Can You Use Oral CBD Oil Topically?
Author : Jessica Assaf
The Magazine: Can You Use Oral CBD Oil Topically?
CBD can be eaten in an infused food, mixed into a drink, swallowed in a capsule, and rubbed onto your skin, just to name a few methods of administration. But do the lines ever cross? Can you apply a CBD product type in a way that differs from its original use?
You’re far from the first person to ask this question. In fact, it’s not uncommon for some to try out a CBD oil tincture, which is designed for ingestion, as a topical or a spot treatment. Theoretically, there’s nothing wrong with putting a tincture on your skin. However, CBD tinctures simply aren’t formulated to address the challenges that stand between you and radiant skin. However, topicals can be used to help support dry and dehydrated skin, total body relaxation and recovery, and enhance the appearance of dewy, healthy, and radiant skin when they incorporate other beneficial skin ingredients that are amplified by the skin benefits of CBD.
Here, we’ll review the purpose of CBD oil tinctures, CBD topicals, and why you’ll see the best results for your skin from a product that’s designed for topical use.
What are CBD topicals?
CBD topicals are products formulated to be applied to your skin. This product category is home to a dazzling array of options, from lotions and balms to bath products to transdermal patches. If there’s a skincare product out there, its CBD-infused counterpart can be found alongside it.
The CBD extract used in topicals, and in all CBD products, comes in three main varieties: full spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolate. Full spectrum CBD extract contains the major and minor cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and all other substances as they are in the source hemp. This includes a trace amount of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the intoxicating cannabinoid made famous by cannabis. Isolates are on the opposite end of the spectrum: all components except for the desired cannabinoid – in this case, CBD – are removed, leaving behind a roughly 99 percent pure substance that contains only CBD.
While the amount of THC in full spectrum hemp extract is so miniscule that the psychoactive effects are not typically felt – by U.S. law, hemp cannot contain more than 0.3 percent THC – you may not want to consume any THC at all. If that’s the case, broad spectrum is the right fit for you. Broad spectrum hemp extract retains all cannabinoids, terpenes, and other desirable compounds, but attempts to further remove the trace amounts of THC. At Prima, all our CBD products are made from broad spectrum phytocannabinoid-rich hemp extract.
It may be tempting to write off CBD topicals as another beauty trend, but the emerging science showcases why CBD is a perfect fit for skincare and other topical products.
Advanced recovery rub for soothing comfort
Ultra-rich body butter for dry, dehydrated skin
How are CBD topicals used?
CBD topicals are used no differently than any other lotion or body balm. Take a small amount and apply it directly to the body part of your choice. Its effect is experienced locally at the site of application.
If it’s your first time using a CBD topical, follow the directions on the label, or apply a tiny bit to an inconspicuous test spot before fully diving in. How much product you need depends on how you feel; start with a small amount and increase the amount little by little as you get used to the product. You can keep applying more until you’ve achieved the desired feeling.
What is the difference between topicals and CBD oil?
CBD oil is often what people use to describe the extract that comes from the hemp plant. Often, CBD oil the same word people use to describe a tincture, which is CBD hemp extract blended with a carrier oil, which is designed for ingestion. Tinctures can often contain flavors and other ingredients whose benefits are designed for ingestion. Topicals work differently because they are often formulated with other key ingredients that deliver skin and body benefits through skin application. Its strongest impact is seen and felt locally, in the area where you rub in or apply the topical. In addition, ingestibles are not tested for skin sensitivity and skin safety, and have different quality testing protocols. It’s always important to use products as directed both to get the desired benefit, but also to ensure that it’s safe.
Why is it so important to use CBD products on your skin that are formulated specifically for topical use? By using a CBD tincture topically, your skin would miss out on all the other nourishing ingredients added to topicals and might not be designed with the right amount of CBD to bring the desired benefit to your skin. At Prima, our CBD topicals are made with other plant-based ingredients selected to support healthy, radiant skin. Our R+R cream, for example, includes invigorating menthol and eucalyptus. Our ultra-hydrating, fast-absorbing Skin Therapy body butter is designed to support and bring balance to dry skin, and includes its own set of nourishing add-ins, including fatty-acid rich hemp seed oil and moisturizing shea and cocoa butter to lock in hydration.
