How and Why to Make Cannabis Topicals for Skin Complaints

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.

In 2017 case studies reported positive results for topical cannabis for pain and symptom management in malignant wounds on cancer patients and on controlling wound pain in necrotic ulcers.

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:

  1. Put the coconut oil in a saucepan over the stove on low heat. Allow to melt.
  2. Pour in the bottle of CBD oil, mixing thoroughly until the two oils are completely mixed together.
  3. 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:

  1. Use a double boiler system to melt coconut oil in a saucepan. A slow cooker can also be used.
  2. Once coconut oil has melted, add decarboxylated cannabis plant material and stir.
  3. Allow the mixture to simmer for up to 6 hours over low heat, ensuring that the coconut oil does not boil or burn.
  4. Strain the mixture using a cheesecloth into the chosen receptacle for storing the topical.
  5. 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.

Comments

25 thoughts on “How and Why to Make Cannabis Topicals for Skin Complaints”

  1. I make a cannabis-infused salve and add other plants and herbs I grow or wildcraft. It really has proven to aid in all sorts of pain from a torqued back, arthritis and more. It is all I use anymore for pain!

  2. SilverSurfer17

    @ maury can you send me a good recept for a cannabis salve? Would be great would use it against neurodermitis. Thanks

  3. In all the videos and blogs I’ve checked out, no one uses rubber/silicone scrappers to get everything out of their container. Why is this? A lot of them also state to not use plastic and seem to use regular silverware or wooden stirers/spoons. Arent most of things BPA free, if thats the concern, but no one says why not?

  4. For such medical, topical salves/creams is it necessary to only use the female marijuana buds, or can we also use other parts of the plant such as leaves and stem of a plant of any sex?

    1. I would like to know how to salve or ointment from marijuana to hopefully help with palmo/plantar psoriasis. The pain is awful but the itch is horrific. I am not on any meds. Went the medical route and it was a failure, now trying to go natural. marijuana is a natural. Any help will be appreciated.

    2. you can use the leaf some stem ,,roots I mix all together sometimes ,,some times just the leaf

  5. I am allergic to coconut oil, what would be a good base to use besides that? Can I use Hemp Oil? Thank you

    1. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

      Hi Ash,

      Thank you for your comment. Yes, hemp oil would be a good base, be sure not to overheat it; as the article says, keep it on a gentle simmer. Good luck!

      With best wishes,

      Scarlet

  6. Maddison hunter

    Hi I’m hoping to use this recipe to put on my lips (angular Chelitis) and eczema over my body but will this make me high?
    Thanks for the recipe 🙂

    1. on low I cook for about 8 hours turn off at night the another eight,, less time would work to but I have always done it this way

  7. will you tell me how to make an ointment or salve with marijuana? I have palmar/plantar psoriasis. The pain is terrible and the itch is horrific. I went the medical route and the meds were a failure, am now going the natural way. Marijuana is a natural herb. and I understand it may help with psoriasis. Is there a special way to use Marijuana in any form? I thought a salve might help with the itch, right?
    Any help will be appreciated.

    1. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

      Hello Littledove,

      I’m sorry to hear about your condition. Following the directions in this post should enable you to make cannabis salve. Although as stated there is evidence that this can help with psoriasis, Sensi Seeds is unable to give medical advice as we are not licensed medical practitioners. I would recommend that you check with your doctor as to which base would be best for making salve, either out of the two mentioned above (coconut oil and petroleum jelly) or something different, to find what would least irritate your skin. Good luck!

      With best wishes,

      Scarlet

  8. I have neuropathy in my feet and I’ve been using this recipe for over a year. It’s about time I thank you for it. I add shea butter and beeswax to make it creamy and my feet have never been smoother and I don’t have to take as much medication as I used to. I’ve shared it with friends and family and they keep asking for more! It helps them with arthritis, back pain, migraines. My nieces suffers from anxiety and even with that, she feels better right away! I know for a fact that it doesn’t get into your system; my friend owns a drug testing company and my husband and I have taken the test, just to make sure. Unfortunately, because of the state I live in, I can not offer it to more people. I’m involved with NORML to lobby for legalization. Let’s not give up hope!

  9. I see thwt the recipe calles for the raw material. If i want to use the pure canabis oil do i cook that too? Is cooking it is hiw it brings out the healing properties or i can make it just by mixing?

    1. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

      Hi Nzusas,

      Thanks for your comment. If you mean cannabis oil like the kind made by extraction from psychoactive strains, there is no need to heat or cook it again as decarboxylation (the process by which the cannabinoids become “active”) has already taken place so just mixing it in should be fine. You can find more information on decarboxylation here. I hope this answers your question 🙂

      With best wishes,

      Scarlet

      1. Hi there,
        thank you so. much for sharing…
        I do have CBD oil and shea butter, I understand I just need to mix them both and thats it? in which proportion? do I need to add something else? I wanna use it for acne…
        thanks in advance for your help

        Have a nice one
        C.

      2. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

        Hi Claudia,

        Thanks for your comment! Unfortunately, I don’t know the answer to your question; the article only covers using dry plant material, not CBD oil, as I’m sure you’ve seen. The good news is that you’re not going to damage your skin by mixing CBD oil and shea butter, so experimenting with different proportions to see what sort of effect it has seems like the best way to go. As for adding anything else, I know that face washes with tea tree oil in them help against acne (German brand Alkmene do a good one) so you could try adding a very small amount of that, however tea tree oil is very concentrated so be careful if you decide to try this. Good luck, and please let me know how you get on!

        With best wishes,

        Scarlet

    1. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

      Hi Joan,
      Thank you for your comment. We are sorry to hear about your situation. As Sensi Seeds is not a medical agency or practitioner, we cannot give any kind of medical advice other than to consult our registered healthcare professional. This article about the potential benefits of medicinal cannabis might be useful for you to show your healthcare provider if they are not familiar with it.

      You may also find it helpful to contact a support group for medicinal cannabis patients. In the UK there is the United Patients Alliance, and throughout much of the rest of the world there is NORML, who should be able to put you in touch with a group in your area (search United Patients Alliance or NORML followed by your area name).

      This are our pages on medicinal cannabis and medicinal cannabis strains, which you might also find interesting.

      With best wishes,

      Scarlet

  10. when making a salve or balm for exterior use do you decarboxylize the cannabis first? or just use the dried herb? Thank you

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Author and reviewer

  • Profile-image

    Sensi Seeds

    The Sensi Seeds Editorial team has been built throughout our more than 30 years of existence. Our writers and editors include botanists, medical and legal experts as well as renown activists the world over including Lester Grinspoon, Micha Knodt, Robert Connell Clarke, Maurice Veldman, Sebastian Maríncolo, James Burton and Seshata.
    More about this author
  • Sanjai_Sinha

    Sanjai Sinha

    Dr Sanjai Sinha is an academic faculty member at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York. He spends his time seeing patients, teaching residents and medical students, and doing health services research. He enjoys patient education and practicing evidence-based medicine. His strong interest in medical review comes from these passions.
    More about this reviewer
Scroll to Top