Cannabidiol (CBD) is extracted from the Cannabis sativa plant, more commonly known as hemp and marijuana.

Whilst, the THC component of marijuana is intoxicating, CBD does not produce such effects on the body i.e. the feeling of a ‘high’. [1]

CBD has gained massive popularity in a short span of time for its robust antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-epileptic properties.

The oil can be added to cosmetic products or massaged onto the skin like traditional plant-based oils: coconut and almond.

Note: Hemp oil and CBD oil are not the same. Always check the ingredients of the product before buying.

How Does Topical Application of CBD Oil Work?

The skin is the body’s first and largest barrier to the environment. Evolution created the skin in a way that it would be difficult to penetrate, in order to provide utmost protection from harmful agents.

CBD oil can enter the skin through tiny openings on its topmost surface. [2] These openings are called pores.

They are available in 2 forms; either as hair follicles or sweat glands. Hair follicles anchor hair to the skin and sweat glands are where sweat is released from.

Additionally, CBD oil can penetrate into the skin through spaces between skin cells in all 3 layers of the skin.

CBD produces its effects in humans by binding to the receptors of the endocannabinoid signaling system. [3]

This system is essential to regulate homeostasis in humans i.e. house-keeping of the body.[4] It plays a crucial role in regulating pain, inflammation, cell viability, and brain well-being.

As the endocannabinoid system is important for all functions in the body, its receptors are present throughout the body. [5]

Topical application of CBD oil is beneficial as, the receptors are also found in the skin. CBD can bind to the receptors and impart beneficial effects.

This includes reducing inflammation and alleviating pain.

CBD oil is a very strong option for localized treatments. [6]

When applied to affected areas, it will soak into the skin, bind to nearby receptors and imparts its effect in that specific region.

It is important to note that topical CBD oil can never enter the bloodstream. [7] Thus, it is best for localized treatments.

For example: in treating skin and hair diseases. Or, arthritis patients can apply it to joints to help reduce the intensity of pain.

Now, let’s explore the benefits of topical CBD oil in different diseases.

Benefits of Topical CBD Oil

The benefits of topical CBD oil depend on its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative effects. They help relieve joint pain in arthritis patients.

Skin diseases like: acne, epidermolysis bullosa and psoriasis can be better managed by CBD oil.

The oil can promote hair well-being by improving hair strength, soothing itching and reducing hair fall. For dermatological conditions, topical application has proven more effective than oral supplements.

1. Helps Relieve Pain in Arthritis

The top 5 most common uses of CBD oil are: chronic pain, arthritis, anxiety, depression and insomnia. [8]

According to a recent survey, participants reported that CBD oil-treated chronic pain, arthritis and anxiety ‘very well by itself’.

Topical CBD oil is not going to completely get rid of pain in arthritis patients. But, it will help make the pain more manageable and in turn, can improve the quality of life.

Arthritis is a condition in which individuals experience inflammation of one or more joints. This leads to symptoms like: swelling, pain, stiffness, redness around joints and disrupted motion. [9]

Current arthritis medications help reduce inflammation of the joints.

CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties can provide similar effects and it may be able to stop the disease from getting worse over time.

Cell culture studies have found CBD to inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory responses. [10]

Furthermore, a recent study revealed that topical application of CBD could reduce inflammation in rats with arthritis. [11] There were no reported side effects.

Pain is weighed on a scale, which goes from 0-10. [12] The pain score in rats treated with 6.2 and 62.3 mg/day went from an average of 4 to 1.5 within 4 days of treatment.

CBD oil has excellent potential for reducing inflammation and pain in arthritis patients as, it shows high effectiveness, has a good safety profile and does not seem to produce any side effects. [13]

Most importantly, the same rat models were used to test the effectiveness of oral CBD oil for reducing pain in arthritis.

The topical application was found to stronger than the oral supplements. [14]

Self-initiated use of CBD oil by arthritis patients has only produced positive results.

