CBD Cream: How to Apply It, Why and Does It Work?

CBD (scientifically known as cannabidiol) is a non-psychoactive compound extracted from the hemp plant. These compounds are called cannabinoids. Most people know the cannabinoid called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is derived from the Marijuana Cannabis plant and is known for its psychoactive properties. CBD is derived from the Hemp Cannabis plant and is used for many of the same purposes as THC but is preferred by those that do not want to feel the effects of the psychoactive properties (which produces the feelings of being 'high'). According to a report by the World Health Organization, “In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential…. To date, there is no evidence of public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.”


Over the past few years, the popularity of CBD products has continued to increase in wake of a landmark legalization of hemp, which in turn made the extraction, sale and distribution of CBD federally legal so long as it is derived from Hemp. CBD is being added to a myriad of products ranging from basic oil tinctures to flavored gummies, candies, and sodas. There is a heightened activity in the research of CBD related medical properties. While, the FDA has been very reluctant to fully approve the use of CBD for the treatment of serious illnesses without significantly more research and human trials, there have been promising studies and ample anecdotal evidence supporting the efficacy of and consumer satisfaction with the use of CBD. Some people will use CBD for pain, others for anxiety, insomnia, or for the treatment of other symptoms. You can use CBD in pill form, oil form, or as a cream.


Research indicates that using transdermal application of CBD has specific anti-inflammatory effects. The effectiveness of putting CBD directly on the skin of an effected area is very high.

CBD Cream: CBD Topical and Skin Products

As a compound, CBD is very effective when applied topically. That is why CBD-infused creams are so promising. Topical CBD products are usually made by blending high-quality CBD oil with any combination of other moisturizing agents such as coconut oil, shea butter, aloe vera, vitamin E, and other essential oils. Popular CBD cream products include:

  • CBD Lotion: CBD lotion is often applied to the face for it's hydrating and anti-inflammatory effects. Many users report that their skin tone appeared brighter and more vibrant when using CBD and that redness was greatly reduced. The calming effects of CBD are due to its anti-inflammatory properties, which work both when taken orally or added directly to the skin.
  • CBD Salve or Balm: CBD salves or balms are popular methods of pain management. Whether users are suffering from diseases that cause chronic pain like arthritis or if they have short-term acute pain from weightlifting and general physical exertion, applying a CBD salve or balm directly to where you are experiencing pain can be very helpful. 
  • CBD Patches: CBD patches, much like "Icy Hot" or other popular commercial patches, are applied to strained, pulled, or sore muscles to provide pain relief. Unlike most other commercial patches, though, CBD not only helps reduce pain, it also helps target the source of the problem, which is often inflammation. These are popular for relieving menstrual pain.

Why CBD Cream Works

CBD cream is a highly effective remedy for treating symptoms from a variety of ailments. The most important property that makes transdermal application effective is CBD’s powerful anti-inflammatory properties. It has also been proven effective to reaching arthritic and rheumatic pain through skin application. Some compounds, although effective when taken orally, are not able to absorb directly into the skin. Thankfully, this does not include CBD. 

CBD can penetrate deeply into the skin to provide many health and beauty benefits. Some lotions even add additional ingredients to improve how the CBD is absorbed into the skin and amplify its benefits. In addition to the treatment of joint or arthritic pain, CBD promotes clear skin. It has been found to have a positive effect on human skin cells and sebaceous glands. This means that CBD is great at treating acne.  

Which CBD Creams to Buy

As with any booming industry, the booming CBD industry has made room for some people looking to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers. Don’t let human greed deter you from an effective remedy. However, be smart and show common sense. Some products are incorrectly labeling their CBD-infused products both in terms of accuracy and in some cases whether there is any CBD present at all. This is much easier to do with creams or lotions than it is with products that have to make it through the FDA's rigorous approval process.

One study showed that only a little over a third of CBD-creams were properly labeled. Some CBD creams claimed to have more CBD in them than they actually did, and others had barely detectable amounts. This is not particularly surprising. Given that CBD was a recently illegal substance that is operating in a regulatory vacuum, it is no wonder that unscrupulous actors have come in to take advantage of legitimate consumer curiosity about a product that can help.

You can avoid buying such "snake oil" products by ensuring your CBD cream has a third-party certificate of authenticity. This is sometimes easier to look for online than it is in stores because many store owners do not want to lose shelf space by displaying such certificates. But, even if you do buy your CBD in a store rather than online, you should be able to check the product's box or Google the product to ensure it's legit. If you can't find a third-party certificate of authenticity, don't buy it!

The quality and accuracy of contents in CBD products is one of the most risky parts about consuming these products before the FDA has approved and studied CBD for approved medical uses in humans. While research finds minimal if any harmful side-effects, particularly transdermal application, there have still been problems with the accuracy and quality of CBD products.

