How to Make Cannabis Lotions — Cannabis Topicals 101
Revolutionary is a pretty big word but can definitely be used in the context of cannabis-infused lotions and balms. They provide medicinal benefits without the psychoactive effect of THC.
Cannabis has been with us for centuries, but innovation and curiosity have made a huge impact on how we enjoy this age-old plant. While more traditional methods of cannabis consumption like smoking a joint or using a bong are still popular, edibles, vaporizing, and topicals are gaining more traction.
Let’s take a closer look at cannabis topicals and discuss what they are, how they work, and how you can make your own cannabis-infused lotions at home.
What Are Cannabis Topicals and How Do They Work?
Cannabis topicals come in a variety of forms, including creams, balms, lotions, oils and lubricants. These products work by delivering cannabinoids and terpenes found in the cannabis plant directly to receptors in the epidermis and dermis.
What Are the Benefits of Cannabis Topicals?
Cannabis topicals have a unique range of benefits. Topicals containing THC, for example, can deliver the powerful effects of this cannabinoid without the head high, which for some people can be undesirable or unpleasant. Unlike smoking or vaporizing, which deliver cannabinoids and terpenes into the bloodstream and to a variety of receptors all around the body, topicals have the benefit of acting on a very localized area.
Check out other benefits of cannabis topicals:
- They’re easy to use. Dabbing or smoking can be tricky, especially for people new to cannabis. Using a topical, however, is as simple as smearing cream or lotion on your body.
- They’re simple to dose. It can be easy to overstep the line when smoking, vaping, or eating weed. With topicals, however, dosing is super simple, and taking a larger dose won’t cause any unwanted side effects.
- They offer a slow, steady, and controlled release. The effects of smoking or vaping cannabis can set in very quickly, while edibles can take up to 1 hour to take effect. Both edibles and smoked/vaped cannabis can seem overwhelming for some users. Topicals draw a nice middle ground between the two, offering a fast onset with a steady release and the ability to re-apply when necessary.
- They omit the lungs. While cannabis connoisseurs are quick to defend smoking weed, research has shown that cannabis smoke contains many of the same harmful compounds found in tobacco smoke.
- They avoid first-pass metabolism. When you swallow cannabis, be it in the form of a brownie, capsule or oil tincture, it usually loses concentration (and potency) by the time it reaches the bloodstream. Cannabis topicals bypass this problem because they don’t pass through the digestive tract.
- They avoid drug fluctuation levels. When you smoke or vaporize cannabis, the number of cannabinoids and terpenes delivered to your system can fluctuate dramatically depending on your smoking pattern. Topicals, on the other hand, offer a steady flow of cannabinoids and terpenes to your system, which is great for anyone using cannabis medicinally and those in need of lasting relief.
What Can Cannabis Topicals and Lotions Do for You?
Thanks to their mechanism of action, cannabis topicals can offer relief to people dealing with a wide variety of issues, affecting mainly muscles and skin. Best of all, as we mentioned earlier, topicals offer this relief without the psychedelic effects of THC-rich cannabis.
Potential anti-inflammatory  properties of both THC and CBD have been widely researched. When using topicals, you’re able to deliver these cannabinoids directly to the areas needing them most. This localized mechanism of action could help soothe muscles when injured or strained by exercise.
But the powerful effects of cannabis can do much more. If you are dealing with skin imperfections, like blemishes or redness, or you are looking for creams to help with rough or sensitive skin, you can also consider trying cannabis-infused creams. Rather than smoking, vaping, or eating your bud, using a cannabis lotion can offer faster and more targeted relief, by working directly on the affected regions of the skin.
You can also use cannabis topicals, like lotions and creams, as part of your daily moisturizing or skincare routine to promote general health of the skin. Studies have shown  , for example, that the endocannabinoid system may play an important role in promoting skin homeostasis, which suggests that using cannabis-derived topicals may be an excellent holistic approach to the overall health of your skin.
What Are Transdermal Cannabis Patches?
Unlike topicals, which only reach receptors in the epidermis and dermis, transdermal cannabis patches penetrate through the skin, delivering cannabinoids and terpenes to blood vessels in the hypodermis (also known as the subcutaneous layer).
