Here's what you need to know before using topical CBD products

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From lotions and oils to creams and serums, topical CBD products seem to be the latest trend in wellness. But with hundreds of items out there, it's important to sort out all the facts before dipping your toes into the CBD topical product pool.

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First things first: What is CBD?

CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a chemical compound from the cannabis sativa plant, which is also known as marijuana or hemp, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. CBD is a naturally occurring substance that's used in products like oils and edibles that can produce feelings of relaxation and calmness in some people, but it does not exhibit psychoactive properties like the compound THC.

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CBD products will not make you high

Because CBD does not contain any psychoactive properties like the main mind-altering compound THC, which stands for tetrahydrocannabinol, it cannot get you high.

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Where hemp plays a role in topical oils

When people refer to hemp oil specifically, they're talking about the oil that's extracted from the seeds of the hemp plant. CBD topical oils are made from hemp plants, which are only legally allowed to contain up to 0.3% THC. This is another reason CBD oils will not get you high. In a study done by the American Chemical Society, researchers looked at the lipid profile of hemp seed oil and found that it is packed with healthy fats. Natural hemp oil is often seen in beauty products for its moisturizing and nourishing benefits.

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CBD topical products are legal

Although the 2018 Farm Bill legalized the growing of hemp, which is used in many topical CBD products, the government's stance on CBD is confusing. According to the Food and Drug Administration, cannabis plants and derivatives that contain no more than 0.3% THC on a dry-weight basis are not considered controlled substances under federal law. In other words, buying CBD products is legal, apart from the few states that have put restrictions on consumers. For now, the only CBD-containing product approved by the FDA is a drug for epileptic seizures in those with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome or Dravet syndrome.

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Beware of claims

Just like the makers of any health products that are not regulated by the FDA, CBD product sellers are not allowed to make outrageous claims that so-and-so product will cure your health problem. Be on the lookout for language that might just be a scam.

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The kinds of topical CBD products there are

Topicals include CBD-infused lotions, creams, serums, salves, body oils, rubs and other skin care products. Most CBD topical products are between $30 and $60, depending on the quality, potency and source of ingredients.

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The uses of topical CBD

Topical CBD has a number of uses including skin care, massage therapy and relaxation. But more and more, CBD products are being used to help treat musculoskeletal problems like arthritis. A 2019 report from the Arthritis Foundation found that 79% of the 2,600 arthritis patients surveyed had considered using CBD or had already used it. Twenty-nine percent said they currently use it for arthritis symptoms, and out of those people using CBD, 55% applied a topical CBD product to their joints.

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Research on CBD as a topical treatment is ongoing

Just a couple years ago, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) suggested using topical CBD products as an alternative treatment for acne, eczema and psoriasis. Board-certified dermatologist Jeanette Jacknin, MD said the research uncovered a great deal about the dermatologic applications of cannabis and that they are constantly learning more.

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The difference between isolate and full spectrum

When you're looking at CBD products in-store or online, you will likely see the terms isolate, broad-spectrum and full-spectrum listed on the packaging, and it's important to know what each of those mean. Products that are CBD isolate are pure CBD, with no other cannabinoids or THC in them. Broad-spectrum CBD products contain most cannabinoids, but generally don't include THC. And full-spectrum CBD products contain all of the plant's cannabinoids, including THC.

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Talk to your doctor before using a topical CBD product

It's always a good idea to tell your doctor if you plan on using alternative treatment methods like CBD. In fact, the medical experts who worked with the Arthritis Foundation said CBD use should be discussed with your doctor in advance, and followed up with evaluations every three months.

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Know how often to use topical CBD products

Like most products you use topically, the label should list a recommended dose or clarify how often you should use it. If you're using it for a skin condition like acne or eczema, you'll likely have to apply it a few times to see any results, as with a face wash or medication. You should always test any new product on a small area of skin.

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CBD topical products might have side effects, but more research needs to be done

According to the U.S. Library of Medicine, there isn't enough reliable information to know whether cannabidiol has any side effects when used topically. It is possible that users could experience effects from a different ingredient in the product, too. For example, if you have sensitive skin, CBD lotions may have a fragrance added for smell that can cause irritation in some people. And when it comes to cannabis products, whether you're using it topically, ingesting it or smoking it, understanding the differences is an essential thing to know before shopping for marijuana.

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