In edible form, THC and CBD are very different. One gets you high, the other doesn’t — and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
But what about in topical form? Is there a significant difference between the benefits that topical THC and CBD products have to offer? And if so, which should you use?
Here’s what you need to know.
- Research suggests THC topicals are more effective at addressing pain, while CBD topicals are more effective at promoting a healthy inflammatory response in certain areas of the body.
- Research suggests THC topicals may be beneficial for neuropathic pain and inflammatory skin conditions.
- Scientific and anecdotal evidence suggests that CBD topicals may have benefits for those dealing with arthritis and tendonitis.
- CBD topicals are not a medical treatment for any chronic condition or disease, rather, they are designed to promote comfort and quality of life while professional treatment is being sought.
What Are THC and CBD Topicals?
A topical, or transdermal, product is one that is applied topically, or directly to the skin. Examples of CBD and THC topicals include creams, salves, and roll-ons.
By contrast, oral CBD and THC products (i.e. edibles) are taken by mouth and either swallowed and digested or absorbed into the blood vessels under the mouth.
Topicals allow you to deliver the benefits of THC and CBD in a potent, targeted manner to external areas of your body, like muscles and joints, while avoiding the side effects. When you take cannabinoids orally, some portion of it is lost as your body processes and uses it.
Topicals allow you to bypass these functions and be able to use more of the cannabinoid(s) from your product if all you’re using it for is something external.
The downside of topicals is that they can’t act internally — on the mind, or on internal bodily processes — because the cannabinoids in them don’t enter the bloodstream. But for external use (i.e. for joint pain or post-workout recovery), topicals are a superior CBD delivery method.
Let’s explore the different kinds of hemp topicals and discover the benefits that each has to offer.
Common CBD and THC Topical Blends
The cannabinoids/cannabinoid combinations used most frequently in topicals include:
- Full-spectrum CBD topicals contain Cannabidiol (CBD), as well as small amounts of secondary cannabinoids, including CBG, CBN, CBC, and THC (these cannabinoids are all part of full-spectrum CBD).
- Broad-spectrum CBD topicals contain the same cannabinoids that full-spectrum topicals do but without THC.
- Isolate CBD topicals contain just CBD, with no other cannabinoids.
- THC topicals contain Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
- THC + CBD topicals contain a mix of THC and CBD in various ratios, with the most common being a 1:1 ratio.
- CBD + CBG topicals contain a mix of CBD and Cannabigerol (CBG), a third cannabinoid commonly used along with CBD and CBG.
Benefits of THC Topicals
Topical THC products let you experience the deeply relaxing benefits of THC, a very powerful cannabinoid, without the psychoactive effects — ideal if you don’t like the feeling of being high or need to avoid having THC in your system for a drug test.
Research on people with chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy suggests that topical THC may be beneficial for addressing chronic pain.
Additionally, studies show that THC topicals may be beneficial for inflammatory skin conditions, such as dermatitis.
And since the THC in topicals can render transdermal relief without getting into the bloodstream, it won’t show up on a drug screening.
Benefits of CBD Topicals
Though there are three types of CBD topicals (full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolate), the most common is full-spectrum CBD, so we’ll focus on its benefits.
Anecdotally, our customers find CBD topicals useful for pain, inflammation, mobility, and post-workout recovery.
The American Academy of Dermatology also states that CBD topicals may have the potential to help with acne, psoriasis, and eczema by reducing skin inflammation.
Benefits of CBD + THC Topicals
Topicals containing both CBD and THC provide the best of both worlds: the benefits that THC has for pain, and the ability of CBD to promote a healthy inflammatory response.
Studies haven’t been done on whether a CBD + THC topical is better than one containing a single cannabinoid by itself.
However, scientists and hemp users generally agree that using a greater variety of cannabinoids at the same time renders outsized benefits.
This is due to the entourage effect — the idea that using many cannabinoids at the same time renders a greater total benefit than if you added up the benefits of using each cannabinoid in isolation.
Benefits of CBD + CBG Topicals
CBD + CBG topicals also leverage the entourage effect, but in a different way.