There is a lack of high-quality clinical trials in this area. In the future, with greater scientific evidence in hand, CBD oil can become an approved treatment for arthritis.

What does this Mean? Topical CBD oil shows great potential for reducing pain in arthritis patients. The topical application can be more effective than oral supplements. This is an ongoing area of research.

2. Are Topical CBD Oils Better Than Oral Supplements?

Topical CBD oil is generally more common for dermatological conditions and there is a good reason for that.

Oral CBD oil has poor water solubility and it is vulnerable to first-pass metabolism. [15] This is a process by which, the stomach or liver destroys the oil before it can be absorbed into the blood.

As a result, only 6% of the total CBD oil ingested enters the bloodstream and is available to produce active effects. [16]

Topical CBD oil avoids the first-pass metabolism. [17]

So, there is greater patient compliance for topical applications as, less heavy doses need to be taken and there can be longer intervals between each dose. [18]

With respect to skin diseases, topical CBD oil will reach the area of damage faster and in greater quantity.

This is why CBD oil products for skin conditions are generally sold in shampoo, lotion or just oil forms. [19]

Oral supplements are more common for overall health benefits and when helping to manage the symptoms of diseases like: cancer, arthritis and epilepsy. [20]

CBD oil has shown to help alleviate the side effects of chemotherapynausea and vomiting.

However, multiple doses must be taken soon after the treatment and that too with short time intervals between each dose. [21]

Some experts argue that it is not easy to swallow capsules when feeling nauseated and at the verge of vomiting.

Topical CBD oil will be the easier option but, how effective it is in this case needs to be further investigated.

You may be interested in knowing why medicinal cannabis is not commonly used for topical applications. The main ingredient of medicinal cannabis, THC, which is responsible for producing the ‘high’ is 10-fold less skin permeable than CBD.

So, all the attention for topical cannabis use has been diverted towards CBD oil.

What does this Mean? Topical CBD oil is the better option for skin diseases as, it can produce stronger and faster effects.

3. Can Help Relieve Inflammation in Acne

Every teenager is bound to experience some form of acne during puberty. The bacteria P.acnes acts on the face and causes excessive oil secretion by skin cells. [22]

Topical CBD oil exhibited potent anti-inflammatory effects on a skin culture study for acne.[23]

It can alleviate redness and pain caused by inflammation. Additionally, it could regulate increased oil production from skin cells.

Word of mouth and the internet is promoting more people to try topical CBD oil for this condition. Generally, people are happy with the responses of CBD oil.

What does this Mean? CBD oil can impart anti-inflammatory effects which, help relieve the skin of pimples and redness. People are choosing to use topical CBD oil for treating acne after hearing about its positive effects in others.

4. Help Reduce the Symptoms of Epidermolysis Bullosa

Epidermolysis bullosa is a skin disease that causes easy blistering of the skin and makes the skin very fragile.

There are currently no cures for this condition. Treatments focus on caring for the blisters and preventing new ones. [24]

The blisters cause itching and pain. A very recent (May 2018) study published in Pediatric Dermatology followed 3 families who chose to use topical CBD oil on their young children battling with this disease.[25]

They decided to use topical CBD oil after reading about its anti-inflammatory properties online.

In addition, they found that many skincare companies were adding it to their products as, they claimed it had skin moisturizing and brightening effects.

Blisters are extremely painful as, they are highly inflamed and pus-filled.

CBD oil can suppress the inflammation, free the immune system from distress and then may help the skin rejuvenate. It can also soothe itching and redness.

CBD oil treatment allowed 1 of the 3 patients to completely stop taking oral pain killers.

All 3 patients reported faster-wound healing, less blistering, alleviation of pain and less requirement for pain killers after using CBD oil.

One of the patients was a 3-years old girl. Her parents applied CBD oil on the blisters on both her feet.

She was able to walk further than before after using CBD oil as, the number of blisters had reduced significantly, and she was in less pain.

Most importantly, there were no reported side effects from the patients or families. Topical CBD oil seems to be safe to use in young children.

