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Do Topical Hemp Creams Really Work?

CBD (cannabidiol) is popping up in everything from food and drinks to beauty items and pet care. If this new trend has caught your interest by now, then maybe you have been curious about creams or other topicals infused with this magical natural ingredient. Many people have said it helps with maintaining a balanced, healthy lifestyle - so we’re here to break it all down and give you the scoop on the latest trend.

Read on to learn more about CBD in topicals, how they work, and how choosing the right kind may benefit you.

Hemp & CBD Topicals 101

First off, it’s important to know what CBD or cannabidiol is and how it’s different than hemp extracts (we’ll walk you through the basics below). It’s one of many cannabinoids found in cannabis and hemp plants. Unlike another cannabinoid you may be familiar with, THC (the compound in marijuana that makes you feel "high"), CBD is non-intoxicating (aka it does not get you high) but has anecdotally helped people with many different things. There are many topicals on the market and differentiating among them may be difficult but here are some tips:

  • The type of hemp concentrate / extract used to make the product (Full spectrum (vs Broad spectrum vs Isolate) which we will go into a little more detail below;
  • Strength (e.g. 1350mg Hemp Extract or 1000mg CBD); and
  • Ingredients, essential oils, and natural terpenes being used as a base to deliver the CBD to your body's endocannabinoid system.
    • This is one of the key differentiating factors because the quality of other ingredients used will likely tell you a lot about how much care / thought the manufacturer / brand put into making their product


Some of the most popular topical products include creams, balms, lotions, salves, and butters.


How Do Hemp Topicals Work?

A great question we get often is how do the topicals work if they aren’t getting digested or penetrating into your bloodstream? At a high level it’s through our incredible endocannabinoid system (ECS) that helps regulate your appetite, moods, and physical feelings, among many other things as well as the Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) ion channels. In simple terms, these receptors help the body maintain homeostasis. The cannabinoid receptors that make up the ECS & the TRP ion channels are found throughout our bodies, including our nervous system, organs, and at different levels within our skin. This is how even though you’re not digesting, inhaling, or injecting the hemp extract or CBD, your body still responds to the topical.

The endocannabinoid system was only discovered in the 1990s and has yet to be researched extensively. Scientists are conducting a lot more research on how cannabinoids interact with our cannabinoid receptors these days. Every person’s body is different , people’s reasons for using hemp extract or CBD vary significantly, and people also prefer different scents, flavors, and essential oils to compliment their products which is why delivery forms, strengths, and types of products vary so much.

Side note: There are some companies who try to compare transdermal patches to topicals but these should not be viewed in the same light. Transdermal patches are created to be absorbed through all layers of the skin and into your bloodstream. This is more in line with ingesting a product orally except that the absorption is typically drawn out over a longer period of time.

Choosing The Right Product

Hemp Extract or CBD creams are now readily available online, in stores, and pretty much anywhere you look but it’s important to keep in mind that they’re not all created equal. We recommend doing some homework before making your purchase to ensure you are getting the best product for your dollar. Here are some things to look for when deciding which CBD cream to buy:


  • Know the difference between full spectrum hemp extract, broad spectrum hemp extract, and CBD isolate:
    • Isolate based products are made using CBD that has been totally isolated from all the other cannabinoid compounds in the hemp plant. Essentially, it’s pure CBD with 98-100% Potency. Final product potencies will vary depending on the potency / strength of the product but there shouldn’t be other cannabinoids or terpenes detectable in the finished products.
  • Full spectrum products currently contain mostly CBD plus a variety of other cannabinoids including CBDV, CBC, CBG, CBN, and less than 0.3% THC. They also include trace amounts of terpenes which have been shown to provide additional benefits and complement the CBD and other cannabinoids.
  • Some say there are enhanced benefits in using a combination of all these ingredients often referred to as the entourage effect, the synergistic interaction of the cannabinoids, flavonoids, terpenes, and fatty acids naturally found in cannabis.
  • Like full spectrum hemp extract, Broad spectrum products contain mostly CBD plus a minor amount of other cannabinoids including CBDV, CBC, CBG, CBN, and trace levels of beneficial terpenes. However, broad spectrum has a non-detectable level of THC. While it is possible that it contains no THC we take the cautious approach of saying non-detectable because given there is a minimum level required to be detectable, it is possible that there is THC present but in very, very tiny amounts.
  • Read the full ingredient list. Make sure the product you choose is made with all-natural ingredients and doesn't contain any harmful chemicals or preservatives. We also recommend going with a high-quality product infused with other clean beneficial ingredients that work in synergy with the hemp extract or CBD to provide additional benefits.
    • Key things you can look for here include nothing that masks the actual ingredients such as “Fragrances” or anything artificial. You’d be surprised what can be hidden behind those labels. Make sure parabens and other unnecessary chemicals aren’t being used in your products. If the product contains scents or other complimentary ingredients make sure that they are pure essential oils and not chemically derived.
  • Look for a lab test. Ensure the product is safe to use and contains at least the amount of CBD and other cannabinoids the company is claiming. Additionally, if they are claiming full spectrum look for additional cannabinoids on the lab results. (Disclaimer: It is possible for a product to have other cannabinoids not show up in the lab results if they’re in amounts low enough that they are not detectable. This can happen with lower potency products for example a 125mg or 250mg cream. Keep in mind that size of the container also plays a role. An 8oz container would require a much higher potency to show presence of a cannabinoid above the limit of detectability).
  • Try different potencies and essential oils. Not one potency amount fits us all. Topicals typically range from 100mg - 3000mg so find what works best for you.


If you're looking for a great hemp extract or CBD cream to start with, we offer our Leafwell Botanicals Full-Spectrum Body Cream in a variety of potencies and scents. All of Leafwell Botanicals' products are made from high-quality ingredients that moisturize your skin as they help you feel better.



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