Cannabis topicals were once a staple on the shelf of virtually every apothecary, used for the treatment of aches, pains and skin complaints. Hemp-based cosmetics and lotions have made a reintroduction in recent years as a result of growing knowledge of the benefits of cannabinoids for skin. Now, it’s easy enough to make your own cannabis topical at home.
The cannabis legalization movement has resulted in an abundance of THC and CBD products on the market. What was once an herbal material to pack into a pipe has become an ingredient for the manufacture of multiple cannabis-based products including topicals.
There is an abundance of research into the effect of cannabinoids on skin, especially for those suffering from eczema and dermatitis. Many cannabis balms are manufactured for this exact reason.
With an abundance of THC and CBD oil available on the market, it has virtually never been easier to manufacture your own cannabis topicals at home. You can use a single cannabinoid or a full-spectrum product, both having their own value as a topical treatment.
What are the benefits of cannabis topicals?
Cannabinoids affect the human body by directly targeting the endocannabinoid system. This non-localized physiological system is responsible for maintaining the homeostasis of multiple different systems in the body including the central nervous system and the endocrine system. The cannabinoid receptors and endogenous cannabinoids of the endocannabinoid system can be found almost everywhere in the body, including on the skin.
Dysregulation of the endocannabinoid system has been associated with dermatological conditions such as dermatitis, psoriasis, skin cancer and eczema. This evidence, coupled with the presence of endocannabinoid receptors on the skin, poses a potential avenue of treatment for those with hard-to-treat skin conditions.
Topical applications of cannabis have been used in medicine since ancient times, and were popularised in the Western world in the mid-19th century. It was used as an antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and analgesic agent, even for conditions as debilitating and difficult-to-treat as multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia.
A mouse study showed that topically applied THC effectively treated contact dermatitis, though rodent studies do not always translate to humans. Rates of cannabinoid transfer across the skin vary widely between species. In the case of humans, the outer layer of the skin acts as a slight barrier to the permeation of Δ9-THC.
Although there is no specific research with respect to cannabis and eczema, we do know that both THC and CBD exhibit anti-inflammatory properties. And one of the main drivers of eczema symptoms (itchiness and redness) is inflammation. On top of this, eczema is also considered a hyperproliferative skin disease, and CBD in particular has the property of being anti-proliferative.
Recent patent applications also describe the use of such topical cannabis treatments in a wide range of conditions, from cysts, psoriasis and other inflammatory skin diseases, to treating pain and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections.
Cannabis Science, pioneers of medical cannabis research, are developing a topical whole plant extract for patients with drug resistant HIV (CS-TATI-1). They have successfully treated skin cancer lesions in basal and squamous carcinoma using another cannabinoid topical treatment that they have patented: CS-S/BCC-1. They are currently fighting for FDA approval for the treatment while they plan a range of over-the-counter and prescription topicals.
Overall, the application of cannabis for skin complaints is extremely versatile. Whether the skin complaint is due to irritation and itchiness or pain and lesions, cannabinoids seem to offer an alternative line of treatment. There is some research and evidence supporting the efficacy of cannabinoid treatment for skin, hence why so many cannabinoid topicals have become commercially available.
How to make your own cannabis topical at home
For those who prefer DIY projects to store-bought products, it’s extremely easy to make your own cannabis balm at home. Depending on where you live, it may be easy to acquire CBD oil or other cannabinoid-rich oils. If not, it is easy enough to start with dried cannabis flowers.
Make a cannabis topical with CBD oil
You will need:
- 1 cup coconut oil
- 1 bottle 1000 mg decarboxylated CBD oil (or chosen concentration)
- A jar for storing your topical
What to do:
- Put the coconut oil in a saucepan over the stove on low heat. Allow to melt.
- Pour in the bottle of CBD oil, mixing thoroughly until the two oils are completely mixed together.
- Pour the mixture into a glass jar and allow it to cool and set.
Make a cannabis topical with cannabis flowers
You will need:
- 1 cup coconut oil
- 1 cup cannabis plant material (decarboxylated)
- A cheesecloth for straining and filtering
- A jar for storing your cannabis topical
What to do:
- Use a double boiler system to melt coconut oil in a saucepan. A slow cooker can also be used.
- Once coconut oil has melted, add decarboxylated cannabis plant material and stir.
- Allow the mixture to simmer for up to 6 hours over low heat, ensuring that the coconut oil does not boil or burn.
- Strain the mixture using a cheesecloth into the chosen receptacle for storing the topical.
- Allow to cool and set.
The resultant salve should have the same texture as the original oil that you used (in this case, coconut), but with a slightly green colour. If you wish to have a more fluid product, you may replace coconut oil with fractionated coconut oil (which is a liquid at room temperature), olive oil, jojoba oil or almond oil.
Other ingredients to add to your cannabis topical
When making your own cannabis topical at home, the possibilities are endless. Depending on what skin complaint you are treating, you can add other herbs while slow cooking the mixture. For example, compounds present in the rosemary leaf have been found to have therapeutic effects for those with dermatitis. Arnica, on the other hand, has been used in homeopathic medicine to treat bruising and swelling.
The recipes available online for creating topical lotions are plentiful. Once you have infused cannabis into your coconut oil, you may simply replace the coconut oil in any recipe with the one you have prepared. There are other oils and fats that are extremely beneficial for skin including cacao butter, hempseed oil, vitamin E oil and beeswax. So, if you are feeling adventurous, you may want to try a more involved recipe.
Finally, you may want to perfume your topical lotion by adding essential oils. Certain essential oils also have remedial properties that you can take advantage of. Just remember that essential oils are volatile, so add them when your mixture has cooled slightly. Otherwise, they will evaporate before they have a chance to infuse in the mixture.
It may take multiple attempts until you reach your perfect cannabis topical treatment, especially if you are mixing different fats and oils. In any case, creating your own cannabis balm gives you full creative liberty over what goes in and what does not.
- Disclaimer:This article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult with your doctor or other licensed medical professional. Do not delay seeking medical advice or disregard medical advice due to something you have read on this website.