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Cannabidiol (CBD) is a popular cannabinoid with a slew of health benefits. It’s popping up in products across the country at lightning speed. In this article, we discuss topical application and CBD salve benefits for joint pain and inflammation reduction.
Oils, gummies, lotions, salves, shampoos…the list goes on and on when it comes to new CBD-infused products. Cannabidiol is the new craze, and it’s appearing in absolutely everything. With known benefits from anxiety relief to reducing chronic pain, there doesn’t seem to be an ailment CBD can’t help.
One surprisingly popular product taking the market by storm is the CBD salve. Next to oils and gummies, salves are the hottest CBD product out there. And for good reason. Cannabidiol affects every person differently. While some products work amazingly for some, they might not work for another. Just the other day, a friend gave me a CBD update: “Tried the oil, I don’t really feel much from that. But this CBD balm is the sh*t!”
So, what makes CBD balms so special? What are some CBD salve benefits? And are they salves, balms, ointments, or lotions? How do I know which kind to take? And why should I choose a salve over an oil?
If this seems like a lot to cover, don’t worry – we’ll break it all down for you. Just keep scrolling to learn more about some CBD salve benefits for you.
Not everyone is a beauty guru. You might be wondering: what the heck is the difference between a salve, a balm, an ointment and a lotion?
Well, we can lump a salve, balm and ointment together. These three terms are interchangeable according to the Oxford dictionary. A salve (or balm or ointment or rub) is defined as “an ointment used to promote healing of the skin or as protection.”
Well, isn’t that what a lotion does, too? Yes, that’s correct! Functionally, lotions and salves do pretty much the same thing – protect and heal your skin, which is the body’s largest organ.
The biggest difference between a salve and lotion is the creation process and ingredients used. When it comes to CBD lotions and creams, a bit of water and moisturizing agents comprise the base. However, salves and balms only use fatty oils and wax in their base, no water added. In addition to differences in texture, salves are commonly used for heavier-duty healing jobs, like cracked skin. However, a light cream might be used daily as a facial moisturizer.
When it comes to the functional differences between CBD salves and lotions, the specific ingredients used in the product and the amount of CBD present in the salve determine them.
Salves are extremely simple to make. They require only a few ingredients and there are many different ways to make them using a variety of ingredients. Although ingredients vary by brand and use value, balms contain these three essential ingredients:
The first step in making a salve is picking a wax for the base. Although there are other waxes available, natural, non-enriched beeswax is by far the most popular choice. For example, vegetable waxes like Candelilla (derived from the leaves of the Candelilla plant native to Mexico) work well, but are usually used in 100% vegan products. In most cases, and it’s certainly better for the bees, pure beeswax is your best option. Beeswax is a dense, hard material that is melted down to produce a more fluid, sticky texture.
The next step in making a CBD salve is picking a fatty oil. Your choice in carrier oil is extremely important. The oil you choose affects how well the CBD works. The fatty oil is responsible for holding the cannabidiol in the balm. There are plenty of options of oils to include, but coconut oil is the most popular choice and best option. Coconut oil contains a high amount of fatty acids, which are the molecular devices to which CBD attaches and hitches a ride through the skin carrier on.
The more fatty acids an oil has, the more active CBD that can bind to those acids, the better the CBD salve benefits experienced by the user.
To infuse the coconut oil with active CBD, industrial hemp (where the CBD most likely comes from) is ground into fine bits (not quite a powder) and steeped in the oil for a few hours at 200+ degrees Fahrenheit. The heat decarboxylates the CBD into its active molecular form. At this point, the fatty acids in the oil latch onto the cannabidiol, binding with the active CBD.
Once the oil is infused with active CBD, other ingredients, like essential oils and vitamins, are added. After this, all that’s left is adding the oil with the melted wax to create a CBD salve.
All CBD balms will have a list of ingredients on the packaging they come in, which will differ depending on the brand. When browsing for options, pay attention to the wax used, the oil base and any added ingredients. This will help you determine how well the balm works, or what added benefits you might experience from its use.
