Papa and Barkley offers a great line of topicals

Creams, lotions, sprays, transdermal patches, sex lubes and oils infused with cannabis represent a fairly new line of marijuana products — prior to legalization, few pot enthusiasts turned their plants into oil, and then used the THC oil to saturate lotions.

Massage therapists use the products to help ease the aches and pains suffered by their clients.  Runners rub them into throbbing knees. People with arthritis lather them into knuckles and wrists. Couples use pot lubes to help stimulate each other, and massage oils to get into the mood. Skin conditions like psoriasis get treated with applications of THC creams.

For wholesale marijuana growers, topicals present fresh and tantalizing business opportunities — every ounce of whatever is being rubbed or sprayed onto skin needs the magic plant. Sales of topicals in California this year between March and September reached $14 million, according to cannabis market research firm BDS Analytics. And sales in California of two types of topicals, in particular, balms/salves and creams, have been rising throughout the year. Balms/salves in March, for example, generated $704,000 in sales, but in September consumers spent $1 million on balms/salves.

It’s not just about the THC. More and more topicals are combining THC and CBD, and ones sold online and on some store shelves jettison the psychoactive THC altogether and just concentrate on CBD. Either way, it registers as a boon for marijuana wholesale businesses — both THC and CBD come from the cannabis plant.


Do they work?

Many enthusiasts swear by them. Scientific studies evaluating their efficacy, however, are thin. The federal government maintains that marijuana is a Schedule 1 narcotic and thus is illegal — using it for scientific studies is forbidden. But as more and more people turn to the plant to help deal with medical issues such as pain and anxiety, the government’s position grows increasingly tiresome, and absurd.

And researchers are finding ways to study THC, including topicals. A study published in November in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, for example, found that “topical medical cannabis has the potential to improve pain management in patients suffering from wounds of all classes.”

With topicals, chemicals within the cannabis plant including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) enter the body through the skin and then interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, a network of chemical messengers in the body. The endocannabinoid system helps regulate a variety of bodily functions, and both THC and CBD combine with cannabinoid receptors to stimulate effects. Unlike cannabis products that are ingested, THC that is applied to the skin has a tough time reaching the bloodstream — the skin is a formidable barrier. As a result, much of the effects remain localized — in other words, the THC remains largely within the area to which it has been applied.

Getting high is not a good reason to start experimenting with marijuana topicals — the world of weed already has plenty of routes towards catching a buzz. But there are lots of reasons to start checking out different topicals.


Dr. Kerklaan's line of products are a hit at Caliva

Tennis elbow. That lower back — it always seems to ache. A bruise that blossomed after a fall from a mountain bike. Lotions, balms and salves infused with THC are worth investigating for a variety of aches and pains. The approach is the same with THC topicals as it is for OTC creams — rub the product into the problem area and see what happens. Will a balm that is infused with THC eliminate searing pain from an injury? Probably not. But will it help mitigate more generalized (rather than intense and sharp) pain? It could. In addition to substances that get lathered on skin, consider transdermal patches for pain relief. The patches are infused with THC and often other substances, like CBD, and adhesive backing keeps the patches in place. Over time, the properties within the patch are released into the body; patch enthusiasts say they provide long-term pain relief. The range of cannabis-related substances infusing transdermal patches is significant — some focus on THC or CBD, but others leverage other cannabinoids like CBN (for sleep) and THCA.


Couples in legal states across the country are turning to lubes and massage oils to improve their time between the sheets. We already know that marijuana and sex are excellent partners — not only do many couples report that cannabis improves their sexual adventures, a recent study found that couples that imbibe have sex more often.

But the plant’s place in the bedroom extends beyond the pre-session joint or gummy bear — the lubes and oils can help promote a most welcome kind of sexual stimulation. Some oils are designed explicitly for women, and are meant to be applied as much as an hour prior to intercourse. Massage oils, too, are meant to be kneaded into bodies prior to lovemaking — the massage itself, combined with the stimulating properties of the oil, should place couples squarely within the mood. Lubes infused with THC can help stimulate genitals while also providing sexy lubrication.


A significant chunk of the traditional topicals marketplace revolves around skin health, and marijuana topicals are no different. Consumers across the country are turning to topicals infused with THC and CBD to address skin conditions. The marijuana plant contains a wide range of powerful antioxidants and some people who use cannabis topicals to manage skin conditions believe the properties of the plant boost their skin health. Among other things, some of the properties in marijuana are believed to reduce inflammation, and inflammation is a major culprit for skin issues.


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