Consider the convenience – or inconvenience – of a tincture applied topically. Placing tincture onto your hands or legs instead of body butter or lotion will require a significant amount of product to cover a larger surface area. Using a tincture topically on the go wouldn’t be easy; you’d have to carefully remove the dropper from the bottle and measure out the amount you’d want to apply. Plus, a tincture applied topically would likely leave a film behind that needs to be wiped off, leaves a greasy texture, or takes a significantly long time to absorb.
As you begin to explore the CBD product types available to you, keep your intended use case at heart. If you’re looking for a CBD skincare or topical product, seek out products formulated for that purpose. Take advantage of the other ingredients in the product that lend themselves to luminous, healthy skin. At Prima, we pair CBD with other botanicals, extracts, fatty acids, vitamins, and phytosterols, created to support healthy, radiant skin.
It’s not uncommon for some to try out a CBD oil tincture, which is designed for ingestion, as a topical or a spot treatment.
The Health Benefits of CBD Oil
This cannabis extract may help treat nerve pain, anxiety, and epilepsy
Cathy Wong is a nutritionist and wellness expert. Her work is regularly featured in media such as First For Women, Woman’s World, and Natural Health.
Lana Butner, ND, LAc, is a board-certified naturopathic doctor and licensed acupuncturist in private practice in New York City .
CBD oil is an extract of Cannabis indica or Cannabis sativa—the same plants that, when dried, make marijuana. CBD oil is believed by some to treat pain, reduce anxiety, and stimulate appetite in the same way that marijuana does, but without its psychoactive effects. CBD has also shown promise in treating certain types of seizures.
CBD is the short name for cannabidiol, one of the two chemicals—among the dozens in cannabis—that have the most health benefits. The other, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is what gets people “high.” CBD oil generally does not contain THC, although some trace amounts may be present in products sold in certain states.
CBD oil contains CBD mixed with an inert carrier oil, such as coconut oil or hemp seed oil. The bottled oil, called a tincture, is sold in various concentrations. There are also CBD capsules, CBD gummies, and under-the-tongue CBD sprays.
CBD’s exact mechanism of action is unclear. Unlike THC, CBD has a relatively low affinity for cannabinoid receptors in the brain. These are the molecules to which THC binds to elicit its psychoactive effects.
Instead, CBD is thought to influence other receptors, including opioid receptors that regulate pain and glycine receptors involved in the regulation of the “feel-good” hormone serotonin.
Proponents claim that CBD oil can treat a wide variety of health problems, including:
- Chronic pain
- Drug addiction and withdrawal
- High blood pressure
- Muscle spasms
- Parkinson’s disease
Despite the growing popularity of CBD use, CBD oil remains sorely under-researched. As such, some of these claims are better supported by studies than others.
Here is just some of what the current evidence says.
CBD shows promise in the treatment of anxiety disorders, suggests a 2015 review of studies in the journal Neurotherapeutics. According to the investigators, CBD demonstrated potent anxiolytic (anxiety-relieving) effects in animal research, albeit with counterintuitive results.
In all but a few studies, lower doses of CBD (10 milligrams per kilogram, mg/kg, or less) were better able to treat symptoms of anxiety. Higher doses (100 mg/kg or more) exhibited virtually no effect.
Part of this response could be explained by the way that CBD acts in the brain. In many cases, CBD works as an agonist, meaning that it triggers an opposite response when binding to a receptor. It is possible that low doses can elicit a positive agonist response, while high doses overwhelm the brain and trigger a compensatory effect to fight CBD’s effects.
Among the few human trials evaluating CBD’s anxiolytic effects was one published in the Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry in 2019. For this study, 57 men were given either CBD oil or a placebo before a public-speaking event. Anxiety was evaluated using physiological measures (such as blood pressure, heart rate, etc.) and a relatively reliable test for mood states known as the Visual Analog Mood Scale (VAMS).