For example, Regenefi’s 500mg Healing Balm lists the following ingredients: pure cannabidiol (CBD) oil, coconut oil, beeswax, shea butter, vitamin E oil, hemp C oil, avocado oil, menthol crystals, peppermint oil, eucalyptus oil, tea tree oil and lavender oil.
A salve is an ointment infused with some sort of healing agent, which is then administered directly through the skin to promote healing and/or protection. Often, other ingredients are also added to the salve to boost its benefits. In this case, the salve is infused with cannabidiol to reduce joint pain, inflammation and relieve certain skin conditions.
Cannabidiol, abbreviated as CBD, has a wide range of known health benefits. CBD is just one of many active molecules that exist in the cannabis family of plants. When humans ingest these molecules, known as cannabinoids, they act as “keys” on the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), activating various endocannabinoid receptors found in almost every type of cell throughout the body. The ECS is responsible for cell communication and regulating various body functions to maintain the body’s state of balance, or homeostasis. These body functions include things like sleep, appetite, immune functioning, hormones, pain/inflammation and metabolism, to literally name just a few. Click here for more information on the endocannabinoid system and its function.
Now, you might be thinking: Cannabis? Isn’t that marijuana, weed, the devil’s lettuce?! I’m not one of those potheads! Before you get your panties in a bunch, let’s get something straight: yes, CBD is a cannabinoid. Yes, it is found in the Cannabis sativa plant, which also contains the cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). However, CBD does not induce psychoactive effects like THC. It actually produces the opposite effects of THC and can combat THC’s psychoactive properties. Plus, legal CBD comes from cannabis varieties with high amounts of CBD and very low amounts of THC (the plants used for CBD are specifically bred this way). In fact, industrial hemp is very different from marijuana in many ways.
While THC is most often used recreationally for its “high,” CBD is useful for its slew of potential health benefits. By and large, CBD is the most important known cannabinoid for its medicinal value. Topical CBD use is an effective tool in managing chronic pain, inflammation, arthritis symptoms, eczema and psoriasis, just a few of its potential benefits.
So, how does CBD target joint pain when used on the skin? Obviously, when you use a CBD salve, you’re not ingesting it. Instead, you’re absorbing this cannabinoid through the skin, which has its own endocannabinoid system.
Did you know your skin is the body’s largest organ? It works very hard, day and night, acting as a gatekeeper for your body. Sometimes it’s a barrier, keeping out potentially harmful, foreign substances from entering. However, it also lets in potentially good substances, acting as a molecular passageway. It’s very quick to absorb lipid-based oils, like those used in CBD salves. The cannabidiol hitches a ride on these lipids and enters the skin’s barrier.
Dr. Tamás Bíró, director of the Immunology Department at the University of Debrecen in Hungary, says: “My research group was among the first to investigate whether the skin is capable of producing endocannabinoids, and apparently most, if not all, skin functions are controlled to a certain extent by the local skin endocannabinoid system.”
Yes, your skin has its own endocannabinoid system and receptors that CBD also acts on. And yes, this system plays a vital role in almost all skin functions. It makes sense then that CBD has a significant effect on this system as well.
When you apply a balm topically, the cannabinoid-heavy lipids in the oil base move across skin cell membranes. This is when the magic happens! At this point, the cannabidiol begins to work on and heal the surrounding cell and tissue layers. The CBD works on the surface of your skin, never entering the bloodstream. This renders a localized effect on the targeted area, a.k.a. the area where you applied the balm.
For this reason, salves are a good choice for joint pain and skin conditions. By using a balm, you begin healing right at the source of the pain or discomfort.
Physiologically, CBD functions by interacting with the body’s ECS. This major body system wasn’t discovered until the early 1990s, so there is still very little known about its complete role. However, scientists know this system consists of a network of naturally-occurring cannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors. The ECS helps regulate and maintain various body functions, including but certainly not limited to:
When CBD interacts with the natural cannabinoid receptors in the ECS, found in almost every type of cell in the human body, it aids the body in functioning more efficiently, with better control of all sorts of internal processes related to homeostasis. Think of CBD as a conductor, helping your body run smoothly on a cellular level and promoting healthy body functioning all over.
