How to Make Cannabis Lotions — Cannabis Topicals 101
Revolutionary is a pretty big word but can definitely be used in the context of cannabis-infused lotions and balms. They provide medicinal benefits without the psychoactive effect of THC.
Cannabis has been with us for centuries, but innovation and curiosity have made a huge impact on how we enjoy this age-old plant. While more traditional methods of cannabis consumption like smoking a joint or using a bong are still popular, edibles, vaporizing, and topicals are gaining more traction.
Let’s take a closer look at cannabis topicals and discuss what they are, how they work, and how you can make your own cannabis-infused lotions at home.
What Are Cannabis Topicals and How Do They Work?
Cannabis topicals come in a variety of forms, including creams, balms, lotions, oils and lubricants. These products work by delivering cannabinoids and terpenes found in the cannabis plant directly to receptors in the epidermis and dermis.
What Are the Benefits of Cannabis Topicals?
Cannabis topicals have a unique range of benefits. Topicals containing THC, for example, can deliver the powerful effects of this cannabinoid without the head high, which for some people can be undesirable or unpleasant. Unlike smoking or vaporizing, which deliver cannabinoids and terpenes into the bloodstream and to a variety of receptors all around the body, topicals have the benefit of acting on a very localized area.
Check out other benefits of cannabis topicals:
- They’re easy to use. Dabbing or smoking can be tricky, especially for people new to cannabis. Using a topical, however, is as simple as smearing cream or lotion on your body.
- They’re simple to dose. It can be easy to overstep the line when smoking, vaping, or eating weed. With topicals, however, dosing is super simple, and taking a larger dose won’t cause any unwanted side effects.
- They offer a slow, steady, and controlled release. The effects of smoking or vaping cannabis can set in very quickly, while edibles can take up to 1 hour to take effect. Both edibles and smoked/vaped cannabis can seem overwhelming for some users. Topicals draw a nice middle ground between the two, offering a fast onset with a steady release and the ability to re-apply when necessary.
- They omit the lungs. While cannabis connoisseurs are quick to defend smoking weed, research has shown that cannabis smoke contains many of the same harmful compounds found in tobacco smoke.
- They avoid first-pass metabolism. When you swallow cannabis, be it in the form of a brownie, capsule or oil tincture, it usually loses concentration (and potency) by the time it reaches the bloodstream. Cannabis topicals bypass this problem because they don’t pass through the digestive tract.
- They avoid drug fluctuation levels. When you smoke or vaporize cannabis, the number of cannabinoids and terpenes delivered to your system can fluctuate dramatically depending on your smoking pattern. Topicals, on the other hand, offer a steady flow of cannabinoids and terpenes to your system, which is great for anyone using cannabis medicinally and those in need of lasting relief.
What Can Cannabis Topicals and Lotions Do for You?
Thanks to their mechanism of action, cannabis topicals can offer relief to people dealing with a wide variety of issues, affecting mainly muscles and skin. Best of all, as we mentioned earlier, topicals offer this relief without the psychedelic effects of THC-rich cannabis.
Potential anti-inflammatory  properties of both THC and CBD have been widely researched. When using topicals, you’re able to deliver these cannabinoids directly to the areas needing them most. This localized mechanism of action could help soothe muscles when injured or strained by exercise.
But the powerful effects of cannabis can do much more. If you are dealing with skin imperfections, like blemishes or redness, or you are looking for creams to help with rough or sensitive skin, you can also consider trying cannabis-infused creams. Rather than smoking, vaping, or eating your bud, using a cannabis lotion can offer faster and more targeted relief, by working directly on the affected regions of the skin.
You can also use cannabis topicals, like lotions and creams, as part of your daily moisturizing or skincare routine to promote general health of the skin. Studies have shown  , for example, that the endocannabinoid system may play an important role in promoting skin homeostasis, which suggests that using cannabis-derived topicals may be an excellent holistic approach to the overall health of your skin.
What Are Transdermal Cannabis Patches?
Unlike topicals, which only reach receptors in the epidermis and dermis, transdermal cannabis patches penetrate through the skin, delivering cannabinoids and terpenes to blood vessels in the hypodermis (also known as the subcutaneous layer).
Once applied to the skin, the compounds contained in a transdermal patch travel down through the skin until they reach the capillary vessels in the hypodermis. From there, they enter the bloodstream and are capable of reaching other receptors in the area. Transdermal patches can offer wider-reaching and longer-lasting relief.
