The skin and internal systems interact differently with CBD, which is why when you examine the ingredients of popular topicals like Mary’s Nutritionals Muscle Freeze, versus a tincture from the same company like Mary’s Nutritionals Remedy Oil, they are starkly different. The primary difference is that oral CBD oils are meant to be absorbed in the digestive tract and the saliva glands of the mouth, while topicals are designed to effectively absorb through the body’s largest organ, the skin. This means topicals have carriers that are different from oils, which would cause gastrointestinal distress, as they’re not meant to be ingested.
By contrast, when examining the ingredients of oral CBD oil, one may note a stark simplify when compared to topicals. The Design Wellness CBD Oil has only two ingredients for instance, Full Spectrum CBD and a carrier oil (MCT). Some, like Mary’s Remedy Oil, also contain flavoring (cinnamon) and other essential oils. As these ingredient combinations have been formulated to be absorbed through the digestive tract and glads, and not the epidermal layer of the skin, they are MUCH more effective when taken orally, especially when applied to the Submandibular Glands occupying the space under the tongue. This type of administration is called “sublingual” and while research is still ongoing, mounting evidence points to this being the most effective method of absorbing CBD.
Oral CBD Vs. Topical CBD: The Ingredients
That being said, we are aware of one company that has bridged this gap. When Leef Organics developed their acclaimed Revive CBD Balm, they focused on developing a holistic topical that could be used as needed around the entire body (avoid the eyes though!). We’ve heard from several customers that their morning routine is actually to add this topical to their coffee in the morning. With a simple list of ingredients like Cacao Butter, Grapeseed Oil, Organic Whole Plant CBD Extract, Calendula, Peony, & Lavender, Leef’s Revive Balm keeps it simple and provides endless uses for their topical.
Leef bridges the gap again with their Leef Organics Wild Crafted CBD Skin Oil, which is very different from oral CBD oils, in that it is intended exclusively for the skin. Once again, a read-through of the ingredients shows us that there are added components to help with absorption by the skin, that make this an external use only product.
Yes, in most cases you can use your oral CBD oil products topically on your skin. However it’s probably not a good idea for efficiency, price, and overall effectiveness. Let’s take a look at the differences between oral and topical CBD products.
If you’re worried about a purely topical CBD product getting into your bloodstream, Dr. Tishler explains that’s unlikely. CBD is hydrophobic (meaning it isn’t water-soluble) and lipophilic (attracted to lipids, like oils) and tends to stay on the outer layer of skin or possibly accumulate in the sebaceous glands unless it’s paired with “enhancers” (ingredients designed to help them make it through the skin, at which point they would instead be transdermal). Making a truly “water-soluble CBD” has been a challenge for the industry, although there are a variety of patents out there.
“Cannabidiol is a super messy drug,” Ziva Cooper, Ph.D., research director of the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative in the Jane and Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and the department of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences, tells SELF. “It has lots and lots of targets and it’s not clear how much of its effects on each target contribute to the potential pain relieving effects.”
In fact, the most compelling research they found for using cannabinoids for pain came from a large review and meta-analysis published in JAMA in 2015. For the study, researchers looked at results from 79 previous studies of cannabinoids and various medical conditions, including chronic pain. However, of those studies, only four involved CBD (without THC)—none of which were looking at pain. So although we might assume that CBD is doing something to help address pain—according to the studies involving the whole cannabis plant—we don’t have great evidence to prove it.
So…is CBD cream just an expensive placebo?
“There’s really no substitute for doing proper human studies, which are difficult, expensive, and ethically complicated,” Dr. Tishler says. And we simply don’t have them for CBD and pain.
Why does the body have receptors for compounds in cannabis? Well, it doesn’t exactly. Cannabinoids like THC and CBD are similar enough to compounds that your body naturally makes, called endocannabinoids, that they can interact with this system. Normally, the endocannabinoid system is thought to play a role in a variety of functions in the body, helping to regulate things like parts of the immune system, the release of hormones, metabolism, and memory.
But some studies have found essentially zero side effects of high-dose CBD (900mg) and those that researchers do see—like drug interactions—aren’t considered to be issues when CBD is used topically.
Another study published in 2016 in the European Journal of Pain also looked at arthritis in rats but did so with a topical formulation of CBD. After the rats received an injection into one knee joint to model arthritis, they received a gel that contained either 10 percent CBD (in four different total amounts) or 1 percent CBD (the control) on four consecutive days. The gel was massaged into the rats’ shaved backs for 30 seconds each time.
Topicals that contain cannabinoids, like roll-ons, can ease psoriasis by slowing down skin cells’ growth and reducing inflammation. Plus, hemp seed oil, which many CBD products contain, has a perfect balance of Omega 3 and Omega 6.
Hemp, however, has a much lower concentration of THC than marijuana. Thus, most CBD is derived from hemp to ensure there is little to no THC.
It’s a national crisis that affects social and economic welfare in addition to public health. Even medication, like suboxone, which is supposed to help people kick an addiction can become a dangerous new addition.
6. They’ll Help You Sleep
So if you don’t have to worry about drug testing at work, opt for full or broad spectrum whenever you can.
Those cannabinoids latch on to the endocannabinoid receptors in your brain. The endocannabinoid system is involved in a number of your body’s processes, like mood, memory, and appetite.
Or they might not derive their cannabinoids from unsafe hemp, using processes that take harmful pesticides with them in the extraction journey.
CBD can also be an effective method for fighting chronic pain. While we mentioned using it for intermittent pain, it’s important to note how chronic pain users benefit as well.