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Topical vs Transdermal

Where topicals are only absorbed into the epidermis (which means “outside the dermis”), a transdermal uses solvents and special formulations to help cannabinoids cross into the dermis and enter the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, cannabinoids are circulated throughout the body and will activate CB receptors in the brain, nervous system and immune cells throughout the body.

Transdermals are usually patches (similar to nicotine patches cigarette smokers may be familiar with). The patch contains a jelly or cream infused with a given chemical (in this case, THC) which is absorbed over time through the skin.


What are cannabis topicals used for? Cannabis topicals are used as a localized anti-inflammatory and pain reliever for muscle and joint pain. Some people also use them for itchy bug bites. Can all cannabis topicals get you high? No. In fact, only a very few “transdermal creams” can get you high. The vast majority of topical cannabis creams are only absorbed as far as the flesh they’re applied to, relieving symptoms there, and never entering the blood stream. What type of cannabis topicals are non-psychoactive? All cannabis topicals are non-psychoactive because their active ingredients cannot be absorbed any deeper than the skin, keeping the cannabinoids out of the blood stream. However, these creams and lotions should not be confused with cannabis transdermals, which are designed to deliver THC into the bloodstream and to the brain, where they will get the user high. How do cannabis topicals work? Cannabis topicals carry cannabinoids like THC or CBD as far as the deepest layer of the epidermis. Here, they find Immune cells with CB2 receptors, which they bind with to offer local relief from pain and inflammation. Cannabinoids applied via topical cream or lotion remain at the site of application for localized relief, and cannot enter the larger bloodstream to take effect anywhere else.

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