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THC Cream: A Guide to Pain Relief and Topical Use

19 March 2024

Various topicals on a green surface, with cannabis leaves scattered around.

Discover the world of THC cream for pain relief, a revolutionary approach to managing discomfort without the psychoactive effects traditionally associated with its use. Hence, this guide delves into the benefits, applications, and science behind topicals infused with THC, offering an alternative for those seeking localised aid for soreness and inflammation. 

So, whether you’re new to the concept or looking to expand your knowledge, join us as we explore how these products are transforming the landscape of natural wellness solutions.

Medical Cannabis vs Illicit Marijuana

When considering a THC topical for relief, it’s important to understand the distinctions between legally obtained products and those sourced from the black market. This comparison not only highlights legal implications but also emphasises the importance of safety and product quality.

Legal Status and Safety Concerns

Aspect Medical Cannabis Black Market
Legal Status Legal in states with medical or recreational use laws; requires compliance with state regulations. Illegal; possession, sale, and use are subject to criminal penalties.
Safety Regulations Subject to testing for pesticides, mould, and other contaminants. No regulation; products may contain harmful substances.
Labelling Requirements Accurate labelling of THC/CBD content and other ingredients is mandatory. Often mislabeled or unlabeled, leading to uncertainty about contents.

Quality and Consistency in Products

As also highlighted above, medical-grade cannabinoids are subjected to rigorous standards by health regulation bodies to ensure quality and consistency. Each product is tested for precise THC levels and potential contaminants. Importantly, legitimate medical marijuana users are guided by healthcare professionals, ensuring safe and effective management of their needs. 

On the contrary, illicit products don’t have any guaranteed quality or consistency. Unregulated growing conditions and production lead to varying THC levels. In addition to this, products can be laced with other drugs and may contain moulds, pesticides, or heavy metals. Therefore, it’s worth considering the implications of where products come from before making a choice.

Lyphe: Your Go-To Source for Dependable Medical Cannabis Solutions

The logo of Lyphe Clinic.

At Lyphe, we offer unparalleled care in medical cannabis treatment for pain relief and more. Here is why we are the number one choice for your healthcare needs: 

  • Unrivalled expertise: We’re among the UK’s pioneers in treating patients with medical cannabis, backed by a wealth of experience.
  • Seamless online services: From consultations to medication delivery, experience healthcare at your fingertips, without stepping outside.
  • Dedicated support: Our team is here to assist you throughout your journey, ensuring a tailored and hassle-free experience.

Take your first step towards holistic health management – book your online consultation today.

Understanding THC Creams and Topicals

Hemp-based cosmetic cream for skin care.

THC topicals refer to a range of products infused with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) designed for external application. Unlike ingestible or inhalable cannabis products, creams (and the like) are applied directly to the skin.

Here are the primary types:

Type Characteristics Common Uses
Creams Emulsion of water and oil 

Easily absorbed

Hydration and pain relief for large areas.
Lotions Lighter than creams 

Higher water content.

General moisturising and mild pain relief.
Balms Thick, waxy texture

Stays on the surface longer

Targeted relief for joints and sore spots.
Ointments Oil-based 

Slower absorption 

Intense moisture and barrier protection for severe pain areas.
Oils Concentrated 

Can be used alone or added to other products

Versatile use, including massage and skin care.

Specialised Products

Beyond the basic forms, there are specialised weed products tailored for specific applications or preferences, such as:

  • Transdermal patches: Designed to deliver cannabinoids directly into the bloodstream for systemic effects over a prolonged period.
  • Lip balms: Made with cannabinoids for treating chapped lips, offering the added benefits of anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Bath bombs and soaks: Provide a full-body relaxation experience, combining the therapeutic effects of warm baths with cannabinoids.
  • Lubricants: Cannabis-infused products aimed at enhancing sexual pleasure and comfort.
  • Salves: Utilised for protection and regeneration of the skin, often combined with other herbal extracts.
  • Sprays: Offers a convenient and mess-free application that is suitable for hard-to-reach areas.

Choosing the Right Type for Your Needs

Selecting the appropriate marijuana product depends on several factors, including the area of application, desired effect, and personal preferences regarding texture and absorption. 

Here are some guidelines to help make an informed choice:

  • For large-area use: Lotions and creams are best suited for applying over large areas of the body where you seek moisturisation along with mild relief.
  • For targeted relief: Balms and ointments are more appropriate for localised areas, such as joints or specific muscles, due to their thicker consistency and longer-lasting effect on the surface.
  • For versatile use: Oils can be a good choice for those looking for a product that can be used in various ways, including adding to bath water, direct application, or as a base for homemade weed-infused products.

