Forget toking. When it comes to cannabis, some of the most popular products, particularly among aging boomers, are creams taken to alleviate symptoms of ailments ranging from eczema and psoriasis to pain stemming from arthritis and muscle aches. And while they are not yet legal in Canada without a prescription, premixed and mix-your-own oil and cream varieties are widely sold in dispensaries and online.
Most are topical creams infused with cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabis compound which is not psychoactive and is believed to have medicinal properties, particularly for pain relief. Cannabis plants are bred for different purposes. CBD levels are highest in hemp plants, while other cannabis plants are cultivated to produce high levels of THC.
Do these creams really work?
There is a landslide of anecdotal evidence from people swearing to the curative powers of cannabis creams, gels and oils, but very few scientific studies. A recent study published in Neurotherapeutics suggests CBD works by stimulating the human body’s own endocannabinoid system that helps regulate pain, sleep and immune-system responses. There is a study suggesting CBD oils and creams can ease pain from arthritis, and another showing it can lessen spasms in people who have multiple sclerosis.
But more studies are needed. A 2017 study by the United States National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, after a broad review of scientific literature in the field concluded: “Despite increased cannabis use and a changing state-level policy landscape, conclusive evidence regarding the short-and long-term health effects—both harms and benefits—of cannabis use remains elusive.”
Science aside, the market in creams, oils and gels is booming. At a recent Lift and Co. cannabis business conference and expo, there were tables of pain-relief creams packaged in artful containers befitting high-end cosmetics. And speaking of beauty, there are all manner of CBD-infused soaps, shampoos, conditioners and facial creams for sale.
Are there THC creams?
Although most cannabis creams and gels are infused with CBD, there are a few designed to deliver a bit of kick. For instance, lip balms with THC allow you to stealthily get high by just licking your lips. This can result in a reapplication cycle even more enticing than that cherry-flavoured balm you had as a teen.
There are personal lubricants for women infused with CBD or THC that are said to relax the vagina, increase natural lubrication and heighten sexual pleasure. They are meant to be used topically and don’t get you high unless ingested. We won’t go there.