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What Are Transdermal Topicals, And What Makes Them Different From Regular Topicals?

You can inhale and ingest medical marijuana, consumption methods which can cause you to strongly feel the effects of THC. Most medical marijuana-infused topical products are the exception to the rule, but there’s a category within the realm of topicals which in itself is an exception: Transdermal products.

What are transdermal topicals?

Transdermal topical products are used similarly to other medical-marijuana infused topicals, but transdermal products enter your bloodstream. This means that you’re likely to feel the effects of the cannabinoids and terpenes in the product.

How medical marijuana-infused topicals work – and why transdermal products have a different effect

Most medical marijuana infused topicals do not cause intoxicating effects. That’s because most topicals have a localized effect, which means you’ll feel them where you apply them on your body. It’s only when medical marijuana is systemic, or the phytocannabinoids enter your bloodstream and make their way throughout your body, that you’ll feel the effects of THC more prominently.

In most cases, medical marijuana-infused topicals are localized, mainly intended to help soothe irritated skin or used in conjunction with other systemic products, like vape cartridges or capsules, to help manage acute pain spikes. There’s one significant exception, however, and that’s transdermal topicals.

Transdermal products work differently than other medical marijuana infused topicals1. These products penetrate your skin and enter your bloodstream, so you may experience an altered mental state just like you might if you inhaled medical marijuana. Transdermal products are used for their slow and consistent release of phytocannabinoids, providing long-term relief if you have chronic pain or other approved conditions that affect your muscles, joints, or similar.

Notably, this effect also depends on what cannabinoids are in your transdermal product. There are some products, for example, that only contain CBD. These are best if you want to avoid THC altogether, either due to drug testing considerations or because you experience relief from a high-CBD or all-CBD product.

Why transdermal products?

Transdermal medical marijuana products offer some unique benefits, including:

  • Fast-acting: Transdermal products deliver phytocannabinoids directly into circulation, rather than being metabolized through the liver first, like when ingesting a capsule. This means transdermal products get to work right away, interacting with your endocannabinoid system (ECS) to elicit all types of effects.
  • Targeted: Like their localized counterparts, transdermal products provide relief to targeted areas. Research has shown transdermal products are effective in treating inflammation and blocking pain locally2. Moreover, they can promote muscle relaxation for those with chronic pain3.
  • Potency: The bioavailability of transdermal products is significantly greater than other types of medical marijuana products. This means your body absorbs a larger percentage of the cannabinoids than it may from other products, so their effect may be felt more strongly.
  • Discretion: You can’t get much more discreet than transdermal products. These products can be applied in private – or hidden under clothing when it comes to a patch – and nobody would be any the wiser.

Types of transdermal medical marijuana products

You can find transdermal products in several forms:

  • Patches: One of the more common transdermal products are patches, which can be placed directly on your skin to facilitate the gradual, consistent release of phytocannabinoids into your bloodstream. “Gradual and consistent” is no exaggeration: Patches can last from 24 hours to a couple of days, depending on the quality of the product4.
  • Lotions, creams, and gels: Just like their localized counterparts, these classic topicals are applied to the desired area and thoroughly absorbed. Transdermal products provide the targeted relief that localized medical marijuana topicals offer while offering systemic relief without reaching for another product.

While these products won’t be available on every dispensary shelf, they can be found in most markets. Ask an Ethos associate at your local dispensary which transdermal products might be in stock.

When to use transdermal products

Transdermal products are versatile and can suit a variety of use cases. Here are a few common ways in which people use transdermal products.

Targeted pain relief

One of the primary use cases for transdermal products (and, indeed, all topicals) is targeted pain relief. Whether it’s consistent joint pain or muscle soreness, transdermals excel at providing fast, potent relief to the areas on which they’re applied. Someone with chronic pain that affects their knees could apply a medical marijuana infused transdermal topical to help decrease discomfort, for example.

Long-term relief

Transdermal patches are particularly useful if medical marijuana is a significant part of managing your symptoms, but you can’t frequently stop to consume. Because they work for hours or days at a time, transdermal patches enable you to place a patch when needed and then go about your day.

Transdermal products: Experience medical marijuana in a new way

Transdermal products offer fast-acting, targeted relief along with the systemic benefits of other medical marijuana products. They offer a unique, discreet, and fuss-free way to experience the benefits of medical marijuana. Just be sure to give transdermal products a “test run” before you head out, so you can properly gauge how your body and mind react to this new product. If you are curious about whether transdermal products could be right for you, bring your questions to an Ethos associate or pharmacist – we are happy to help guide you.



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