Anecdotally, a CBD + CBG combo renders more benefits for pain than just CBD or CBG on its own. CBG is a cannabinoid widely known for its soothing effects, and its benefits work similarly in topical form as if you took a CBG gummy.
THC vs. CBD Topicals: Which Should You Choose?
Scientists haven’t weighed in on whether topical hemp is more effective in a CBD or THC form, so it’s hard to judge which is generally better.
However, anecdotally, many people prefer THC for pain and CBD for inflammation. Research suggests THC is better for managing the outcome of inflammation (pain), while CBD is better for managing the inflammatory response itself.
If you can’t decide whether you need to go after pain or inflammation specifically, consider trying a topical containing THC and CBD together — or one with CBD and CBG together.
In the end, finding the perfect topical product is a matter of experimentation. If you’re already using oral hemp products and are switching to topicals, consider using the same blend — it will work very similarly, except it won’t act from within your body.
Find Targeted Relaxation With Topicals from Natural Ways CBD
But before discussing our products, we need to talk about what to look for when shopping for topicals. Or rather, what to avoid.
Many CBD topicals don’t work well for one of three reasons:
- They don’t contain enough cannabinoids (i.e. they aren’t very potent), so you don’t feel anything from using them
- They use isolate THC and CBD, which is nowhere near as effective as full-spectrum THC and CBD (THC and CBD that also contain other cannabinoids which naturally occur in the hemp plant)
- They don’t contain ingredients that promote transdermal absorption, so even if the product is potent, it won’t absorb into the skin
We’ve consciously avoided making topical CBD and THC products that are prone to any of these problems.
Here are a few of our topical options:
Our Canna Cream is a full-spectrum CBD cream that’s great for soreness, muscle and joint support, and mobility. This CBD cream delivers the full healing experience:
- Soothing properties of hemp-derived full-spectrum CBD
- Anti-inflammatory properties of lidocaine
- Anti-pain, anti-swelling properties of arnica
It’s also made with medical-grade DMSO — a human-safe solvent that allows for optimal absorption into the skin. No need to worry about potency, either, because each 2 oz. pump contains 2000mg of CBD.
Ultimate Salve Stick
Our Ultimate Salve Stick features a powerful combination of CBD, CBDA, CBG, and delta-8 THC that promotes mobility and comfort.
Unlike many salve products, this salve stick can be applied directly to the body — you won’t need to get your hands messy, and it absorbs quickly into the skin.
With 7500mg of total cannabinoids, the Ultimate Salve Stick is sure to give you the topical relaxation you need.
CBD + CBG Salve
This soothing salve leveraged the CBD and CBG combo in a 3:1 ratio so you can enjoy relaxed muscles and joints while keeping your inflammatory response healthy and balanced.
It also contains arnica oil, almond oil, coconut oil, and shea butter. It’s not just great for relaxation; it’s highly effective for maintaining healthy skin.
This salve is thick in the jar but melts and absorbs quickly into the skin — it’s easy to apply, but won’t be gloppy.
And each jar contains 4000mg of cannabinoids — 3000mg of CBD and 1000mg of CBG — a powerful way to soothe your skin.
THC vs. CBD Topicals: FAQs
Here are some questions we frequently get asked about choosing between THC and CBD topicals:
Does THC topical work better than CBD?
THC topicals work better than CBD topicals for pain management, however, CBD topicals are more effective for managing the inflammatory response. Neither THC nor CBD topicals are necessarily better — it all comes down to your needs.
Is THC or CBD better for topical pain relief?
Generally, THC is more effective than CBD for pain when used topically. However, full-spectrum CBD topicals, which contain THC, can be beneficial for this as well.
Does topical CBD + THC work?
Topicals containing both CBD and THC may have benefits for physical discomfort.
Do CBD and THC cream work for pain?
Research suggests that yes, CBD and THC topical cream may be beneficial for addressing pain. THC and CBD may be beneficial in either a 1:1 formulation or in the form of full-spectrum CBD, which contains THC.
Topicals deliver the benefits of CBD just in the places you need it. Discover our collection of lab-tested, high-strength CBD topicals.