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5 best practices for using cannabis topicals

July 29, 2017
5 Best Practices for Using Cannabis Topicals(bloodstone/iStock)
Cannabis topicals are a great way to enjoy the benefits of THC and CBD without consuming cannabis. They’re useful for a variety of people because they offer localized relief from minor aches and pains without the heady, psychoactive effects of smoking or ingesting the flower.

Explore Cannabis Topical Products

Topicals come in a variety of forms. Some are moisturizing lotions made for every day use while others are balms, salves, liniments, or ointments designed to produce hot or cold sensations alongside their beneficial botanical and cannabis chemistry.


What are cannabis topicals and how do they work?

Choosing the right cannabis topical is up to you, but here’s a set of best practices for applying your cannabis infused topical of choice.

1. Determine where to apply your topical

Before applying your cannabis ointment, consider where your pain is coming from. This might sound like an obvious statement, but what I mean is, “Are you getting a headache from your head or the tension in your neck?” We inadvertently put a lot of stress on our bodies, and finding the “why” of our pain will help define a way to subdue it and, in this case, where to apply the topical.


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If you don’t have any specific nagging areas to focus on, try adding some topical relief to these common sore spots (or, better yet, get your significant other to massage them for you):

  • Temples
  • Neck
  • Elbows, knees, and other joints
  • Wrists
  • Soles of your feet
  • Back of the heel/foot
  • Shoulders

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2. Clean the area

We come into contact with a whole world of unseen bacteria and contaminants that can adhere to our skin. Before applying a dollop of cannabis-infused lotion/topical to your hands, feet, elbows, etc, give yourself a quick rinse. You don’t have to get in the shower and do the Hokey-Pokey, just grab a moist wash cloth or paper towel and scrub the applicable area to remove any unwanted particulates from your skin, then dry the area prior to application.


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3. Be generous and vigorous

After you’ve sufficiently cleaned and dried the affected area, generously apply your cannabis topical. You don’t need to bathe in it, but doing a second or third application is not uncommon. With every application, vigorously massage and rub the topical into your skin. Do not apply too much pressure as to exacerbate your discomfort, but be firm and don’t be shy about a second pass.


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4. Wash your hands!

After applying your topical, wash your hands well. Many topicals have touches of citrus, capsaicin (pepper), or mint, and none of those compounds feel very good in a nostril, eye, or butt crack. Just trust me. Wash your darn hands!


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5. Adjust your expectations

Cannabis is not a panacea, but it can be quite helpful. Don’t expect a lifetime of arthritis to suddenly feel like nothing, or for old war wounds to subside entirely. Rather, prepare for subtle, innocuous relief alongside other sensations depending on the concentration of other soothing ingredients in your topical. Just like a heating pad or IcyHot, cannabis topicals don’t necessarily cure our ailments, they simply make them more bearable.


Cannabis and Arthritis

What are some of your favorite cannabis-infused topicals? Share your preferred brands and your topical best practices in the comments!

Jeremiah Wilhelm's Bio Image

Jeremiah Wilhelm

Jeremiah Wilhelm is a former strain researcher at Leafly.

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  • Michelle

    It’s funny you wrote “dont have to get in the shower” because I always recommend taking a hot shower or bath before applying topicals so your pores open and your skin will absorb the topical more effectively.

    • Michele Mayes-Gerra

      So applying a hot moist washcloth or towel to the area, like they do at the barber shop would work wonders. Good to know.

  • Dana Glasscock

    What topical cream would be good for constant postherpetic neuralgia pain from shingles on forehead and scalp.

    • Claire Jeske

      So I know it’s been a year and I hope you’ve found something – but I also suffer from neuralgia, although not from shingles, and I find that either lotions or rubs that have at a minimum 1:1 CBD to THC ratio are best. My favorites are the 3:1 or 5:1 ones with more CBD, but in general having a good ratio of more CBD and less THC helps greatly. Also, ones with menthol and lemon scents or similar ingredients to Icy Hot can really help as you get both in one go.

    • Brandon Griffiths

      Check out Wildseeds Utility Cream on Instagram. This stuff is amazing!

  • Rachel Cook

    Loki lotion & Loki CBD hands down.Available in CA Best formula, best results, best price.

  • Erica Mahoney

    How many milligrams of cannabis thc/cbd should be in our topicals. No one addresses this! How much to be affective? I’m using oil already infused 1:1 to make my own lotion but no idea how much to use for effectiveness. I would like to make my own infused oil with medical marijuana and I just noticed there’s 0% cbd in my marijuana! How do I get thc and cbd benefits (the whole plant synergy benefit) into an oil? This whole time I thought I was smoking thc amd cbd. Tomorrow I’m going to the dispensary for some questions. But please tell me how much thc/cbd per ounce of lotion should there be? I know it’s personal preference but I’m looking for maximum benefits. Thank you.

    • Zach Zerr

      Erica, would love to help you out with all your CBD questions including how to make your own lotions. please reach out to us @bloomhemp on Instagram – shoot us a message!


    useful information….thanks for sharing….