There is a soothing balm, and you don’t have to go to Gilead, just to your local pot shop.
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Medical marijuana. You can smoke it, you can eat it, you can vape it, you can infuse it. And you can rub it on.
With the medical and legal marijuana markets coming out of the shadows, we are seeing a rapid expansion of marijuana product lines. One of the most promising is topicals, such as balms, lotions, oil, and salves. Topicals laden with cannabidiol (CBD), the molecule that puts the medical in medical marijuana, are proving to be useful for a number of syndromes and conditions.
While research on the efficacy of CBD-based topicals is in its infancy, here, with a tip of the hat to High Times, are four areas where the science is beginning to demonstrate that topicals can help:
Got zits? CBD topicals may help. A 2014 study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation suggested that CBD could help with treating acne abrasions: “Collectively, our findings suggest that, due to the combined lipostatic, anti-proliferative, and anti-inflammatory effects, CBD has potential as a promising therapeutic agent for the treatment of acne vulgaris,” the study concluded.
2. Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria
A 2008 study published in the Journal of Natural Products found that THC and CBD successfully killed tough strains of antibiotic resistant bacteria, such as MRSA, in laboratory experiments.
“Marijuana (Cannabis sativa) has long been known to contain antibacterial cannabinoids, whose potential to address antibiotic resistance has not yet been investigated,” the authors noted. Their successful results using cannabinoids against a variety of MRSA strains suggest “a specific, but yet elusive, mechanism of activity” and warrant further investigation.
There could be relief for joint pain sufferers through CBD topicals, too. An Israeli study found that most patients reported reduced pain and increased function, and fully 90% of them stayed on their medication regime.
And a 2013 study from researchers at the University of Nottingham found that CBD products targeting cannabinoid receptors may help bring relief for knee joint pain associated with osteoarthritis.
Research on medical marijuana for arthritis continues, although in a Canadian study, the CAPRI Trial (Cannabinoid Profile Investigation of Vaporized Cannabis in Patients with Osteoarthritis of the Knee), researchers are examining vaporized marijuana, not topicals. But CBD topicals are already well-known for their anti-inflammatory properties, and more research is likely to cement their reputation as highly effective in this regard.
4. Open Wounds
Topical CBD may help in treating open wounds. A study published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management noted that: “Anecdotal accounts of the use of topical extracts from the cannabis plant being used on open wounds date back to antiquity. In modern times, cannabinoid therapies have demonstrated efficacy as analgesic agents in both pharmaceutical and botanical formats.”
The study suggested that it was the combination of CBD and terpenes, the aromatic organic compounds that give marijuana its odor, that make marijuana efficacious in soothing skin abrasions.
Warning: Some topicals may contain grain alcohol or other solvents and would not be appropriate for broken or irritated skin. Look instead for topicals that have organic coconut oil or almond oil bases.
Phillip Smith is editor of the AlterNet Drug Reporter and author of the Drug War Chronicle.