Apply your high: Cannabis Topicals

With the benefits of cannabis ever expanding, so are the products being infused with its’ medical components. First, the transformation of just smoking the herb, turned to concentrates, edibles and other consumption manners, like oil and tinctures. Now, cannabis is emerging into creams, lotions and ointments, more medically known as topicals, too. As research and extraction processes advance, we’re also growing in knowledge of use and applications.

So what types of topicals, oils and creams are available and how do they provide relief differently? Let’s start by understanding the method to make the products useful.


Like those ‘smoking’ alternatives, to reap the benefits of the plant, its’ relieving compounds must be extracted. This begins with a process called decarboxylation, which is low heat over time. The heat nurtures the psychoactive effects of cannabinoids found on the trichomes (or crystals) out of the plant.

The cannabinoids responsible for marijuana’s medical effects are not useful until converted by heat. Like torching a dab rig or lighting a bowl, decarboxylation is used as the heating effect for the type of infused oils we’re talking about here. Whether THC, or CBD dominant, the type of strain put through this process, will determine the oil’s final effects.

After decarboxylation, the leaf is then again processed low and slow in a liquid, or oil. Primarily coconut oil for topicals, and alcohol based liquids like Everclear or Vegetable Glycerin for tinctures/oils.


Cannabis topicals and oils can range from tinctures, balms and salves, to lotions and creams. Once its’ beneficial properties have been transformed into an oil base what it’s combined with next determines the final consistency, title and use. Read on to learn more about each type, and what makes them unique.


Straight up, oils can also be used in a number of ways. When made for tincture or oral ingestion, you can mix the cannabis concoction in virtually anything. Drop a droplet under your tongue, or mix in juice, teas, and other liquids or foods. Keep in mind, tinctures will usually take effect in 15-45 minutes.


For lips or skin, balm and salve topicals are beeswax based giving the products a thicker texture and application. The ointments are applied to localized trouble areas, being able to affect your ailments transdermally (absorption through the skin). Clean the area beforehand, and apply the salve generously.


For lighter coverage, cannabis oil is added to ingredients like aloe, shea butter, cocoa butter, vitamin e, and others, to create lotion or creams with a smoother consistency.


Salves are best for deeper felt symptoms while lotion and creams are designed to better address exterior skin issues. Conditions that topical ointments can help address include –

  • Chronic Pain
  • Arthritis like symptoms (tension & inflammation)
  • Muscle soreness
  • Cramping
  • Headaches

THC and CBD based lotions are now becoming ‘in vogue’ by skin care standards. The cannabis creams promote softer skin, while also reducing swelling and puffiness with antioxidant like properties. Jessica Assaf with The Cannabis Feminist said recently, “It’s this all-in-one solution because of its ability to target those problems simultaneously,”. Cannabis lotions are also being recognized for reducing symptoms of skin conditions like –

  • Eczema
  • Psoriasis & Dermatitis
  • Itchiness


While lightly touching on the topic of topicals and oils, how they’re made and how they can be used… you can see the variety of benefits match the uniqueness of each type of product. By continuing to learn what the plant can positively provide, you can apply your high best fit for you!