How to Apply Cannabis Topicals
- Wash your skin with mild soap and warm water, then dry it completely.
- If you’re trying a new brand or type of lotion for the first time, consider spot testing it on a small area of skin first, just to check how your skin reacts.
- Apply a thin layer of cannabis lotion and rub it into the skin gently. If you’re using the lotion to treat sore muscles, try massaging the area gently for extra relief. Reapply if needed.
- Wash your hands to remove any excess lotion.
Quick Guide to Making a Cannabis- Infused Balm
Now that you know about cannabis topicals, it’s time to get hands-on. Although at home you don’t have the possibilities of multi-national companies when it comes to accurate production processes, you can still create your very own natural cannabis balm. From a technical point of view, the production of cannabis lotions and creams is very similar to making cannabis-infused butter. If you know how to make cannabutter, you pretty much know how to make lotions.
INGREDIENTS AND EQUIPMENT:
- 250–500ml of coconut oil
- 15–30g of dried cannabis flower
- Cooking pot
- Cheesecloth (or any kind of fine mesh material)
- Beeswax, shea butter, almond oil or other ingredients designed to boost skin health (feel free to customize these based on your skin’s needs)
- Storage containers
- Grind your flower and decarboxylate for 45 minutes in an oven preheated to 110°C.
- Pour your coconut oil into the cooking pot. Heat gently on low heat.
- Add your decarboxylated ground flower to your oil and gently simmer for at least 3–4 hours.
- Add any additional ingredients you wish to use to enrich your topical with, then remove the mixture from the heat and let it cool a bit.
- Strain through the cheesecloth into your storage containers. Remember to squeeze the mass of flowers through the cheesecloth to avoid wasting any of the product.
When making your own cannabis topicals, we highly recommend to experiment with different ingredients to create a final product tailored to your skin needs. Remember, any ingredient you find in a store-bought cream or lotion (from almond milk to shea butter and anything in between) can be a great addition to your homemade cannabis lotion. Get experimenting and get ready to experience cannabis like never before.
Are you interested in trying cannabis-infused creams and lotions? Discover the properties of cannabis topicals and learn how to easily make them at home.
Topicals are a hot topic these days. Unfortunately, the cannabis-infused creams, lotions, salves and bath products won’t be available for legal purchase until new amendments to the Cannabis Act take effect in October 2019. Until then, it’s perfectly legal to turn your favourite cannabis oil into a simple do-it-yourself cream by following the recipe below.
Why use topicals?
Fans of cannabis-infused creams, or topicals, say they are great for soothing painful cramps, relieving localized pain and reducing inflammation.
Currently, Health Canada does not permit the sale of cannabis creams, although some licensed producers (LPs) sell pre-made creams that can be mixed with their oils for legal home use.
Will topicals get me high?
In most cases, even if a topical contains THC, it’s unlikely to induce the intoxicating effects you’d expect from swallowing or inhaling an equivalent amount. This is because the cannabinoids can’t breach the bloodstream through the skin. (It’s worth noting that some transdermal patches can deliver cannabinoids into the bloodstream and induce intoxicating effects, but these products are not yet legally available in Canada).
What symptoms do topicals treat?
Anecdotally, topicals are useful for localized pain relief, soreness, inflammation and more. Recent studies indicate they may be useful in treating inflammatory and neuropathic pain, skin allergies, psoriasis, dermatitis, arthritis, mild skin irritations and more. Many people are also using topicals in the form of lubricants for enhanced sexual pleasure.
Recipe for homemade topicals
The simplest topical is the one you already have in your medicine cabinet. Simply take your favourite cannabis oil and apply to it the area that hurts, avoiding the ears, eyes and genital areas . “Apply liberally and massage it in well, like you would any other pain-relieving cream, such as A535,” says Natural Care nurse Karen Newell.
To extend value and save money, some people prefer to mix their cannabis oil with an existing cream, lotion or oil, such as coconut, olive or almond oil. Once mixed, follow the same process as above, applying liberally and massaging well.
That’s all it takes! If you decide to try this simple recipe, please let us know how it’s going at your next check-in with your Natural Care nurse or educator.
Don’t have a Natural Care nurse or educator in your life? Click here to learn more about medical cannabis prescriptions with Natural Care, including free personalized medical cannabis plans and ongoing support for the life of your prescription.
There aren't many studies, but so far research supports what fans of cannabis topicals have been saying: that they help with inflammation and pain.