Cannabis Topicals: A Gentle Introduction to Profound Healing

We grow cannabis for the essential oils the plants produce. Extracting those oils, we can then infuse them into carrier oils that assist absorption into the skin, and apply these cannabis topical oils directly to the skin to: 

  • help damaged skin heal itself
  • ease the pain below the skin
  • relax tense muscles
  • stave off headaches
  • lighten the emotional mood in times of stress

I live in a senior retirement community, and we live in a country still finding ways to shed the incorrect and fearful beliefs about marijuana. In the senior population, these prejudices are more deeply rooted, an unfortunate reality, considering the pain that most seniors spend their day entertaining. 

I can attest from personal experience that simple methods of cannabis therapeutics can greatly enhance the senior lifestyle by taking those aches and pains we chalk up to growing older and reducing them to more easily ignored irritants. I’ve watched enough friends in their 70s and 80s use topical oils for a few days and find freedom of movement their sore joints had denied them for decades to have convinced myself that cannabis topicals are the best way to change perceptions about one of the most honorable and also most vilified medicinal plants found on our lovely planet.

Up close view of cannabis flower selected for an infused oil.

We can get all of these benefits from a simple infused cannabis oil, without any fear of euphoria, and without any fear of having THC show up in a urine test, provided you’re not applying it to broken skin.

If you’re interested in making your own infused cannabis oil, check out my post on the various methods you can utilize.

If you don’t have the time or the interest in making your own cannabis topicals, there are plenty of brands out there that are absolutely knocking it out of the park.

Papa & Barkley Releaf balms are some of the top cannabis topicals on the market.

One of our favorites is the Releaf line from Papa & Barkley. They have multiple formulations highlighted by their THC or CBD rich balms, but their focus is always on clean products sourced from pesticide-free cannabis & it’s perfect for sensitive skin.

The various layers of the skin.

Your skin looks thin, but it’s actually layers of intricate cellular shielding, and the body has ways of keeping things from penetrating through to the bloodstream. When your urine is tested they’re really looking for a metabolite of THC. In order for it to show up THC has to enter your bloodstream and find its way to the liver, where specific enzymes do the work of metabolizing. 

Topical use doesn’t get THC into the bloodstream unless there’s a crack in the shield. 

Having said that, if testing is not a concern, I have yet to find anything that heals scrapes, cuts, sores, burns or wounds of any kind as effectively as my cannabis oils have and continue to do.

Evolving Thought

Empty rollerball bottles ready for cannabis topical oil.

Any cannabis topical you purchase at the dispensary will offer the same types of relief I’ll be talking about here. I enjoy making my own. When I started producing topicals I was using things like beeswax or soy wax to create a body butter, but I’ve since changed my mind about adding things that would have to be getting in the way of absorption and went to using the straight oil on my skin. 

I’ve used roller-ball applicators in the past, a nice option for carrying in your purse or pocket, though I have had them open on occasion, and that was a mess.

Rollerball bottles for cannabis topical oils.

The search began for a better solution for both ease of application and a more secure closure. After much trial and error, I’ve settled on 10 ml plastic bottles with a fine tip.

These are the ideal bottles for storing cannabis topical oil.

Advantages of these bottles

Stored cannabis topical oil in a unicorn bottle.
  • Unbreakable
  • Holds only 10 ml (less chance of going rancid)
  • Spill-free
  • Child-proof, but not senior proof (requires an extra push to get the lid to open)
  • Fine-point dispensing (from a small drop to a running stream) 
  • Easy to transport
These are the perfect bottles for cannabis topical oils.

I can apply a small drop to my fingertip – a handy thing when you can’t see where you want to apply – or a long stream to a larger area I want to treat. Lately, I’ve been using cannabis topical oils to keep my varicose veins from getting any worse, watching to see if they’re reducing in any way. I like to stay optimistic about the possibilities.

How do I use infused oils as cannabis topicals?

My suggestion when I offer topical cannabis oils is to use it “anytime something goes “Ouch!” Simply apply a drop or more (a little goes a long way) and rub it in. You’ll learn as you go what works best for your skin.

What benefits do cannabis topicals really offer?

A little goes a long way with cannabis topicals.

We’re nowhere near knowing the full potential of topicals, in my humble opinion. For starts, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better skin complement, whether the skin is damaged or not. Almost all of the popular carrier oils are also good for the skin on their own, so you get greater benefits. 

Don’t think you’re limited to surface relief either.

I’ve personally used cannabis topicals to accelerate the healing of burned skin and shallow cuts, but I’ve also used topical oils to heal my own ear infections by applying all around the ear and neck near the affected ear.

I’ve used a triple-strength formulation to great effect when healing bruised ribs after a fall.

I’ve applied topical oil to my daughter’s temples, neck and upper chest to successfully assist her along with vaped flower in chasing away a full-blown migraine.

I’ve used topicals myself to stop an oncoming headache in its tracks, and I use topicals all the time on the upper back to keep my mood light in the face of stressful situations. 

And that’s just a small sampling of my own experience. I have friends all over the world who mirror stories like this and more. I often wonder if we’ll ever find a limit to what cannabis topicals can do. 

One of the more exciting things I’ve learned about cannabis topicals is how effective they can be applied to the upper back.

Application of a cannabis topical to the neck & back.

This is one of those unseeable spots I was referring to earlier. A small drop on the finger is all I need to let frustration or building anxiety slip away.

Implications for the senior population

Arthritic joints restrict movement and lock you into a cycle of pain. Cannabis topicals can not only relieve the pain, I believe the cannabinoid signaling can augment the power of your endocannabinoid system and undo some of the damage cluttering up the joints. Most topicals use fragrant essential oils to mask the weed smell, and they also contribute to the healing atmosphere and potential. 

Give a person with arthritic knees a cannabis topical and sit back to watch the joyful response. Suddenly seniors that were sitting at home in pain are out mixing it up with their friends again. It’ll change your perspective on marijuana- I guarantee it. 

I’ve seen firsthand the mood swings possible in the senior community, and the idea that small applications of cannabis oils on the upper backs of many could change that to a happier story drives me to keep spreading the word – Cannabis = R-E-L-I-E-F! 

Many times I’ve been pleased to hear the same joyful news, “I used that oil on my lower back and had the first good nap/night’s rest I’ve had in years!” That’ll keep me motivated. 

Once you break down the prejudices with cannabis topicals you can open the conversation to capsule regimens and edibles. Now there’s a possibility to find maintenance doses for things like sleep disorders, depression, anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome, tremors, post-traumatic stress disorder, and the myriad of conditions seniors take too many medications for. 

You see the real goal, from where I stand, is to reduce polypharmacy in the senior community, one pain-diminished topical user at a time. Topicals are one of my primary ways to improve the chances that someone else in pain will hear the message that cannabis can make a difference and give it a try. 

Have a story to share about how you use cannabis topicals?  Have a cannabis topicals question you’d like some help with?  Leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to broaden our understanding of the relief-giving potential of Cannabis sativa.