Medical Research

Advantages to Topicals Vs. Oil/Smoke/Vape

Caleb Summeril
Written by Caleb Summeril

As interest and increased availability of topical cannabis products becomes more prevalent, a growing awareness amongst consumers is driving curiosity in the advantages of topicals over other forms of consumption. Topicals include lotions, creams, ointments, salves, patches and any other product that is applied directly to the skin and/or body. These externally applied products are gaining popularity for a number of reasons with some key advantages and benefits over more traditional ingestible products such as cannabis oil, smokeable flower and vaporized extract.

One advantage of topical products is that there are little to no psychoactive effects of when using these cannabis products intended for direct to skin use. Whereas other forms of consumption, including smoking or vaping, result in cannabinoids binding with receptors in the bloodstream and often induce euphoric effects, topical use involves a different method of bodily absorption. When applied to the skin via a lotion, cream, or other product, a cannabis topical is absorbed through the skin to bind with CB2 receptors in the epidermal layers. As these products are absorbed into the skin, they do not enter the bloodstream — meaning that the mind- and mood-altering effects of cannabis products, even with a high THC content, are not felt by the user. This is an advantage for anyone looking to see the many benefits of cannabis use while avoiding the psychoactive effects.

Another advantage of topicals is that they can be used for direct treatment in pain management, skin conditions, and other localized needs as desired by the consumer. It has been well documented that cannabis has a high potential in its abilities to ward off inflammation within the body. [1] Consumption of cannabis in the form of an ingestible oil or through inhalation of smoke or vapor can have an overall impact on bodily inflammation while topical treatment can provide direct relief to affected areas, possibly providing treatment faster. For certain skin conditions, an injury due to overuse or other inflammation issues such as arthritis, this can mean quick and valuable relief for consumers in pain.

Topicals also offer an ease of use that is an obvious benefit for anyone seeking assistance from the use of cannabinoids. Smoking or vaping requires equipment in the form of pipes, lighters, or vaporizers while the many different offerings available in the topicals market only require a consumer to take off a lid and rub some ointment or lotion on the affected area.



  1. Nagarkatti, Prakash. Et al. Cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs. Future Med Chem. 2009 Oct; 1(7): 1333-1349.

Image Credit: Off The Grid News

About the author

Caleb Summeril

Caleb Summeril

Leave a Comment