According to the investigators, men provided 300 mg of CBD exhibited less anxiety than those given a placebo. Interestingly, those provided 100 mg or 600 mg of CBD oil did not.
CBD oil may benefit those with drug addiction, suggests a 2015 review of studies published in Substance Abuse.
In an analysis of 14 published studies (nine involving animals and five involving humans), scientists with the University of Montreal concluded that CBD “showed promise” in treating people with opioid, cocaine, or psychostimulant addiction.
However, the effect of CBD on each addiction type was often very different. With opioid addiction, for example, CBD showed little effect in minimizing withdrawal symptoms in the absence of THC. By contrast, CBD on its own appeared effective in minimizing drug-seeking behaviors in users of cocaine, methamphetamine, and other psychostimulant drugs.
There have also been suggestions that CBD may aid in the treatment of cannabis and nicotine addiction. Further research is needed.
Medical marijuana is frequently prescribed to people with intractable (treatment-resistant) pain, including those with terminal cancer. There is some evidence that CBD contributes to this benefit.
According to a 2012 study in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, rats injected with inflammatory chemicals in their hind feet experienced less inflammation and neuropathic pain when treated with an oral dose and spinal injection of CBD.
Scientists believe that CBD reduces nerve pain by binding to glycine receptors in the brain that regulate the speed at which nerve signals pass between nerve cells.
Human studies evaluating the use of CBD in treating chronic pain are lacking. Those that do exist almost invariably include THC, making it difficult to isolate CBD’s distinct effects.
CBD oil may reduce the risk of heart disease by alleviating hypertension (high blood pressure) in certain people, suggests a 2017 study in JCI Insight.
For this study, nine healthy men took either 600 mg of CBD or the same dose of a placebo. According to the researcher, those treated with CBD had lower blood pressure before and after exposure to stressful stimuli (including exercise or extreme cold).
In addition, the stroke volume (the amount of blood remaining in the heart after a heartbeat) was significantly reduced, meaning that the heart was pumping more efficiently.
The findings suggest that CBD oil may be a suitable complementary therapy for people whose hypertension is complicated by stress and anxiety. However, there is no evidence that CBD oil can treat hypertension on its own or prevent hypertension in people at risk. While stress is known to complicate high blood pressure, it cannot cause hypertension.
In June 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Epidiolex, a CBD oral solution used for the treatment of certain rare forms of epilepsy in children under 2—Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. Both are exceptionally rare genetic disorders causing lifelong catastrophic seizures that begin during the first year of life.
Outside of these two disorders, CBD’s effectiveness in treating seizures is uncertain. Even with Epidiolex, it is uncertain whether the anti-seizure effects can be attributed to CBD or some other factor.
There is some evidence that CBD interacts with seizure medications such as Onfi (clobazam) and “boosts” their concentration in the blood. This would not only make the drugs more effective but extend their half-lives as well. Further research is needed.
Possible Side Effects
Clinical research has shown that CBD oil can trigger side effects. Severity and type can vary from one person to the next. Common symptoms include:
- Changes in appetite
- Changes in mood
- Dry mouth
CBD oil may also increase liver enzymes (a marker of liver inflammation). People with liver disease should use CBD oil with caution, ideally under the care of a doctor who can regularly check blood liver enzyme levels.
CBD oil should be avoided during pregnancy and breastfeeding. A 2018 study from the American Academy of Pediatrics warned women to avoid marijuana during pregnancy due to the potential risks to a baby’s development. Although it is unclear how CBD contributes, CBD is known to pass through the placental barrier.
If you are thinking about using CBD oil to treat a health condition, be sure to speak with your healthcare provider to ensure that it is the right option for you.
Since some CBD oils contain trace amounts of THC, you should avoid driving or using heavy machinery when taking CBD oil, particularly when first starting treatment or using a new brand.
