03 May 2015

Cannabis Topicals

People world-wide have been relieving pain with the cannabis plant for millennia. A common preparation to extract the medicinal elements was to soak the flowers in oil or similar. These extracts were then applied to the skin (topical application) where the medicinal cannabinoids would enter the skin and body tissues, travelling directly to the area of the body that was in need of relief from injury, tension, inflammation or muscle strain. Across the United States new methods of cannabis consumption are changing the notion that 'marijuana' belongs solely in a bong or joint – or that it has to get you 'high', for that matter.

Cannabis-infused topicals are an example of how different modes of consumption are revolutionising perceptions of cannabis as their accessibility, safety and efficacy invite even the most unlikely patrons into the world of medical cannabis. The different modes include: vaporising'medibles' (cannabis-infused edibles); ingestible oilstinctures (infused liquids); and, dabbing (flash vaporisation of cannabis concentrates). 

While medical patients have been using topicals for quite some time, many of these products have remained a mystery to the general population. Americans who have been prescribed opioid pharmaceuticals for pain along with other prescription medications for varying conditions that cause a dizzying array of side effects are looking to cannabis therapy as a simpler, less toxic solution. Mary's Medicinals CEO, Nicole Smith, said: "There are so many patients who want an alternative pain medication that doesn't alter their mental capacity or ability to function. Seventy percent of the products we make are non-psychotropic and that is by design. They are faster acting and longer lasting, but also not as hard hitting."

What Are Topicals?
Topicals include cannabis-infused balms, creams, gels, liniments, lotions, oils, salves and sprays that are absorbed through the skin for localised relief of pain, soreness and inflammation. A variety of products with different ratios of cannabinoids, essential oils and other natural ingredients, lets patients and their caregivers find just the right harmony. Cannabinol (CBN) is a muscle relaxant while Cannabidiol (CBD) is an anti-inflammatory and for someone with Multiple Sclerosis, for example, CBN together with CBD might work best. Due to being non-psychoactive, topicals are often chosen by patients who want the therapeutic benefits of cannabis without the cerebral euphoria associated with some delivery methods. Strain-specific topicals attempt to harness certain terpenes and cannabinoids in a chemical profile similar to that of whatever strain/s the processor wishes to imitate.

Along with Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD, Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) and other cannabinoids, topicals may also include essential oils and other natural ingredients for additional relief, like cayenne, wintergreen (Methyl salicylate) and clove. Many contain hemp seed oil which is jam-packed with both Omega-3 and Omega-6, polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs, or essential fatty acids). Approximately 20% dry weight of the human brain is made up of PUFAs and a third of fatty acids in the central nervous system are PUFAs; both Omega-3 and Omega-6 groups. The Omega-6 group of PUFAs are important in the pro-inflammatory response which is the body’s reaction to infection, stress or injury. Omega-3 fatty acids are important in damping down the inflammatory response and making sure it doesn’t get out of control.

How Do Cannabis-Infused Topicals Work?
Cannabis-infused balms, creams, gels, liniments, lotions, oils, patches, salves, sprays and other topical methods of relief work by binding to a network of receptors called CB-2. CB-2 receptors are found throughout the body and are activated either by the body’s naturally-occurring endocannabinoids or by cannabis compounds known as 'phytocannabinoids' (e.g., THC, CBD). Even if a topical contains active THC, it still won’t induce that intense 'high' you get from smoking, inhaling or ingesting cannabis. When applied topically, cannabinoids can’t breach the bloodstream; they only penetrate to the system of CB-2 receptors. Transdermal patches, however, deliver cannabinoids to the bloodstream and can have psychoactive effects with a high enough THC content. 

Transdermal Delivery via Patch or Gel Pen
The Transdermal Patch was born out of a commitment to accurate dosing and the application of pharmaceutical grade delivery methods within the cannabis industry and is the safest, most effective way to consume cannabis. Cannabinoids currently available via transdermal patches in the US include: THCa, THC Indica, THC Sativa, THC Hybrid, CBD and CBN. Transdermal Patches are generally placed on the wrist or dorsal part of the ankle for systemic absorption and are effective within 10 minutes and can last up to 10 hours. Designed as an accompaniment to patches, transdermal gel pens are the perfect resource for managing breakthrough pain, or for creating your own blended cannabinoid ratios. Placed directly on the skin and gently rubbed in, transdermal gel has the same bio-availability as a patch, but is faster acting and shorter lasting. US gel pens are accurately dosed with 2 mg doses of active cannabinoids. There is also a transdermal cream available that can be rubbed into the wrist which acts similarly to a transdermal patch and is usually 2 mg per dose.

What To Treat With Cannabis-Infused Topicals
Topicals are most popularly chosen for localised pain relief, muscle soreness, tension, inflammation, insect bites and stings, cuts, bruises, arthritis pain and much more with anecdotal evidence beginning to show a widening spectrum of potential benefits, from psoriasis, dermatitis and itching to headaches and cramping. A THC-rich rub infused with cooling menthol and peppermint is a perfect way to wind down from a strenuous workout or bush-walk/hike. Inflammation symptoms may require a different chemical profile, as Cannabis Basics' CEO explains: “Arthritic pain is caused by inflammation ... THCA and CBD ... are anti-inflammatory. Active THC is not for inflammation, but when left in its acid form and combined with CBD, the two work to get rid of inflammation and the pain that comes with it.”

