THC Topicals - How Do They Work?

THC Topicals - How Do They Work?

There are many different ways to consume THC. You can smoke it, vape it, eat it, drink it, or even drip it onto the glands underneath your tongue. But when applying this cannabinoid to the skin (THC topicals), many are left a bit puzzled.  

So why would you want to apply THC topically, and how do such products even work? That's what we're going to cover in this blog post. In this article, we will go over the following: 

The Endocannabinoid System 

The Endocannabinoid System

To understand how topical THC works, you'll first need a rundown of the endocannabinoid system, or "ECS" for short. The ECS is a vast network of receptors and chemical messengers throughout the human body. One can locate endocannabinoid receptors in almost every organ, from the brain to the skin. 

Every mammal has an endocannabinoid system. But this doesn't mean humans and other organisms evolved to consume cannabis. The ECS was named after cannabis because scientists in 1988 discovered the system while trying to figure out which mechanisms in the nervous system were activated by THC. 

Essentially, this system uses chemicals made in the body called "endocannabinoids" to regulate homeostasis, or simply put, stability. It plays a significant role in memory, cognition, sleep, appetite, pain management, and other functions. 

There are two known receptors in the ECS: CB1 and CB2. There are more CB1 receptors in the brain than any other receptor type. These receptors help regulate the activity of most neurotransmitters (chemical messengers that carry messages from one nerve cell to another). 

The second type of endocannabinoid receptor, CB2, primarily exists within immune tissues. Some examples of immune tissues include: 

  • Skin
  • Bone marrow
  • Tonsils
  • Spleen
  • Mucous Membranes 

But how do they help with our immune responses? In one instance, research has shown that CB2 receptors play a role in regulating gastrointestinal inflammation

How Does a THC Topical Work?

topical cream

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the cannabinoid most often associated with the psychoactive effects of cannabis. It has this property because when the compound enters the bloodstream via digestion or the lungs, it binds to the CB1 receptors within the central nervous system. But how do cannabis topicals work?

The truth is that your skin is quite absorbent. It protects our body against dust and larger particles, but smaller compounds can still go through the outermost layer. There are many ways that THC and other compounds can enter the skin, which can include hair follicles, pores, or through diffusion (when molecules move from an area of high concentration of molecules to an area of lower concentration). 

Once the THC has "breached" the outermost layer of skin, it will bind onto the CB1 receptors, which, in turn, deliver localized effects. 

What Are the Effects of THC Topicals?

THC topicals offer targeted relief without psychoactive effects. Generally, people will apply them to areas on the body that may feel sore from workouts or other reasons. Some of the ways enthusiasts have described the effects include: 

  • Soothing
  • Relieving
  • Comforting

Anecdotal evidence suggests that it takes several minutes for the effects to take in, with results lasting between 1-2 hours. You should keep in that these types of products affect everyone a bit differently, so these results may vary. 

To use a topical THC product, apply it to the area where relief is needed, wait for the effects to set in, and reapply as you see fit. It's that simple. 

THC Topicals vs. CBD Topicals 

Many people will choose THC over CBD or vice-versa because one is psychoactive and the other is not. However, in either case, you will not likely experience such effects with a cannabis-infused topical. As stated earlier, the effects of a topical are targeted and will likely not impact mood (unless the soothing sensation makes you happy). 

Whether one is more effective depends on your body's endocannabinoid system. However, you should consider the different binding affinities between THC and CBD. 

As mentioned earlier, the endocannabinoid system has two main types of receptors, CB1 and CB2. Although CB1 receptors exist primarily within the brain, there are CB1 receptors in the skin, along with CB2. 

CBD has very little binding affinity to cannabinoid receptors, while THC's affinity is much stronger. If you are looking for greater activation of these receptors (and thus, potentially, more accurate effects), you should go with THC topicals. 

>>READ MORE: What is the difference between CBD and THC?

THC Topical Reviews

For a greater idea about the effects of THC topicals and whether they're right for you, you can find reviews of our THC topical products (Delta-8 Roll-On) below:

"My neck and upper shoulders always seem to hurt. I've had this issue for years and years. Using the Delta-8 Roll-On provided fast and strong relief! I was quite impressed with its speed and results! I will continue to use." - Meg 6/3/2023

"I put it on for muscle pain or tightness and soreness cramping in the muscles. It works within a few minutes. I will buy more when I run out." - Joe 5/11/2023

"The roll-on has soothed my achy joints after yard work. I've used it on my hands and knees, and the effect is cooling and soothing. Thank you for developing this product." - Karen 5/2/2023

Will a THC Topical Make You Fail a Drug Test?

Whether it's THC or CBD applied topically, we recommend staying away from topical cannabis products if you have a drug test (whether blood or urine) coming up, including topical THC products. 

As of this writing, there is not enough comprehensive research to determine if a THC topical will or will not yield positive results for a drug test, and it's best to stay on the side of caution if you think you may be drug tested in the near future. 

>>READ MORE: How Long Does Delta-9 Stay In Your System?


That's all you need to know to get started on THC topicals. Essentially: 

  • You have cannabinoid receptors in your skin
  • THC activates these receptors without psychoactive effects
  • THC has a stronger binding affinity to receptors compared to CBD
  • You should avoid these products if you have a drug test coming up

And if you have any questions, we have a customer support team you can reach via: 

  • Phone - (512) 551-0345
  • Email -

Until next time.

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