Is topical CBD effective?

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The market is saturated with CBD products, from tinctures to vapes, gummies, beverages, suppositories, pills, and topicals. ENFLEUR would like to spend a moment to share what we know about the viability of topically applied CBD. 

Getting CBD into the body in a way that the body can actually make use of is a bit of a challenge. CBD that is ingested into the orally has to contend with certain barriers to bioavailability. CBD is hydrophobic, meaning that it doesn’t mix well with water. Additionally, swallowing CBD outright subjects it to what is called “first pass metabolism”, where it is taken by way of the hepatic portal vein into the liver for metabolization. It is from here that the CBD is sent throughout the body by way of general circulation. However, much of the potency of CBD is lost during first pass metabolism. For this reason, sublingual tinctures are popular, owing to the fact that they are absorbed into the bloodstream through the oromucosal tissue under the tongue. 

But what about topicals? In terms of bioavailability, topicals are only absorbed into the first few layers of skin. This means topicals do not introduce CBD into the circulatory system. However, cannabinoid 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid 2 (CB2) are present on the skin, meaning that topically applied CBD does interact with the endocannabinoid system. A 2018 review published by international, peer-reviewed journal of chemistry, Molecules, found that topical CBD can be therapeutically efficacious delivering localized relief of pain and inflammation. Another review published by the peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary Journal of Pain Management found that topical CBD was successful demonstrated “…analgesic effects in animal modes of inflammatory and neuropathic pain … especially for the control of breakthrough pain.”   

Pain management is a serious consideration being that NSAIDs and opiate-derivative medications are accompanied by a host of potential side-effects, ranging from liver damage to narcotic addiction. Topical CBD may offer an alternative for those looking to treat localized pain without the baggage of conventional treatments. ENFLEUR encourages those who would use a topical CBD product for pain and inflammation to vet the quality and potency of their product.