Since the Farm Bill legalized CBD products derived from hemp at the federal level in 2018, CBD topicals have been the work of the Food and Drug Administration FDA. This doesn’t mean there’s a clearly regulated market out there, however.
Reduce signs of aging. Antioxidants like vitamin E or vitamin C treat dryness, free radical damage, and inflammation, so you can expect CBD products to do that, too. That includes signs of aging such as fine lines, dark spots, and wrinkles.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) governs many functions in the human body, including the ability to process pain, sleep, inflammation, mood, and more. The cannabis plant—both marijuana and hemp—contains phytocannabinoids that interact with the ECS, including CBD oil found to reduce inflammation and intensity of pain.
What is CBD Cream?
Inflammation. Transdermal CBD reduces pain and inflammation in rats, making it treatment for skin issues such as rosacea, eczema, and psoriasis.
Itching. CBD can block itching in the nerve endings and has been shown to help chronic, treatment-resistant itching.
It’s true that using topical CBD creams is not the same as using lotion, in that it’s important to know how many milligrams are in the CBD body lotion to use it properly. A low dose topical may be less effective than one with higher concentrations of CBD.
There are several important criteria when it comes to choosing high-quality CBD products, including topicals:
That said, we don’t always know exactly what’s in the CBD products out there due to a lack of regulation. Until recently, CBD was regulated as a Schedule 1 substance, meaning that the federal government believed it had a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical value. But the FDA approval of Epidiolex last year and the passage of the Farm Bill in December 2018 changed things by lifting the federal ban on commercial hemp production (hemp also contains CBD in lower amounts than cannabis). But it also made things more confusing because we’re still waiting on actual CBD regulations from the FDA. In the meantime, companies are treating hemp-derived CBD as if it’s perfectly legal, Dr. Tishler says.
“It actually is a very promiscuous compound,” Kevin Boehnke, Ph.D., research fellow in the department of anesthesiology and the Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center at the University of Michigan, tells SELF. “It will bind to receptors in multiple different pathways,” which makes it difficult to know how it might cause noticeable effects.
In fact, the most compelling research they found for using cannabinoids for pain came from a large review and meta-analysis published in JAMA in 2015. For the study, researchers looked at results from 79 previous studies of cannabinoids and various medical conditions, including chronic pain. However, of those studies, only four involved CBD (without THC)—none of which were looking at pain. So although we might assume that CBD is doing something to help address pain—according to the studies involving the whole cannabis plant—we don’t have great evidence to prove it.
So…is CBD cream just an expensive placebo?
“If somebody comes in with pain, do you reach for a bottle of CBD? The answer is absolutely not,” Dr. Tishler says.
First off, we don’t know much about the correct dose of CBD needed for a pain-relieving effect. The doses in the rat studies that were effective were pretty large (for a rat, obviously). And the human participants in the Phase 2 clinical trial we mentioned received 250 mg of synthetic CBD topically per day—as much as many consumer topical CBD products contain in a single jar.
And even though the lotion was applied topically in the rat study, it wasn’t applied locally to the knee. Instead, the researchers were really using the topical application to get it into the rats’ bloodstream, or what’s called systemic administration. But you’d likely need a different dose for it to be effective locally (if you applied it just to your aching shoulder, for instance) in a human. We have no idea what that dose should look like.
But some studies have found essentially zero side effects of high-dose CBD (900mg) and those that researchers do see—like drug interactions—aren’t considered to be issues when CBD is used topically.