What Are Cannabis Creams and Topicals? Benefits, Effects & More

Alternaleaf Team
Written by
Alternaleaf Team
Jun 22, 2023
Last updated:
Dec 14, 2023

You may be mostly familiar with medical cannabis as a flower or oil, but a format gaining increasing interest is cannabis creams and balms. As an emerging field, there is little high-grade research currently available regarding the effectiveness of THC or CBD creams. However, there is a growing number of topical products available for prescription, with positive anecdotal feedback from many patients.

So, what benefits could CBD cream have? And what does the research say about its safety and pain-relieving properties?

What Are Cannabis Creams and Topicals?

Cannabis creams, lotions, transdermal patches, balms, ointments and gels all fall under the umbrella of cannabis topicals. No matter what consistency or cannabinoid content your doctor prescribes, the direction is almost always to apply the product directly to the skin.

Cannabis cream is mostly prescribed for chronic pain. This may include joint pain, muscular pain, endometriosis, or discomfort caused by skin conditions such as psoriasis.

Most cannabis creams are purely CBD creams, while some contain THC. Current literature shows that topical treatments reach their peak effect 1.4 hours after application and may last for up to 48 hours.  

Can You Use CBD Cream For Pain Relief?

It’s thought that cannabis, when applied topically, can target localised pain and discomfort from skin conditions.

Since CBD affects systems in the body that are involved in pain regulation, CBD cream may be effective in relieving pain from injury, arthritis, neuropathy and more.

A recent study on chronic back pain found that a hemp-derived CBD cream helped to significantly reduce pain for some patients. The patients applied the cream directly to the painful areas along their spine, and reported 7–10 hours of reduced pain.  

The quick relief and ease of use offered by CBD creams may make them a good option to manage pain, even if you have no experience with medical cannabis. Also, being able to apply the cream directly to the painful area may result in faster and stronger relief.

Many cannabis creams in Australia include other ingredients, such as natural oils and essential oils, to further help relieve pain or tension in the body. The duration of pain relief from any medical cannabis product will depend on the formula and dose prescribed.

Is CBD Cream Good for Your Skin?

CBD cream’s anti-inflammatory effect may have a positive effect on skin conditions such as acne and psoriasis. A recent study suggests that CBD cream may be effective in reducing acne-related inflammation.

CBD may suppress the activity of cytokines, potentially reducing the skin redness and inflammation associated with acne. Cytokines are small proteins that signal the body to inflame as a defence mechanism. CBD cream may also help hydrate the skin and have antioxidant properties.

Side Effects of Cannabis Cream

CBD cream is usually well tolerated, but side effects, such as dry mouth, dizziness and fatigue can occur. CBD cream can also cause skin rashes, but this is true of any topical lotion and isn’t necessarily caused by the cannabis itself.

As you would whenever starting a new medication, make sure to ask your doctor if CBD or THC interacts with any other medicines you may be taking.

The jury is still out as to whether topically applied THC can reach your bloodstream. Because of this, it’s worth exercising caution if you need to drive, because it remains illegal to drive in Australia with any amount of THC in your system (with the notable exception of Tasmania).

How to Access Cannabis Topicals and CBD Cream in Australia

Medical cannabis topicals and CBD creams are available in Australia by prescription. But how do you decide if and which cannabis cream is best for your health?

It’s important to find a doctor who can help you identify the best option for your circumstances. Book a consultation with a doctor at a medical cannabis clinic or your local GP to see if you're eligible for cannabis topicals. Your doctor will go over any concerns you may have. It’s also important to keep in mind that medical cannabis affects everyone differently and isn’t guaranteed to help with your condition.

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