Cannabis topicals provide temporary, localized relief without the psychoactivity of internal consumption. Topical application of cannabis can help everything from arthritis and rheumatism, to chronic pain from multiple sclerosis, to injured or sore muscles and joints, sunburns, and skin inflammations. CBD and CBG are excellent for helping skin-deep conditions such as sunburns, rosacea, acne and psoriasis, while THC penetrates deeper into the tissue and is great for deeper inflammation such as sore joints or muscles.
Using a cannabis topical relieves pain in the moment but also reduces overall inflammation, allowing for faster healing of short-term injuries and longer-term pain relief for chronic conditions. Using cannabis topically is also unique in that cannabinoids cannot enter the bloodstream through the skin – thus, it will not provide a psychoactive effect nor will it show up on a drug test. The cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 are present all throughout your body, including in the skin, nerve fibers, and hair follicles. These receptors are responsible for receiving the cannabinoids into the area – in this case, a very localized area.
I initially created this topical for my own chronic back pain, and when using consistently I found great relief from muscle tightness, muscle spasms, and joint pain. Walking, stretching, exercising, and everyday activity became less stressful on my body overall, improving my quality of life. I have since found many more uses for this – everything from sore shoulders to hip pain, skin irritations like sunburns and shallow scrapes (no open wounds), and even for rejuvenating a pair of sore feet at the end of a long day.
Creating your own topical is not only fun and cost-effective, but it is completely customizable as well! You can choose how much or how little cannabis to include, the balance of THC/CBD that you like best, and personalize your scent with essential oil blends. There are many other special additions you can make once you know what you like out of a topical, but we’ll get you started with a simple recipe that yields good consistency and potency.
Simple Topical Recipe:
- Shaved candelilla wax (1.5 oz) OR about 3 oz shaved beeswax (See notes).
- Coconut oil (6.7 fl oz).
- Shea butter (3 oz).
- Almond oil (about 3 tbs).
- 1 gram/100mL Cannabis oil (use RSO or decarboxylated BHO/CO2/etc – something already activated).
- Additional carrier oil to dilute if needed (See notes).
- Essential oils for your favorite scent – about 25-50 drops (See notes).
Other gear you’ll need:
- Double-boiler, or a pot with a heat-resistant bowl set on top, or a crockpot.
- Kitchen scale that measures to tenths of an ounce.
- Liquid measuring cup.
- Heat-resistant containers to put your topical in (such as glass jars, tins, or silicone).
Yield: About 10-12 oz of product.
- Begin melting your wax in the double-boiler over a simmering heat. While waiting for the wax to melt, begin preparing your containers. Wipe out with some alcohol and set aside to dry. Leave them open for ease of filling.
- Combine coconut oil, shea butter, and almond oil in the double boiler and mix well. Stir frequently until the wax is fully melted.
- When ingredients are fully mixed, check consistency by dipping a spoon in the oils and then setting in the freezer for five minutes. If it is too thick and must be scraped off the spoon, add more oil one tablespoon at a time. When you find the right consistency, add in your cannabis oil. This will melt in quickly. Turn off the heat but leave your pot in place.
- Put a few drops of your chosen essential oils in the bottom of each prepared container.
- Pour all of the oil mixture into a large heat-resistant liquid measuring cup, being careful not to get any water in with the oils. Pour from there into each of your containers. When all containers have been filled, use a toothpick to stir each one up a little bit, so that the essential oils are mixed in.
- Leave on a flat surface at room temperature or cooler, out of direct sunlight.
- This recipe was formulated to be vegan, and the waxes cannot be substituted 1:1 – if using beeswax, start with a lesser amount and check the consistency before each new addition until you reach the desired consistency.
- Essential oil recommendations: Peppermint gives a nice cooling effect. Lavender is very calming for burns and skin irritation. Rosemary and tea tree both have anti-microbial properties – use sparingly for a natural preservative (about 5 drops for this recipe).
- You can use any carrier oil that is liquid at room temperature in place of or in addition to the almond oil. I chose almond oil due to the high concentration of vitamin E, which is very hydrating for the skin. Olive, sesame, avocado, or any other shelf-stable oil will work.
- Hemp seed oil is also a great choice for hydration as it contains omegas 3-6-9, but it can spoil at higher temperatures. It should be stored in a very cool place and never allowed to melt fully. Keeping it in the fridge with airtight lids works well for this.
- Be careful not to get ANY water in with your oil mix. This can introduce bacteria and poses the risk of mold growing in your topical.
- If you are using a jar of some type and want to seal these tightly for long-term storage, just screw on the lids very tightly while the topical is still cooling. This will suction the lids on as the jars cool. If you want them to be easy to open, leave the lids off while cooling.
- It is recommended to use a paper towel to wipe clean all of your tools to remove the wax. Follow up by washing with soap and water to remove the oils.
- Store your finished topical in a cool, dim place. There are two reasons for this:
- If it gets too warm, it will melt and you will lose some of your essential oils to oxidation. When it cools down again, some of the coconut oil or shea butter may separate into tiny spheres throughout. This is a natural separation and does not damage the product, but it will require a little more effort to melt the solidified coconut oil while rubbing in your topical. To fix this, heat jars gently in a warm water bath. More essential oils can be added at this point, and it should be stirred up again with a toothpick to get the smooth consistency back.
- THC and CBD are sensitive to light and heat, and the molecules can degrade over time when in contact to either. If left in excessive heat and light (such as being kept on the windowsill or in a place that gets sunny every day), your topical may become less effective.
Once you have the technique of creating your own topical worked out, you can start to modify it; experiment with other carrier oils, essential oil blends, and oils infused with other healing herbs. Many other herbs have medicinal benefits and can be selected to create your own perfect blend, made specifically to your needs.
Happy medicine making!