Once applied to the skin, the compounds contained in a transdermal patch travel down through the skin until they reach the capillary vessels in the hypodermis. From there, they enter the bloodstream and are capable of reaching other receptors in the area. Transdermal patches can offer wider-reaching and longer-lasting relief.
How to Apply Cannabis Topicals
- Wash your skin with mild soap and warm water, then dry it completely.
- If you’re trying a new brand or type of lotion for the first time, consider spot testing it on a small area of skin first, just to check how your skin reacts.
- Apply a thin layer of cannabis lotion and rub it into the skin gently. If you’re using the lotion to treat sore muscles, try massaging the area gently for extra relief. Reapply if needed.
- Wash your hands to remove any excess lotion.
Quick Guide to Making a Cannabis- Infused Balm
Now that you know about cannabis topicals, it’s time to get hands-on. Although at home you don’t have the possibilities of multi-national companies when it comes to accurate production processes, you can still create your very own natural cannabis balm. From a technical point of view, the production of cannabis lotions and creams is very similar to making cannabis-infused butter. If you know how to make cannabutter, you pretty much know how to make lotions.
INGREDIENTS AND EQUIPMENT:
- 250–500ml of coconut oil
- 15–30g of dried cannabis flower
- Cooking pot
- Cheesecloth (or any kind of fine mesh material)
- Beeswax, shea butter, almond oil or other ingredients designed to boost skin health (feel free to customize these based on your skin’s needs)
- Storage containers
- Grind your flower and decarboxylate for 45 minutes in an oven preheated to 110°C.
- Pour your coconut oil into the cooking pot. Heat gently on low heat.
- Add your decarboxylated ground flower to your oil and gently simmer for at least 3–4 hours.
- Add any additional ingredients you wish to use to enrich your topical with, then remove the mixture from the heat and let it cool a bit.
- Strain through the cheesecloth into your storage containers. Remember to squeeze the mass of flowers through the cheesecloth to avoid wasting any of the product.
When making your own cannabis topicals, we highly recommend to experiment with different ingredients to create a final product tailored to your skin needs. Remember, any ingredient you find in a store-bought cream or lotion (from almond milk to shea butter and anything in between) can be a great addition to your homemade cannabis lotion. Get experimenting and get ready to experience cannabis like never before.
Are you interested in trying cannabis-infused creams and lotions? Discover the properties of cannabis topicals and learn how to easily make them at home.
How and Why to Make Cannabis Topicals for Skin Complaints
Cannabis topicals were once a staple on the shelf of virtually every apothecary, used for the treatment of aches, pains and skin complaints. Hemp-based cosmetics and lotions have made a reintroduction in recent years as a result of growing knowledge of the benefits of cannabinoids for skin. Now, it’s easy enough to make your own cannabis topical at home.
The cannabis legalization movement has resulted in an abundance of THC and CBD products on the market. What was once an herbal material to pack into a pipe has become an ingredient for the manufacture of multiple cannabis-based products including topicals.
There is an abundance of research into the effect of cannabinoids on skin, especially for those suffering from eczema and dermatitis. Many cannabis balms are manufactured for this exact reason.
With an abundance of THC and CBD oil available on the market, it has virtually never been easier to manufacture your own cannabis topicals at home. You can use a single cannabinoid or a full-spectrum product, both having their own value as a topical treatment.
What are the benefits of cannabis topicals?
Cannabinoids affect the human body by directly targeting the endocannabinoid system. This non-localized physiological system is responsible for maintaining the homeostasis of multiple different systems in the body including the central nervous system and the endocrine system. The cannabinoid receptors and endogenous cannabinoids of the endocannabinoid system can be found almost everywhere in the body, including on the skin.
Dysregulation of the endocannabinoid system has been associated with dermatological conditions such as dermatitis, psoriasis, skin cancer and eczema. This evidence, coupled with the presence of endocannabinoid receptors on the skin, poses a potential avenue of treatment for those with hard-to-treat skin conditions.
Topical applications of cannabis have been used in medicine since ancient times, and were popularised in the Western world in the mid-19 th century. It was used as an antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and analgesic agent, even for conditions as debilitating and difficult-to-treat as multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia.
A mouse study showed that topically applied THC effectively treated contact dermatitis, though rodent studies do not always translate to humans. Rates of cannabinoid transfer across the skin vary widely between species. In the case of humans, the outer layer of the skin acts as a slight barrier to the permeation of Δ 9 -THC.
