Since cannabis legislation passed in Canada in 2018, an increasing number of people have begun experimenting with its non-psychoactive products. Many Canadians are now accepting the idea that cannabis is not only a means to get you high but can bring relief in a multitude of ways.
Topical cannabis creams, balms, and oils are a few products you may be surprised to find in your mother’s medicine cabinet next to traditional pain relievers such as ibuprofen or A535. They have become a common salve for those suffering from inflammation, muscle soreness and chronic pain — But how does it work?
Recent studies have shown the efficacy of CBD absorption through the skin as a therapeutic treatment for pain and discomfort. Although researchers are still unsure precisely how cannabis communicates with and affects the body, we learn more every day.
How do topical CBD products work?
Topical CBD products work by interacting with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECR is responsible for regulating functions in the body such as appetite, memory, sleep, pain and the immune system. The system is unique — Both naturally occurring cannabinoids and cannabis compounds such as THC and CBD activate the ECS.
These compounds take effect by binding to a receptor. Either the CB2(cannabinoid receptor type 2), a G protein-coupled receptor, or CB1(cannabinoid receptor type 1). These receptors are responsible for the effectiveness of the psychoactive properties of THC, the active agent in cannabis. CB2 receptors are mainly found on immune cells throughout the body. Generally, CB2 receptors are less prevalent than CB1 but both are present on the surface of your skin. This makes it an easy way to get your cannabinoid of choice into your system.
How does the endocannabinoid system regulate pain?
A good illustration of the ECS and the capacity of natural pain regulation is when you experience brief, localized pain. For example, if you stub your toe on the edge of your coffee table, you feel immediate pain that subsides naturally within a few minutes — This is the ECS in action. Your central nervous system uses enzymes that create endocannabinoid molecules to slow down and eventually stop these pain signals. THC or CBD can bind to the CB1 and CB2 receptors, either mimicking endocannabinoids produced by your body and activating the receptors or blocking receptors and limiting their activity.
When THC interacts with the endocannabinoid system, it slows communication between cells and the nervous system. This is what creates feelings of extreme relaxation, increased appetite, and a heightened sensation or awareness. When we introduce CBD to the body, it prevents endocannabinoids from breaking down. Which has more of an effect on your body without the high associated with THC.
Creams, lotions and balms infused with CBD are especially good at reducing localized pain and discomfort. Particularly pain originating from muscle soreness or inflammation around the joints by taking advantage of the ECS. The ever-increasing number of personal accounts from those experiencing the benefits of topical CBD use have remarked on improved mobility thanks to reduced inflammation and easing of pain. For many, this relief has led to significant improvements in quality of life. Anyone can tell you that when pain abates, it has a tremendous effect on both your physical and mental wellbeing.
If you experience arthritic pain, muscle soreness, or simply want a little extra relaxation, CBD-infused balms may be an option worth exploring.