How THC Topicals Differ From Other Cannabis Products

Feature THC Topicals Other Cannabis Products
Application Method Applied externally to the skin. Ingested orally, inhaled, or used sublingually.
Psychoactive Effects Typically do not produce psychoactive effects, as THC does not enter the bloodstream. May produce psychoactive effects, depending on the THC content and method of consumption.
Targeted Relief Provide localised relief to the area of application. Affects the entire body and can influence mental states.
Absorption Absorbed through the skin to interact with local cannabinoid receptors. Absorbed through the digestive system or lungs, entering the bloodstream.
Onset of Effects Localised effects felt within minutes to an hour. Varies, often within minutes to hours for inhalation and longer for edibles.
Duration of Effects Can last several hours without reapplication. Generally lasts for a few hours, depending on dosage and individual metabolism.

The Science Behind THC Absorption Through the Skin

The effectiveness of THC topicals lies in their ability to deliver therapeutic effects directly to specific areas of the body without systemic distribution. The science behind this localised action involves several key points, such as the following:

  • Skin permeability: The skin acts as a barrier to most substances, but the formulation of these topicals facilitates the penetration of THC to the epidermis and into the deeper layers where cannabinoid receptors are located.
  • Cannabinoid receptors in the skin: According to one experimental study published in the Journal of Dermatological Science, the human skin is rich in cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2), part of the endocannabinoid system (ECS). [1] THC interacts with these receptors, potentially offering anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects.
  • Lipophilicity of THC: THC’s lipophilic nature means it can dissolve in fats, oils, and lipids, which helps it cross the lipid-rich outer layers of the skin. [2]

Benefits of THC Topicals for Pain Relief

One of the most significant advantages of external THC is its ability to provide natural pain relief while minimising or entirely avoiding the psychoactive effects that THC is known for. This characteristic makes them an appealing option for individuals seeking therapeutic benefits and targeted relief.

Here is a brief overview of the benefits of THC topicals: 

Benefit Description
Localised Pain Management Targets specific areas of the body for pain relief without affecting the rest of the body.
Reduced Inflammation Helps decrease inflammation in the affected area, providing relief from conditions like arthritis.
No Psychoactive Effects Delivers pain relief benefits of THC without the high, making it suitable for day-to-day use.
Ease of Use Can be applied directly to the skin, making it easy and convenient for users to manage their discomfort.
Long-Lasting Relief Provides sustained relief for a longer duration compared to other forms of pain management.
Natural Alternative Serves as a natural pain management solution, avoiding the side effects associated with traditional medication.

 

Furthermore, a 2017 clinical study in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management provides insight into the mechanisms through which THC oils can offer pain relief. [3] The trial details a case series involving three patients with pyoderma gangrenosum, a rare and serious skin disease. Each patient was treated with a topical medical cannabis solution (containing THC and CBD) compounded in non-GMO organic sunflower oil. The study reports clinically significant relief in all three cases, which correlated with a reduction in opioid consumption.

Conditions That May Benefit From THC Topicals

The application of THC topicals has garnered attention for its promising potential in managing discomfort and symptoms related to various health issues. Unlike systemic therapies, these products offer targeted alleviation.

Arthritis

Arthritis, characterised by inflammation and pain in one or more joints, presents a significant challenge for those affected. The localised application of THC-infused topicals may offer a reprieve by interacting with cannabinoid receptors in the skin, which can reduce inflammation and the sensation of discomfort. [4]

For a deeper understanding, explore our discussion on ‘Medical Cannabis for Arthritis’. 

Allergic Contact Dermatitis

This condition, resulting from an allergic reaction after skin contact with a substance, leads to itchy and inflamed skin. One study published in the European Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that externally applied THC reduced inflammation in mice models. As such, the anti-inflammatory properties of the cannabinoid may soothe the skin and reduce the severity of symptoms. [5]

Headaches and Migraines

Though the research on external THC for headaches and migraines is in its early stages, anecdotal evidence suggests potential benefits. A 2021 survey from the Journal of Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery highlighted that 27 per cent of topical users apply ointments for headaches and migraines. [6] The theory is that THC may alleviate symptoms by directly acting on peripheral nerves involved in pain pathways.

Visit our detailed guide on ‘Medical Cannabis for Chronic Migraines’ to learn more about how you can manage your condition.

THC Topicals vs Transdermals

Woman applying a transdermal patch on her arm.

Understanding the distinction between THC-infused topicals and transdermal products is also crucial for selecting the right option for pain relief and skin care. While both are applied externally, their mechanisms of action and effects on the body differ significantly. 

Aspect THC Topicals Transdermals
Absorption Primarily affects the surface and upper layers of the skin, with minimal systemic absorption. Designed to penetrate through the skin and enter the bloodstream for systemic effects. [7]
Effects Localised relief at the site of application without psychoactive effects. Can produce systemic effects, including psychoactive experiences, depending on the THC content.
Usage Used for targeted relief of pain, inflammation, or skin conditions. Used for sustained release of THC into the bloodstream for chronic conditions.
Form Available as creams, balms, lotions, and oils. Often come in patches that adhere to the skin for extended periods.