One private solution that has been taking form in the absence of clear government standards has been spearheaded by Sephora. Sephora has been the first major vendor of CBD skin products to pass standards any product must pass before appearing on that stores shelves. These standards are the following:

  1. Inclusion of only full or broad spectrum CBD derived from US hemp.
  2. CBD must be tested at least 3 times for quality and purity
  3. A Certificate of Analysis (COA) verifying the label and contents match must be available upon request
  4. All products must meet Sephora Clean Standards

Private efforts like these are helping fill the stop-gap until Federal policy catches up with consumer trends. Another way to ensure you’re getting a product free of any contaminants is ensuring your CBD vendor has the USDA certified organic seal.


How Do CBD Topical Creams Work?

CBD creams work in a number of different ways. Mainly, they work within your endocannabinoid system. This system effects and regulates many of the bodies functions. After you workout really hard, for example, your body releases endocannabinoids to signal to your brain that your muscle is tired or worn out. This, along with lactic acid accumulation, is where the feeling of soreness comes from. But it's not all bad; endocannabinoids are also partly responsible for giving you the euphoric sensation you sometimes feel after a good run or workout in the gym. When you take CBD orally or rub it onto your skin, the compound interacts with your endocannabinoid system at act to stimulate the euphoric sensations while minimizing the pain signals.

The other, more direct way that CBD creams work is by acting to target inflammation specifically. While other non-prescription pain medications only work in your brain, CBD actually works both in your brain and at the source of your pain by reducing inflammation. This is one of the reasons why CBD makes such a great alternative to traditional medications for chronic pain sufferers: It gives them relief and can even help to cure the cause of some of their ailments.

What Can CBD Topical Creams Be Used For?

Some of the more popular uses for CBD creams include:

  • For ArthritisCBD is increasingly popular among people living with arthritis who take the compound both orally and by rubbing a balm or salve on their hands—which is one of the primary sources of pain for many people living with arthritis. The anti-inflammatory effects of CBD significantly mitigate the symptoms of arthritis according to many CBD users. The unfortunate fact about arthritis is that it is uncured and can thus only be managed. When it comes to pain management, you always want to choose something that is not going to have a negative impact on your overall health. You don't want to try and "grin and bear it," and you don't want to stupefy yourself into a zombie by using hardcore, potentially dangerous drugs like opioids. While opioids have their place—namely in hospitals and for sufferers of major acute pain, they are not ideal long-term solutions for chronic pain sufferers. CBD creams, on the other hand, get right to the source of the problem. That, plus they have few, very mild side effects.  
  • For Acne: While more research needs to be done, people have reported CBD lotions and creams have helped reduce their acne and improve the overall tone and texture of their skin. The anti-inflammatory effect on particular skin cells can have a particularly powerful effect on soothing troubled skin.
  • For Rosacea or Red Skin Tone: It is believed that CBD's anti-inflammatory properties that CBD-infused facial lotions can help calm the skin and reduce signs or Rosacea or red skin tone, greatly improving the user's complexion. The overall positive effect has resulted in very high user satisfaction.
  • For Muscle Pain or Soreness: CBD-based products, especially creams, are becoming increasingly popular among weightlifters, bodybuilders, and athletes. CBD creams can be applied directly to sore areas and offer quick results that can provide relief and reduce inflammation. Research has shown that transdermal application directly to the effected area can be just as effective as oral ingestion.

Should I Try a CBD Cream?

If you suffer from chronic pain or recurring acute pain from demanding physical activity, then CBD is worth a try. It is natural, effective, and has very few side-effects. If you are uncertain about whether CBD is right for you, don't hesitate to talk to your doctor. It is important to remember that CBD is not currently a prescription for any particular skin ailments. While it has been approved by the FDA for use in the treatment of a severe seizure disorder, any decision you make to try CBD should be for the purpose of reducing unpleasant symptoms not curing an underlying condition.

It is important to always remember that any supplement, which most CBD is sold as, is not regulated by the FDA. This means, until further medical research and validation of results amongst human trial participants, the proper dose of CBD (most effective) is not known. Though CBD shows a lot of promise; it is not currently a medicine except for sufferers of seizures who get a prescription from a physician. You should not use CBD instead of a prescription medication, or at all without talking to your physician. CBD is known to have side effects such as fatigue, irritability and dry mouth. It can also interact with medications in the same way as grapefruit juice. Other than seizures CBD should not be used to cure any ailment, only to help with its symptoms. Also, because the supplements are not regulated for purity the FDA and independent research groups have found a large amount of CBD vendors who mislabel or misrepresent the contents of their products. Other government certifications like the USDA Certified Organic seal and private methods like batch numbers and lab testing can help ensure you select only quality CBD products.

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