How Do CBD Topicals Work — An Overview

How Do CBD Topicals Work — An Overview

CBD topicals are one of the most popular types of CBD products and there’s a reason for that - they work! They’re also super convenient! 

CBD topicals work especially well if they combine CBD with hemp’s other active ingredients. But more on that a little later. For now, let’s take an in-depth look at how CBD topicals work behind the scenes to improve comfort levels, inflammatory status, skin health, and more. 

How Do CBD Topicals Work? 

We’ll be the first to admit that CBD topical research is still in its initial phases. The research we do have, however, is super promising. 

One 2016 study found that topical CBD may help manage arthritis-related discomfort. And a newer study noted that “formulations containing CBD have been used in the clinic to study its efficacy in reducing pain when traditional treatment options have failed” for nearly 20 years — before explaining some of the highlights:

  • “CBD was also seemingly effective in treatment of chronic pain…”
  • “ patients with fibromyalgia, CBD treatment decreased pain by more than 30% in significantly more patients than placebo…”
  • “...chronic pain patients indicated [CBD’s] safety for prolonged use, which was accompanied by self-reported improvements in pain and quality of life…”

And while this research is great and all, it’s really just the start. Why? Because real-life CBD users are experiencing even better results. 

Considering that CBD’s popularity has spread mostly by word-of-mouth, it’s pretty unlikely that topical CBD’s not working for all of these people. We think the average consumer who uses CBD to improve their quality of life is probably onto something. 

CBD Topicals vs. Inflammation 

How does CBD reduce pain? There are several ways, but the most basic method it takes is reducing inflammation. 

Working with your body’s built-in endocannabinoid system, CBD may keep inflammation under control and help your immune system monitor itself. Studies have shown that CBD also reduces your body’s levels of inflammatory hormones like cortisol, a stress hormone that’s known to have pro-aging effects.

All in all, CBD is one of nature’s best substances for combating inflammation in the long run. 

CBD Topicals for Athletes

Topical CBD may also be a boon for hard-training athletes. Why? Because its potential anti-inflammatory properties make it great for those who want to train/recover/repeat.

CBD is now being used for pro athletes in virtually every sport, from MMA to golfing to endurance sports like running and cycling. Strongman Eddie Hall has called CBD a “secret weapon” when it comes to athletic recovery. 

Use a premium CBD topical for yourself, and you’ll probably see why! Place CBD directly onto sore muscles and feel the difference as it begins to soak into those muscles’ endocannabinoid receptors. It’s easy, in fact, to dose CBD creams entirely by feel. If you’re not experiencing enough pain relief after an hour or two, just apply more CBD.

CBD Topicals for Skin Health

Topical CBD creams may also help improve skin health.

How? It all goes back to the anti-inflammatory properties we mentioned earlier. Modern medicine may have made the mistake of viewing many diseases as solely genetic problems, but the reality is that diseases are often ‘triggered’ by a harmful environment — and fixed by a new, beneficial environment. 

By reducing inflammation, CBD may set the stage for autoimmune skin conditions to begin correcting themselves. Need more proof? Just take a look at the incredible findings from this 2020 study.

Oh, and the American Academy of Dermatology’s perspective. In 2018 they went so far as to suggest that topical CBD products might be effective for acne, eczema, and psoriasis. Cannabis experts like Dr. Ethan Russo agree that cannabinoids may help balance sebum oil production, resulting in healthier, clearer, less painful skin. 

The Most Important Ingredients in CBD Topicals

As great as CBD topicals can be, not all of them are created equal. The very best CBD topicals contain a true-to-nature blend of CBD, trace cannabinoids, and terpenes. Here’s a closer look at each component. 

CBD (and other cannabinoids)

CBD topicals should contain more than just CBD. Hemp actually produces hundreds of other cannabinoids, including:

  • THC
  • CBDa
  • THCa
  • CBG
  • CBGa 
  • CBC
  • CBT
  • CBL
  • CBN

Don’t worry — you don’t need to know about all of these compounds in order to benefit from CBD topicals.


CBD topicals are also rich in terpenes. Think of these tiny scent molecules as essential oils; most essential oils are 60-95% terpenes by weight. Hemp is unique in that it contains hundreds of terpenes that are better known for their presence in other plants. It’s rich in the lavender terpene linalool, the pine terpene pinene, the citrus terpene limonene, and many more.

Some CBD topical brands go a step beyond by combining CBD with actual essential oils. This combo might make hemp’s entourage effect even more potent. More on this entourage coming up next. 

Do CBD Topicals Activate the Entourage Effect?

In the past few decades researchers have learned that hemp’s active ingredients are far stronger than the sum of their parts. In other words, 1 + 1 + 1 doesn’t equal 3 — it equals something more like 10. (In this case, 1 + 1 + 1 refers to the trio of CBD + cannabinoids + terpenes.) Researchers have christened this phenomenon the entourage effect

Do CBD topicals activate the entourage effect?

If they contain a true-to-nature blend of CBD, cannabinoids, and terpenes, they sure do. And while CBD topicals don’t make it into the bloodstream the way other CBD products do, they combat aches, pains, and other discomforts more directly than almost anything else.

Experience CBD Topicals for Yourself with Alta Ray

Don’t hesitate to try a CBD topical for yourself to reduce inflammation, improve mobility, and so much more. All three of Alta Ray's products contain CBD and essential oils that are designed to target all three pain pathways in the body. This potent combination is designed to get you back on your feet and living your life! 

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