As the use of cannabis becomes ever more socially acceptable in the US, consumers are considering new ways to harness the therapeutic effects of THC. Topical THC is a powerful method of using cannabis, with a lot of potential to provide relief from various physical issues.

What is Topical THC?

A THC topical is a cream, ointment, balm, oil, soap, or bath salts that are usually infused with both THC and CBD. The topical is applied directly to the skin and absorbed for localized relief.

A transdermal application of cannabis is technically a topical application. But it shouldn’t be confused with other types of topical THC products, as it’s applied via a patch to the skin. The other difference is that transdermal patches are often used to get high when oral methods aren’t available or convenient, rather than for medicinal purposes.


How Does It Work?

Your body has an endocannabinoid system (ECS), which plays a part in regulating your appetite, mood, memory, and pain and pleasure receptors. The cannabinoids from the topical THC absorb into the epidermis and bind with the cannabinoid receptors in the ECS. Once there, they provide localized relief for pain and discomfort.

The onset of topical treatment is normally felt within a few minutes and will remain for one or two hours, but this can vary. It’s better to simply observe your body and figure out which frequency and method work best for you.

What’s it Used to Treat?

Different topicals provide varied benefits – it largely depends on how they’re processed, the ingredients used, the levels of both THC and CBD in them, and your body’s individual response to each substance.

But topical THC is commonly used to seek relief from:

  • Joint pain and inflammation, like arthritis
  • Muscle aches and tension
  • Open wounds, such as cuts and burns, due to THC’s analgesic, antibacterial and antiseptic properties
  • Skin infections
  • Bruises
  • Insect bites and stings
  • Skin conditions such as psoriasis, severe itching, dermatitis, eczema, and acne
  • Swelling
  • Headaches

Some say THC topicals also help treat pain and malignant wounds caused by cancer, but there’s limited human trial evidence so far.

Can These Products Get You High?

The simple answer is that it’s very unlikely.

Although a topical with THC contains the same active compound as other cannabis products you smoke or eat, it’s usually CBD or THCA-based, so you won’t be able to get high from it.

That’s because the THC in these topicals doesn’t break through and dissipate into the bloodstream, so it won’t produce the same euphoric feelings. It simply works locally with the ECS to provide physical relief.

Researchers also published a study in 2017 that found that THC topicals do not cause users to test positive on a drug test.

Keeping Things Realistic

Don’t expect miracle outcomes from topical cannabis treatments. Instead, consider THC topicals as a useful tool in your toolbox for symptom relief, and have a swell time exploring the benefits it can bring for your wellbeing.