Topicals and gummies provide consumers with an easy introduction to cannabis and CBD products. Thus, it should come as no surprise that edibles are the third highest-selling product in the North American cannabis market.
Whether you’re a cannabis aficionado or not, you may find yourself torn between choosing a topical or gummies, especially if you’re seeking pain relief. Which one makes the most sense for you? What different types of topicals and gummies are available in the cannabis and CBD markets?
What Are Cannabis Topicals?
Cannabis topicals are any cannabinoid-infused product that can be applied to your skin. These include cannabis lotions, balms, salves, creams, and THC ointments. You can also find them in the form of THC patches and skincare products!
Topicals are designed to provide fast-acting pain relief right where it hurts. Most cannabis topicals don’t cross the blood-brain barrier after they’re absorbed by your skin. This means you can enjoy using cannabis topicals without any psychoactive effects.
In other words, you could use a cannabis topical for pain relief before work and not have to worry about feeling “high.”
Some cannabis topicals are also infused with menthol, which gives a cooling effect to provide additional relief to the area. Menthol infused cannabis topicals are more geared toward pain relief.
Cannabis salves and lotions are also highly moisturizing. If you have dry, flaky skin — or an inflammatory skin condition — it’s better to opt for a non-menthol infused product. The menthol could irritate your sensitive skin and prevent you from receiving the proper, hydrating effects of the lotion.
The main differences between lotions and creams vs. salves are their base and texture. Cannabis creams, lotions, and ointments have a water base. So they tend to have richer, fluffier textures.
On the other hand, salves have a wax and fatty acid base. They are more oily but also tend to be stronger than lotions. Cannabinoids bind extremely well to fats — but don’t bind to water. This makes salves and balms stronger than lotions. If you’re looking for a topical higher in THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids, salves may be a better option for you.
CBD vs. THC Topicals
Both CBD and THC have anti-inflammatory properties, meaning either cream could work for providing pain relief. CBD topicals may also be effective for relieving neuropathic pain.
THC and CBD topicals have similar effects, though CBD topicals may feel more “cooling” on the skin. In contrast, THC ones have more of a “warming” effect — even if they’re both infused with menthol.
Whether you should opt for a CBD or THC topical really boils down to whether or not cannabis is legal in your state. Cannabis is legal in more than half of the United States. However, you will need a medical card to purchase THC products from a dispensary in some states.
If cannabis isn’t legal in your state, you won’t be able to purchase THC topicals.
What Are Cannabis Gummies?
Cannabis gummies are exactly what they sound like — sweet, chewy, cannabinoid-infused candies. They come in a wide variety of shapes, textures, flavors, strengths, and forms.
Aside from their flavor, there are many reasons why patients prefer cannabis gummies:
- They’re easy to dose.
- They’re discrete.
- They allow you to use cannabis without having to smoke or vape.
- You can take them with you on the go.
Unlike topicals, cannabis gummies will give you the full effects of taking cannabis. Also, unlike topicals, gummies and edibles have full-body effects. If you have widespread chronic pain or digestive pain, cannabis gummies may be a better option for you than topicals.
However, it can take 30 to 90 minutes before you start to feel anything from taking cannabis gummies or edibles. When you eat cannabis, your liver has to metabolize the cannabinoids before they start circulating in your bloodstream.
That’s why it takes longer to feel the effects of gummies and edibles than it takes to feel the effects of smoking or vaping cannabis.
CBD vs. THC Gummies
Although CBD and THC have similar properties, they are processed very differently by the body. Another key difference between the two cannabinoids is THC has psychoactive properties. THC is the primary cannabinoid behind the “high” associated with cannabis.
THC gummies will have psychoactive effects, whereas CBD gummies won’t. CBD gummies do have calming, relaxing effects. Still, they won’t give you the same sense of euphoria or paranoia that THC would.
Whether you can purchase THC gummies also depends on the legality of cannabis in your state. Even if you live in a medical-use-only state, gummies may not be available at your dispensary because legislators consider them to be more of a “recreational product.”
In that case, you can still legally purchase CBD gummies for sleep, stress relief, or pain relief so long as the CBD is derived from hemp.
Topicals or Gummies or Both: Deciding Which is Right For You
Choosing between topicals or gummies is difficult. Both are discrete, easy to use, and may provide pain relief. However, there are several key differences between topicals and gummies:
- Time of onset: Topicals are almost instantaneous, working within a few minutes. Gummies and edibles can take 30 to 90 minutes to “kick in,” so to speak.
- Localized vs. widespread pain relief: Topicals only provide relief directly to the area you applied the lotion or salve. Gummies work throughout your entire body because the cannabinoids are carried through your bloodstream.
- Psychoactive effects: THC topicals generally do not cross the blood-brain barrier, so you won’t feel “high” — even if the topical contains a lot of THC. THC gummies, however, will have psychoactive effects.
- Legality: Even if you live in a state where medical cannabis use is legal, THC gummies are generally not sold in medical cannabis dispensaries due to local legislative policies.
You don’t have to choose between one or the other. Because THC topicals don’t cross the blood-brain barrier, you can use a THC topical and take a THC gummy without having to worry about feeling too “high” or paranoid.
Both cannabis or CBD topicals and gummies can be used together.
Key Takeaways: You Can Use Topicals and Gummies Together
Cannabis topicals and gummies both have anti-inflammatory properties that could help alleviate chronic pain. When choosing between topicals or gummies, there are several factors to consider. Are you looking for localized or widespread pain relief? Do you want to feel the psychoactive effects of THC or not? Are THC products legal in your state?
CBD gummies and topicals are also an option if you don’t live in a state with recreational or medicinal cannabis programs.
At the end of the day, though, you don’t have to choose between one or the other. You can apply a cannabis topical directly to where it hurts for immediate pain relief waiting for the cannabis gummy to kick in.
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- Xu, D. H., Cullen, B. D., Tang, M., & Fang, Y. (2020). The Effectiveness of Topical Cannabidiol Oil in Symptomatic Relief of Peripheral Neuropathy of the Lower Extremities. Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, 21(5), 390–402. https://doi.org/10.2174/1389201020666191202111534
- Think About Cannabis. (2022, April 19). Maps: Is Cannabis Legal in Your State? https://www.thinkaboutcannabis.com/legislation/maps-is-cannabis-legal-in-your-state
- Think About Cannabis. (2022, April 4). How can CBD help with Sleep? https://www.thinkaboutcannabis.com/health-wellness/how-can-cbd-help-with-sleep