CBD salves are particularly effective in reducing arthritic joint pain and inflammation, as well as localized muscle pain/soreness and chronic skin conditions, like psoriasis and eczema. Watch the video above to see how CBD improved the quality of life for several arthritis sufferers.
Adam Friedman, MD, associate professor of dermatology at George Washington University, is currently developing methods of nanoparticle delivery of CBD through the skin. He says about using CBD to relieve skin conditions: “Given that there is a wide array of skin conditions notorious for chronic inflammation and debilitating itch or pain, there are numerous potential [CBD] applications.”
Experts believe inflammation could be a root cause for up to 70% of chronic conditions, including IBS, fibromyalgia, etc. Orally-ingested forms of CBD might be more appropriate for other conditions like anxiety, depression, autoimmune disease and chronic pain management. Topically applied CBD works only on the targeted area, while ingested CBD affects the entire body. You can’t target a specific area of your body when you take cannabidiol orally.
“Because the skin has its own endocannabinoid system, just the superficial application of CBD by itself is extremely helpful,” says Raj Gupta, chief scientific officer of Folium Biosciences. “CBD is an antioxidant, so you can see changes in skin pattern, such as a reduction in hyperpigmentation.”
In fact, a study published in 2016 showcases the inflammation-reducing and pain-alleviating powers of topical CBD applications specifically targeted for arthritic joint pain. Researchers concluded that transdermal (through the skin) CBD use has potential therapeutic abilities for relieving arthritis pain-related symptoms and inflammation, while foregoing any evident side effects. By reducing nerve firing, CBD alleviates feelings of pain. This means natural pain relief for chronic conditions without the side effects of many medications currently on the market.
Also, the therapeutic and healing CBD salve benefits on skin-specific diseases like eczema and psoriasis are well-documented, as is its effect on temporary conditions like burns, wounds, rashes, skin infections and muscle soreness. Dr. Biro touches on this as well: “But perhaps most important, it appears that the endocannabinoid system controls skin inflammation—so if an inflammatory or irritation challenge assaults the skin, the endocannabinoid system fights against it. We found that when we applied CBD to human skin cells in a Petri dish, it prevented the inflammation and high production of sebum.”
We mentioned this above a bit, but it’s important to understand the key difference between a CBD salve and an oil. Generally, oils are taken orally by holding the oil under your tongue for 60 seconds or more. The CBD absorbs into the bloodstream via the blood vessels located under the tongue. Users start feeling the effects of CBD after about an hour when taken this way. Any potential benefits are felt throughout the body.
However, CBD salves are rubbed into the skin over affected areas. Salves work at the source of the condition and as such, have a much quicker effect on the targeted area because they don’t have to metabolize. Plus, the skin has its own receptors and CBD acts quickly on these once absorbed into the skin. Similar to common topical ointments such as BenGay, users feel the effects of CBD salves almost immediately.
One really important thing to keep in mind when hunting for your CBD salve match is that not all products have the same effect on everyone. For example, a CBD oil could work really well for one person, while another person might not feel anything at all. Everyone has a unique biology and makeup, with a number of factors influencing the effects you feel from a particular CBD product.
With that said, it’s important to do your own research, experiment with different CBD dosages and explore various products to find one suitable for you and the condition you want to target. Remember, not all CBD salves are made with the same ingredients or dosages, so it’s extremely important to read the label for ingredients. If you can, find out where the CBD in the salve is from, as well as how the CBD is extracted and processed. Believe it or not, all of these little things make a major difference when it comes down to the CBD salve benefits you experience. And while there’s many quality, reputable CBD brands out there, there are many sham products as well.
To make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck, do your own research, understand what’s inside your CBD salve and be willing to try out multiple products before you find one you love. Be wary and skeptical of the brand you’re trying. Ask questions and if you can’t find satisfactory answers, move on to another brand/product.
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FDA Disclaimer: The statements regarding these products are not evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The efficacy of these products is not confirmed by FDA-approved research. These products do not diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. All information presented here is not a substitute for or alternative to information from healthcare practitioners. Please consult your healthcare professional about potential interactions or other possible complications before using any product.