Potential Side Effects of Infused Topicals

While cannabis creams and salves offer a promising alternative for pain management and skin care, it’s important to consider potential side effects. These products, like any other, can cause reactions in some individuals. 

Side Effect Description Management Strategies
Skin Irritation Redness, itching, or rash at the application site. Test a small area before full application; discontinue use if irritation persists.
Allergic Reactions Severe itching, swelling, or hives indicating an allergic response. Immediate cessation of use; consult a healthcare provider if symptoms are severe.
Sensitivity to Sunlight Increased sensitivity of the treated area to UV rays. Limit sun exposure and apply sunscreen to the affected areas.

Key Takeaway – THC Cream for Topical Use

A wealth of options exists for those seeking to manage discomfort through topical application. To this end, choosing the right THC cream can provide targeted or broad support to enhance wellness. Always seek advice from a professional to align your choice with your health goals for the most effective results.

Also, for individuals interested in exploring the potential of THC-infused topicals, Lyphe offers expert guidance and comprehensive support. Embrace the journey towards a more comfortable lifestyle by booking your appointment with us today.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the benefits of THC cream?

THC cream offers localised relief from pain and inflammation without systemic effects or psychoactive experiences. It can also soothe skin conditions, providing a therapeutic benefit directly to the affected area.

What is hemp cream used for?

Hemp cream is commonly used for moisturising the skin and alleviating dryness due to its rich essential fatty acid content. It may also help to soothe minor aches and skin irritations thanks to inherent anti-inflammatory properties.

What is the difference between THC balm and lotion?

THC balms typically have a denser, waxy texture and provide a strong concentration for targeted areas, absorbing slowly for sustained release. In contrast, THC lotions have a lighter, non-greasy texture, absorb quickly, and are suited for widespread use on larger surface areas.

Is balm better than lotion for pain?

Balms may be better for intense, localised pain because they offer a concentrated formula that penetrates deep into the skin for lasting effects. Lotions, however, might be preferred for mild discomfort over a more extensive area due to their ease of application and quick absorption.

Is balm good for arthritis?

Yes, balms containing THC can be beneficial for arthritis symptoms as it can help soothe pain and reduce inflammation.

References

  1. Ständer, S., Schmelz, M., Metze, D., Luger, T., & Rukwied, R. (2005). Distribution of cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) and 2 (CB2) on sensory nerve fibers and adnexal structures in human skin. Journal of Dermatological Science, 38(3), 177-188. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jdermsci.2005.01.007
  2. Touitou, E., Fabin, B., Dany, S., & Almog, S. (1988). Transdermal delivery of tetrahydrocannabinol. International Journal of Pharmaceutics, 43(1-2), 9-15. https://doi.org/10.1016/0378-5173(88)90052-X
  3. Maida, V., & Corban, J. (2017). Topical Medical Cannabis: A New Treatment for Wound Pain—Three Cases of Pyoderma Gangrenosum. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 54(5), 732-736. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2017.06.005
  4. Wipfler K, Zeiger J, Michaud K. Self-Reported Effectiveness of Cannabis for Arthritis-Related Pain [abstract]. Arthritis Rheumatol. 2023; 75 (suppl 9). https://acrabstracts.org/abstract/self-reported-effectiveness-of-cannabis-for-arthritis-related-pain/
  5. Gaffal, E., Cron, M., Glodde, N., & Tüting, T. (2013). Anti-inflammatory activity of topical THC in DNFB-mediated mouse allergic contact dermatitis independent of CB1 and CB2 receptors. Allergy, 68(8), 994-1000. https://doi.org/10.1111/all.12183
  6. Mahmood, F., Lim, M. M., & Kirchhof, M. G. (2021). A Survey of Topical Cannabis Use in Canada. Journal of Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery. https://doi.org/10.1177_12034754211059025
  7. Mahmoudinoodezh, H., Telukutla, S. R., Bhangu, S. K., Bachari, A., Cavalieri, F., & Mantri, N. (2022). The Transdermal Delivery of Therapeutic Cannabinoids. Pharmaceutics, 14(2). https://doi.org/10.3390/pharmaceutics14020438

 

Author: Bojan
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Bojan Ambrus, Head of Marketing & Digital Product at Lyphe Group, is a data-driven growth marketing professional with over 15 years of rich experience. His background includes roles such as Head of Marketing at Vaping.com and growth marketing roles in various enterprises, startups, and scale-ups. His expertise in building and positioning businesses is particularly valuable in the cannabis sector, where he navigates its complexities and regulatory challenges. His strategic marketing insights make Bojan a key player in shaping Lyphe Group's marketing and digital product strategies.

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