CBD oil can interact with certain medications, including some drugs used to treat epilepsy. CBD inhibits an enzyme called cytochrome P450 (CYP450), which certain drugs use for metabolization. By interfering with CYP450, CBD may either increase the toxicity or decrease the effectiveness of these drugs.
Potential drug-drug interactions with CBD include:
- Anti-arrhythmia drugs like quinidine
- Anticonvulsants like Tegretol (carbamazepine) and Trileptal (oxcarbazepine)
- Antifungal drugs like Nizoral (ketoconazole) and Vfend (voriconazole)
- Antipsychotic drugs like Orap (pimozide)
- Atypical antidepressants like Remeron (mirtazapine)
- Benzodiazepine sedatives like Klonopin (clonazepam) and Halcion (triazolam)
- Immune-suppressive drugs like Sandimmune (cyclosporine)
- Macrolide antibiotics like clarithromycin and telithromycin
- Migraine medications like Ergomar (ergotamine)
- Opioid painkillers like Duragesic (fentanyl) and alfentanil
- Rifampin-based drugs used to treat tuberculosis
Many of these interactions are mild and require no adjustment to treatment. Others may require a drug substitution or the separation of doses by several hours.
To avoid interactions, advise your doctor and pharmacist about any drugs you are taking, whether they are prescription, over-the-counter, herbal, or recreational.
Dosage and Preparation
There are no guidelines for the appropriate use of CBD oil. CBD oil is usually delivered sublingually (under the tongue). Most oils are sold in 30-milliliter (mL) bottles with a dropper cap.
There is currently no known “correct” dose of CBD oil. Depending on who you speak to, the daily dose can range anywhere from 5 mg to 25 mg.
The tricky part is calculating the exact amount of CBD per milliliter of oil. Some tinctures have concentrations of 1,500 mg per 30 mL, while others have 3,000 mg per mL (or more).
How to Calculate CBD Dose
To determine an exact dose of CBD, remember that each drop of oil equals 0.05 mL of fluid. This means that a 30-mL bottle of CBD oil will have roughly 600 drops. If the concentration of the tincture is 1,500 mg/mL, one drop would contain 2.5 mg of CBD (1,500 mg ÷ 600 drops = 2.5 mg).
To use CBD oil, place one or more drops under the tongue and hold the dose there for 30 to 60 seconds without swallowing. Capsules and gummies are easier to dose, although they tend to be more costly. CBD sublingual sprays are used mainly for convenience.
What to Look For
Aficionados of CBD oil will tell you to buy full-spectrum oils over CBD isolates. Unlike isolates, which contain CBD only, full-spectrum oils contain a variety of compounds found naturally in the cannabis plant, including proteins, flavonoids, terpenes, and chlorophyll. Alternative practitioners believe these compounds offer more substantial health benefits, although there is no clear evidence of this.
Remember, because CBD oils are largely unregulated, there is no guarantee that a product is either safe or effective.
According to a 2017 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, only 30.95% of CBD products sold online were correctly labeled. Most contained less CBD than advertised, while 21.43% had significant amounts of THC.
Here are a few tips to help you find the best CBD oil:
- Buy American. Domestically produced CBD oil tends to be safer because of better growing and refining practices.
- Go organic. Brands certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are less likely to expose you to pesticides and other harmful chemicals.
- Read the product label. Even if you choose a full-spectrum oil, don’t assume that every ingredient on the product label is natural. There may be preservatives, flavorings, or thinning agents that you don’t want or need. If you don’t recognize an ingredient, ask the dispenser what it is or check online.
Are CBD Oil and Hemp Oil the Same?
Not necessarily. Although some people use the terms synonymously, they may also be referring to hemp seed oil, which is primarily used for cooking, food production, and skincare products. CBD oil is made from the leaves, stems, buds, and flowers of the Cannabis indica or Cannabis sativa plant and should contain less than 0.3% THC. Hemp oil is made from the seeds of Cannabis sativa and contains no TCH.
CBD oil is made from cannabidiol, a non-intoxicating extract of marijuana, and is believed to treat pain, anxiety, and seizures.