The results of self-initiated use of CBD oil are very promising. Clinical trials can further substantiate the claims.

What does this Mean? Topical CBD oil has shown to reduce blistering, pain and itching in young children with Epidermolysis bullosa. It produced no side effects. This is an ongoing area of research.

5. May Help Treat Psoriasis

During this condition, there is an overproduction of skin cells. This can lead to bleeding skin and swollen joints. [26]

Several studies have found CBD oil to stop the excessive production of skin cells. [27],[28] The oil helps return the cells to a normal life cycle so that they do not die as quickly. [29]

Proinflammatory responses are reduced by CBD oil so, the skin is no longer under immune stress and it can begin healing itself. [30]

Experimental evidence for treating this disease with hemp oil has existed for a while now as, in 2011 a Chinese medicine containing hemp oil was patented and sold in the market.[31]

CBD is a crucial component of hemp oil.

More recent research is revealing that just topical CBD oil on its own may be enough to treat the condition.

Psoriasis can also cause inflammation of cells making the scalp. CBD oil can impart its anti-inflammatory effects to help soothe inflammation in the scalp and in turn, reduce itching.[32]

What does this Mean? CBD oil battles skin bleeding and scalp irritation by regulating the body’s immune system. Products containing CBD for treating psoriasis have been in the market for many years now.

6. May Promote Anti-Aging of Skin and Hair

CBD oil is a stronger antioxidant than vitamin C and vitamin E. [33]

With age, there is greater damage to skin cells by radicals and reactive oxygen species.

The anti-oxidant properties of CBD oil can prevent damage to skin cells and provide faster recovery of healthy-looking skin. [34]

The anti-oxidant properties of CBD oil can also help alleviate symptoms of dry skin, which includes itching of the scalp. [35]

CBD oil can promote the synthesis of collagen. This protein is responsible for maintaining smooth and elastic skin.

The oil showcases anti-oxidant effects which, can help prolong wrinkling and sagging of the skin. [36]

In the coming future, CBD may be able to create a place for itself in the anti-aging industry.

What does this Mean? The anti-oxidant properties of CBD oil can prolong skin and hair aging by protecting from increased damage to cells. It may influence wrinkling and sagging of the skin as well as hair greying and thinning.

7. Can Help Treat Alopecia Disorders

Alopecia hair disorders are characterized by hair falling out in round patches (spot baldness). [37]

Individuals experience progressive thinning of the hair before it eventually falls out in separate bundles. [38]

Upon investigating the effects of the omega-6 fatty acids in hemp oil, a research study found them to be effective at regulating inflammation caused in this disease.

By providing anti-inflammatory properties, hemp oil could stimulate hair growth.

In 2017, a hemp oil conditioner was patented on the basis of it providing protection from alopecia. It can nourish hair from the roots and eliminate inflammation-causing microbes.[39]

What does this Mean? Hemp oil may be useful in reducing hair fall and hair thinning by providing anti-inflammatory activities. Hemp oil conditioners are available to help provide protection from alopecia.

8. May Reduce Hair Fall

The commercial value of hemp oil has multiplied after CBD was discovered as one of its chemical constituents.

CBD has been under the spotlight for many years now as, an anti-inflammatory agent that can be utilized to treat a wide range of diseases.

A very recent 2019 clinical trial published in the reputed Nature journal, found commercial hemp oil products to boost hair growth in participants within just 6 weeks. [40]

When massaged into the scalp, CBD oil can improve blood circulation to hair cells and provide them with more oxygen. [41]

This can allow hair to grow and damage can be repaired.

CBD interacts with the receptors of the endocannabinoid signaling system. These are spread out throughout the body and are present in the scalp and skin in abundant quantities.

CBD exerts its benefits on the skin and hair by binding to the receptors located close to where it is topically applied.

The receptors are connected to nerves which, carry signals to the brain. The brain can then order anti-inflammatory systems to be activated.