Different topicals have different benefits to offer depending on the way they are processed and the ingredients that are used, so experimenting with various transdermal products to see what works for you would be the ideal. Medical cannabis states in the US are seeing more and more options for topical remedies as time goes on and for sufferers of pain and inflammation, it’s worth exploring. Some will be surprised the difference that one special ingredient makes. Here's a short-list of some of the symptoms and disorders/syndromes and diseases cannabis topicals can be used to treat:
Sore or Tight Muscles
Chronic Pain
Joint Pain
Arthritic Conditions
Skin Conditions, Psoriasis, Pruritis
Repetitive Strain Injuries
Fungal and Bacterial Infections
Back Pain, Neck Pain, Shoulder Pain
Pain in Arms, Legs, Feet and Hands
Multiple Sclerosis
And for those of us still limited to back alleys and the black-market with unknown 'product' thanks to the 'war on drugs' and the mindless illegality of cannabis, here's just a sample of the products we can't have to help with what ails us ... and just a few studies that show, scientifically, that cannabis does work to heal our ills.

Kush Creams
 are hand-crafted in small batches with an extra unique ingredient; Emu Oil. While vegans may not like this, other consumers will love that it absorbs into the skin without clogging pores or leaving a greasy residue. It’s also a hair-growth stimulant, great for patients to avoid hair loss during chemotherapy. The study and understanding of medicinal plants is an inherited quality for the creators of Kush Creams who use a method of identifying and extracting individual, active, medicinal compounds in plants when creating their topicals. This process makes it easy to administer and control dosage in natural medicines and allows each Kush Creams topical to be infused with specific, healing cannabinoids. Walking Sticks are lightly medicated toothpicks that have a spicy yet pleasant clove taste and produce a gentle numbness in the gum. After a trip to the dentist, these toothpicks would be a life saver! Kush Creams also has an incredible and unique line of dental tinctures. Be sure to check them out before your next root canal!

Cannabis Basics create healing topical lotions, massage oils, foot salves, lip butters, pain sticks and soothing tattoo after-care products. The XXX Body Rescue Butter has a pleasant, fruity, floral scent and the natural herbs and oils used ensure the product smells great while allowing the medicine to get through to affected areas. It is highly recommended for headaches, joint pain and migraine.

Ink 20/20 is a fragrance-free, cannabis-infused, balm stick that’s great for soothing irritated skin and easing the pain and itch of a recent tattoo. The applicator means you don’t have to rub it into your skin like other products and its a small enough container to be totally portable.

Vita Verde’s products use medicinal herbs and spices such as mint and cayenne which are natural vasodilators (open blood vessels, decrease inflammation, increase blood flow to affected areas). Fire Balm works on all sorts of aches and pains. It creates a soothing, warm and tingly sensation. A traditional balm (lotions and creams are lighter for everyday use) is great for extreme relief. Made with essential oils, beeswax and cannabis, Vita Verde's balms are thick, somewhat greasy, strong-scented and very, very powerful.

Empower™ Oil from Portland, Oregon is a pain-relieving oil, conveniently applied with a roll-on so you can 'put it where it hurts; rub it in, repeat'. It combines the highest quality essential oils, a proprietary combination of cannabis strains and a unique roll-on applicator to provide pin-point relief with skin nourishing benefits. It’s non-psychoactive, so using it won’t get you 'high', but it will help you address everything from chronic pain to eczema with its anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-microbial and anti-bacterial properties. It absorbs quickly, doesn't stain your clothing and the decrease of discomfort and uplifting effects of aromatherapy will linger. It is safe, non-toxic, hypo-allergenic and completely natural. The Oregon Cannabis Industry Association featured Empower™ and High Times Magazine listed it as one of the Top Ten Topical Companies in the nation in 2014.

Mary’s Medicinals from Denver, Colorado is a nutraceutical company best known as the developer and exclusive distributor of the award-winning Transdermal Cannabis Patch. Transforming how people view and utilise cannabis, developing products that maximise the benefits of cannabis and other vital plant extracts for optimum patient care, the company aims to establish a global brand of wellness products, catering to patients who want to use cannabis and plant-based medicinals as an alternative or accompaniment to traditional or prescription medications. Mary’s Medicinals creates the most effective, accurately dosed products utilising state of the art, clean delivery methods; while maintaining industry leading accountability driven by a patient-first mentality.

Doc Green’s out of San Francisco, California was heralded as a 'revolution in pain relief' with a cream created by a collective of Orthodox Jews who converted many seniors into cannabis activists! When Doc Green’s founder accepted the award for Best Non-Edible Medically Infused Product at the San Francisco Medical Cannabis Cup in 2013, he brought his elderly mother on-stage to share in the glory!

Apothecanna out of Denver, Colorado, offers hand-made, pain relieving, calming and stimulating 'cremes' formulated with natural, nutritious, organic ingredients; wild-crafted herbs and essential oils to help balance the body and the senses. They do not use artificial ingredients, fillers, parabens or known toxins; believe natural treatments are the best and strive to create products of purity, quality and functionality. Apothecanna artfully crafts small batches of their products, never compromise on quality and only test on humans.

Mary Jane’s Medicinals out of Telluride, Colorado offer a pain relief salve, lotion, massage oil, 'lip bong' and heavenly hash bath. This small business hand-crafts their products from scratch!

Granny Greenleaf from San Francisco, California produces a 420 Herbal Balm intended for healing pain and inflammation, created by Granny from beeswax from her home hives.

Browns Botanicals is a worldwide nutraceutical company that produces highly effective cannabidiol (CBD) dietary supplements designed to support overall health and well-being. In 2014 they were the first company on the east coast of the US to win an industry award for their CBDemu Topical Oil.

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