Cannabis Science, CBD

What Do Cannabis Creams Do?

cannabis cream

There are many ways to use cannabis. Some people opt for smoking, vaping, eating edibles, and even applying it topically. Yes, there are cannabis-based creams that people have been opting for to treat a variety of conditions. So if you’re wondering what do cannabis creams do? You’ve come to the right place. 

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What Do Cannabis Creams Do?

Cannabis creams or topicals are pretty versatile. They are used for:

  • Pain
  • Arthritis
  • Eczema
  • Psoriasis 

Cannabis creams are applied topical, that is, applied to the skin. According to Healthline, topicals may produce warming, tingling, or cooling sensations. When using for pain, you should have immediate relief but for skin conditions, according to Healthline, you can expect relief after a few applications.

What is in Cannabis Cream?

Usually, when people say cannabis cream, they’re referring to CBD creams or hemp creams. The main cannabinoid in cannabis creams is cannabidiol (CBD), however, some cannabis creams may have tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Cannabis creams aren’t meant to get people high and they typically don’t enter the bloodstream either.

How do Cannabis Creams Work?

In terms of skin conditions, according to Jeanette Jacknin, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist says cannabis cream may improve conditions due to its anti inflammatory properties. The conditions she mentioned specifically were acne, psoriasis and eczema but these creams could be effective for any condition with inflammation. 

For pain management, CBD helps in several ways. According to Shape, CBD can be helpful by, “increasing your natural endocannabinoids, decreasing your inflammatory response, and desensitizing your pain receptor.” 

Side Effects of Topicals

You may experience some side effects using marijuana topicals. For example, you could get contact dermatitis so it’s best to test it out on a small patch of skin. That’s the general suggestion for anything you plan to apply to your skin, not just creams made from weed. According to a review, the most common side effects of using CBD are: 

  • Fatigue
  • Change in weight 
  • Diarrhea
  • Change in appetite

In addition to that, CBD could affect any medications you may be taking. It’s a great idea to talk to your doctor before using CBD products. 

Are Cannabis Creams Really Effective?

Some experts don’t believe the creams are effective especially for pain especially since many of the studies were done on animals.

There have been a couple of studies done on the effectiveness of CBD in pain. One study, that was published in the European Journal of Pain, showed promising results in studies with animals. The study indicated that CBD is effective for pain relief and inflammation. The study stated, “These data indicate that topical CBD application has therapeutic potential for relief of arthritis pain-related behaviors and inflammation without evident side-effects.” 

Another study shows that CBD can help to mitigate jaw pain. The study said, “The application of CBD formulation over the masseter muscle reduced the activity of masseter muscles and improved the condition of masticatory muscles in patients with myofascial pain.”

As for skin conditions, a small study concluded that CBD improved skin conditions and the quality of life of those with sever skin conditions.

However, not everyone thinks cannabis creams are effective. Michelle Sexton, a San Diego-based naturopathic doctor and medical research director who was quoted in Shape said “As a medical professional, my opinion is there’s little evidence to back up the claims being made—it’s all marketing for now”. She says people are in her office complaining the topicals were not working. 

How to Choose the Best Cream For Your Condition

Cannabis creams are not all the same. When choosing a CBD cream, Healthline suggests checking for:

  • Potency – Opt for a product with at least 8mg of CBD per application. 
  • Type of CBD Product-Full spectrum CBD products (which would have THC) may be more effective because of the entourage effect. 
  • Ingredients – Make sure you check for ingredients that you may be allergic to. Test creams on a small area first before adding to a large area. In addition to that, Healthline suggests using all-natural, organic, and US-grown ingredients to avoid pesticide exposure.
  • Whether or not the cream was tested by a third party – Considering cannabis creams are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), you’ll have to do some research on the creams you want to purchase. The product should be free of any contaminants and should contain the number of cannabinoids it claims to. 
  • Price – The creams come in a variety of prices, make sure what you’re buying is worth the price. 


People opt for cannabis creams for a variety of reasons. While scientific studies show promising results, cannabis topicals may not be effective for everyone. It’s a good idea to speak with a doctor beforehand, especially if you’re currently on other medication. Otherwise, do your research and pick a product that you think can work for you.


About Trevann

Trevann is Stoner Rotation’s Jamaica-based lead writer for the Science section of our cannabis blog. She graduated with honors receiving her Bachelor of Science degree in Molecular Biology from the University of West Indies, Mona. For the last three years, she has covered some of the biggest questions around cannabis and health underpinned with research from supporting studies, medical journals and scholarly articles. Got something on your mind? You can reach her at [email protected].