CBD oil can promote the synthesis of collagen. Collagen can improve the elasticity of hair and it will feel lighter on the head.

With age, collagen synthesis in the body naturally reduces. [42] This allows for hair thinning. CBD oil products may provide anti-ageing benefits by increasing collagen levels.

What does this Mean? CBD oil can improve blood circulation to the scalp which, strengthens hair. Additionally, it can promote collagen synthesis which, can help improve the texture of the hair and prolong hair greying.

How to Topically Apply CBD Oil

First, identify the affected areas of the body. This may be joints in the case of arthritis, certain regions of the skin in skin diseases and the scalp in hair diseases.

It is important to apply CBD oil directly onto affected areas as, the oil will produce its strong effects where it is applied.

Also, try to buy CBD oil products with high concentrations of CBD.

Arthritis Patients are recommended to apply CBD oil onto common sore spots which includes: temples, neck, shoulders, knees, and elbows.

Before application, take a wet towel and carefully clean the area where you wish to apply the oil.

The skin is difficult to penetrate. So, apply CBD oil in multiple rounds. The absolute minimum is 3 rounds.

After each round, wait for a few minutes before applying the oil again.

You must firmly massage the skin where the oil is applied. Otherwise, the oil will just sit on top of the skin and not enter it. It will also push the oil into deeper layers of the skin.

Topical CBD oil is available in a variety of forms, including: lotions, sprays, gels, facial creams, and lip balms. Nonetheless, it can be bought in just the oil form.

Precautions

CBD oil is classified as a low allergen and is highly unlikely to cause any allergic reactions.[43] However, it may cause skin irritation in some users.

Make sure to test the product in a small area of the skin before applying on damaged skin.

The oil can be tested around the elbow, on the back of the knee or on the side of the neck, if it is to be used on the face.

Whilst, CBD has not been proven unsafe in pregnancy, it has not been proven safe either. In addition, the long-term effects of CBD oil on fetal development are unknown.

Pregnant women are advised to consult a doctor before using topical CBD oil.

We advise you to consult a doctor before starting a CBD oil regime in order to understand how frequently you should use the oil or where you should apply it.

The Cannabis industry is booming and there is a lot of big money involved. As a result, some companies are selling impure synthetic CBD oils, just to make good profits.

Before buying a CBD oil product, always check if it has been third-party lab tested. This confirms the safety of the oil.

We advise you to only buy CBD oil products from reputed companies with good reviews.

Organic CBD oils may be preferred as they will be free of pesticides. Pesticides can enter the C.sativa plant and contaminate the oil.

CBD laws across the world are rapidly changing as new clinical research emerges. You must have full knowledge about the legal issues of CBD oil products in your country before conducting any purchases.

Summary

CBD oil imparts anti-inflammatory effects on illnesses caused by increased pro-inflammatory responses. This includes arthritis, skin and hair diseases.

The oil must be applied thickly onto the skin followed by a firm massage to ensure it penetrates deep into the skin.

CBD will produce its effects by interacting with endocannabinoid receptors in the skin. The endocannabinoid signalling system is crucial for inflammatory systems and pain management.

Topical CBD oil produces strong localized effects as, this form of application does not allow CBD to enter the bloodstream and spread out throughout the body.

However, for conditions like arthritis, this is preferable. CBD oil can be applied directly onto joints like, traditional ointments and it has shown to provide quick relief from high-intensity pain.

The oil can soothe itching and redness in skin conditions. It can reduce inflammation in the scalp so that, users will experience less hair fall.

Topical CBD oil has not produced serious side effects in clinical trials or self-initiated use.

CBD oil’s time has just begun and with future clinical trials investigating its effects on a range of dermatological conditions and other illnesses, CBD oil medicines can flourish in the market

D Dutt (MSc. Biotech.)
All our posts are written by experienced writers with relevant degrees. These extremely well researched and comprehensive articles take 10s of hours to write. For each article, all the sources of information are provided as reference links for anyone to check.

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