pain reliever.
In the medical cannabis world, patients most frequently associate tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) with chronic pain relief. Yet, anecdotal reports cite CBD, a non-intoxicating cannabinoid, as able to deal muscle spasms, arthritis flares, and joint pain. While studies are not complete, these are conditions that could potentially benefit from topical pain relief creams.
In association with findings from, “A Cross-Sectional Study of Cannabidiol Users” published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research in 2018, it’s clear that many Americans are dabbling with several different kinds of CBD products — including topicals. Furthermore, this 2018 survey on CBD details how chronic pain and arthritis were the top conditions in terms of reported efficacy.
Certainly people are already relying on CBD for topical pain relief, but does the science support it?
The Potential of CBD for Topical Pain Relief
In 2009, “The endocannabinoid system of the skin in health and disease: novel perspectives and therapeutic opportunities” came out in Trends in Pharmacological Science. Basically, this paper discusses the possibility of new topical treatments from an endocannabinoid approach. As one of the first literature reviews on the topic, the authors describe how the endocannabinoid system actually has “tremendous potential” for the development of novel treatments for skin conditions and ailments. Above all, these include: acne, allergic dermatitis, itchiness, pain, psoriasis, and systemic sclerosis.
So, this means that there is already a scientific consensus supporting the use of topical or transdermal applications of cannabinoids. Particularly, it also means there is a likelihood that these can help patients by reducing pain and inflammation. As a result, cannabinoids for topical skin care are a growing area of study.
Subsequently, more and more researchers are turning their attention to transdermal and topical applications of cannabinoids for pain relief. In the coming months and years, it is likely that cannabis patients will see many new and improved choices for topicals. The format is already popular among patients because it is an easy and portable method for delivering medicinal relief from symptoms of inflammation and pain.
Types of Topical Cannabis Products
There are two main categories of topical products. Firstly, there are the true topical applications, such as creams, balms, and salves. These provide relief to the site of application, and do not break through the skin to absorb into the bloodstream. Overall, this means that patients will not experience any psycho-active side effects from a THC-based product.
Then there are transdermal products (patches and gels) designed to permeate the epidermis to provide systematic relief. Generally, these products absorb into the bloodstream instead of merely staying on the skin. Equally, these work in much the same way as a nicotine patch, with sustained release of medicinal ingredients.
Which Conditions Could Benefit From Topical Relief?
A study published in Molecules (2018), called “Cannabinoid Delivery Systems for Pain and Inflammation Treatment” specified how CBD was of particular interest for inflammatory conditions. Correspondingly, the indicated conditions included deep tissue joint and muscle inflammation from arthritis and osteoarthritis, as well as the pain and swelling that comes with inflammation in rheumatic diseases. Consequently, increased patenting of CBD formulations for these uses is a possibility. Already there are several explorations of cannabinoids for the treatment of pain in transdermal applications.
There are several conditions currently undergoing investigation with cannabinoid-based topical treatments. While each is only in the early phase of study, some have moved beyond in-vitro or in-vivo studies to work with human participants. Here are some of the most exciting areas of study for CBD in topical pain relief:
Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD)
TMD, also known as Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMJ), is a facial joint and muscle condition commonly associated with high levels of stress and distress. Generally, it is a term that covers several different types of joint dysfunction. In 2019, sixty patients enrolled in a study using topical CBD for the symptoms of TMD. The result of this randomized, double-blind trial indicated CBD could reduce myofascial pain and reduce the problematic activity of these facial muscles.
In a 2019 survey published by the American Arthritis Association, almost eighty percent of people with arthritis reported having tried CBD for pain relief at least once. Preliminary studies, including a 2016 in-vivo study published in the European Journal of Pain, have also reported positive benefits of transdermal applications of CBD in animal models of the disease.
How to Make CBD Topicals at Home
There are hundreds of different CBD creams, lotions, and balms on the market today. And each one promises soothing, calming, and muscle-relaxing benefits. The catch? They are often pricey, riding the wave of CBD’s popularity for topical pain relief.
So, how can you reap the benefits from CBD without going broke? Make your own CBD balm at home. Homemade topicals require basic kitchen equipment and allow patients to take control of their medicine.
All-Natural Calming CBD Balm
1 cup coconut oil
1 oz. beeswax
2000mg CBD (oil format)
4 drops peppermint essential oil (optional)
2 drops rosemary essential oil (optional)
Next, gather the following equipment: double boiler (You can use a metal bowl over a boiling pot if you don’t own a double boiler), spatula, and glass wide-mouth jar.
Directions for Making CBD Balm:
- Bring water to a boil in the double boiler (or alternative set up).
- Add coconut oil and beeswax to the double boiler, stir gently until it liquefies.
- Remove from heat, and while still warm mix in CBD oil until it combines well.
- Allow mixture to cool, but not solidify. Add essential oils if you desire, and mix to combine.
- Before solid, pour into a glass container with a tight-fitting lid. Allow the mixture to set before use.
- Before using, apply a test patch to the underside of your wrist to test for irritation or allergies.
- Apply as needed to muscles, joints, and other areas of pain.
- Store in a cool, dry, and dark, place. Furthermore, it’s best not to store in the moist environment of your bathroom.
CBD for Topical Pain Relief, a Promising Area of Study
If the current trends continue, there will very likely be pharmaceutical preparations of CBD in our medicine cabinets soon. Already, there have been dozens, if not hundreds, of patents filed for CBD for topical pain relief. Given a little more research, some of these could make it through clinical trials for the treatment of arthritis, joint pain, or even TMD.
But, with CBD’s known safety profile and how easy topicals are to make at home — why not reap the potential benefits now? Create your very own batch of CBD balm for topical pain relief, with added essential oils. Undoubtedly you can personalize your topical pain relief experience using scents and natural herbs that target your condition. This gives your greater control over your own pain management.