Turning onto Topicals

Noel Palmer, Ph.D., Chief Scientist, Evolab

Topical cannabis products are one of the fastest growing cannabis product categories, and for good reason.

People of all ages have begun to explore the potential benefits of using cannabis directly on skin, muscles and other tender areas. So what are cannabis topicals and how do they work?

Cannabis topicals, which can encompass salves, lotions and liniments, are generally used for skin conditions, muscle soreness, acne, scars and other ailments localized to a certain area.  Most topical products incorporate one or more cannabinoids into a base, cream, oil, lotion, etc. Some topicals incorporate additional botanicals to complement and amplify the effects of the cannabinoids. These products introduce cannabinoids, terpenes and other beneficial compounds into the skin for rapid effects.

Most people associate cannabis use with a psychotropic response, but topical cannabis products don’t have psychotropic side effects. However, there are still many therapeutic benefits that can be had. 

So from a scientific perspective, how do they work? Simply put – cannabinoids contain anti-inflammatory properties.  Because of this, they can be useful when treating a wide variety of skin diseases.  Cannabinoids are active on many receptors in the body.  (Most well-known, THC is a strong agonist to the CB1 receptor in the brain – and this interaction is what is largely responsible for the ‘high’ felt.)  It turns out that there are receptors on the epidermis (skin) that interact with cannabinoids – producing an anti-inflammatory response.  Notably, the capsaicin receptor (aka TRVP1 receptor) can interact with CBD – yielding an anti-inflammatory response . Research on CBG (cannabigerol) has shown that it has potential in the treatment of dry skin syndrome. 

Anecdotal stories are plentiful suggesting beneficial therapeutic outcomes when using topical cannabis products.  Recent work in the scientific community has started to shed light on these details surrounding topical application of cannabis products.  A review published in 2007 discusses how topical cannabis can be used to alleviate allergic skin reactions.  Another review published in 2009   outlines novel therapeutic applications of cannabis products – specifically focusing on CB1 and CB2 receptor activity in the skin. 

Cannabis topicals can be blended with traditionally utilized skin treatments such as vitamin E, collagen, arnica, calendula, white willow bark – to increase the therapeutic value of topical products. 

At Evolab, we are constantly working to develop new ways for our customers to benefit from Cannabinoids. Stay tuned for announcements regarding new Topical products over the coming weeks.

Graham Sorkin