In 2017 case studies reported positive results for topical cannabis for pain and symptom management in malignant wounds on cancer patients and on controlling wound pain in necrotic ulcers.
Although there is no specific research with respect to cannabis and eczema, we do know that both THC and CBD exhibit anti-inflammatory properties. And one of the main drivers of eczema symptoms (itchiness and redness) is inflammation. On top of this, eczema is also considered a hyperproliferative skin disease, and CBD in particular has the property of being anti-proliferative.
Recent patent applications also describe the use of such topical cannabis treatments in a wide range of conditions, from cysts, psoriasis and other inflammatory skin diseases, to treating pain and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections.
Cannabis Science, pioneers of medical cannabis research, are developing a topical whole plant extract for patients with drug resistant HIV (CS-TATI-1). They have successfully treated skin cancer lesions in basal and squamous carcinoma using another cannabinoid topical treatment that they have patented: CS-S/BCC-1. They are currently fighting for FDA approval for the treatment while they plan a range of over-the-counter and prescription topicals.
Overall, the application of cannabis for skin complaints is extremely versatile. Whether the skin complaint is due to irritation and itchiness or pain and lesions, cannabinoids seem to offer an alternative line of treatment. There is some research and evidence supporting the efficacy of cannabinoid treatment for skin, hence why so many cannabinoid topicals have become commercially available.
How Does Cannabis Help Chronic Skin Conditions?
How to make your own cannabis topical at home
For those who prefer DIY projects to store-bought products, it’s extremely easy to make your own cannabis balm at home. Depending on where you live, it may be easy to acquire CBD oil or other cannabinoid-rich oils. If not, it is easy enough to start with dried cannabis flowers.
Make a cannabis topical with CBD oil
- 1 cup coconut oil
- 1 bottle 1000 mg decarboxylated CBD oil (or chosen concentration)
- A jar for storing your topical
- Put the coconut oil in a saucepan over the stove on low heat. Allow to melt.
- Pour in the bottle of CBD oil, mixing thoroughly until the two oils are completely mixed together.
- Pour the mixture into a glass jar and allow it to cool and set.
Make a cannabis topical with cannabis flowers
- 1 cup coconut oil
- 1 cup cannabis plant material (decarboxylated)
- A cheesecloth for straining and filtering
- A jar for storing your cannabis topical
- Use a double boiler system to melt coconut oil in a saucepan. A slow cooker can also be used.
- Once coconut oil has melted, add decarboxylated cannabis plant material and stir.
- Allow the mixture to simmer for up to 6 hours over low heat, ensuring that the coconut oil does not boil or burn.
- Strain the mixture using a cheesecloth into the chosen receptacle for storing the topical.
- Allow to cool and set.
The resultant salve should have the same texture as the original oil that you used (in this case, coconut), but with a slightly green colour. If you wish to have a more fluid product, you may replace coconut oil with fractionated coconut oil (which is a liquid at room temperature), olive oil, jojoba oil or almond oil.
Other ingredients to add to your cannabis topical
When making your own cannabis topical at home, the possibilities are endless. Depending on what skin complaint you are treating, you can add other herbs while slow cooking the mixture. For example, compounds present in the rosemary leaf have been found to have therapeutic effects for those with dermatitis. Arnica, on the other hand, has been used in homeopathic medicine to treat bruising and swelling.
The recipes available online for creating topical lotions are plentiful. Once you have infused cannabis into your coconut oil, you may simply replace the coconut oil in any recipe with the one you have prepared. There are other oils and fats that are extremely beneficial for skin including cacao butter, hempseed oil, vitamin E oil and beeswax. So, if you are feeling adventurous, you may want to try a more involved recipe.
Finally, you may want to perfume your topical lotion by adding essential oils. Certain essential oils also have remedial properties that you can take advantage of. Just remember that essential oils are volatile, so add them when your mixture has cooled slightly. Otherwise, they will evaporate before they have a chance to infuse in the mixture.
It may take multiple attempts until you reach your perfect cannabis topical treatment, especially if you are mixing different fats and oils. In any case, creating your own cannabis balm gives you full creative liberty over what goes in and what does not.
Cannabis has been used as a topical treatment for centuries, especially for the treatment of skin conditions. Learn how and why to make your own now.