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  • August 26, 2022 5 min read


    Cannabinoid (CBD) is almost everywhere. Following the legalization of hemp-derived cannabidiol under the Farm Bill Act of 2018, CBD products have flooded the market, such as CBD topicals and CBD oil. However, what's the difference between CBD topicals and CBD oil?

    While research into cannabis and its derivatives is still preliminary, Morales & Reggio (2019) regarded CBD as the new hope for medicinal benefits. Moreover, what heightens their appeal is that they are naturally occurring and are considered non-addictive compared to their synthetic counterparts. Despite the little research about the health effects of CBD, there are a few things about CBD's various delivery methods. While various delivery methods are, the leading ones are CBD topicals like lotions and creams and CBD oil. This read discusses the differences between the two categories to choose the best method for your wellness goals.

    Meaning of CBD

    Nelson et al. (2020) defined the chemistry behind CBD. CBD (cannabidiol) is among over a hundred cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. CBD derived from hemp and marijuana plants is in the form of oil and can be further processed to produce creams, lotions, tinctures, sprays, and salves, among others. Also, CBD products from the marijuana species are likely to have some levels of THC in them.

    Difference between CBD and THC

    Tetrahydrocannabinoid (THC) and CBD are the most prevalent cannabinoids in the cannabis plant species of marijuana and industrial hemp. THC is rich in mind-altering properties, whereas CBD has no intoxicating properties. Most individuals use THC for recreational purposes. The user won’t get a high sensation when consuming CBD products. Hložek et al. (2017) profiled the relationship between THC and CBD and their combination.

    What are CBD Oils?

    VanDolah et al. (2019) issued a clinical guide to CBD and hemp oils. CBD oils are essentially liquid extracts of CBD-rich plants. These extracts can have varying potencies based on the purity of CBD oils. Full-spectrum CBD oil comprises all other cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, including THC. The legal THC in this extract should not exceed 0.3%. Levels above 0.3% might intoxicate the user, bringing undesirable effects. Broad-spectrum CBD oil contains all cannabinoids from the cannabis plant except THC. As a result, this extract does not stand the risk of giving you a high feeling. CBD isolate is 99% pure. CBD isolate contains only CBD.

    Most individuals prefer hemp-derived CBD as it contains little or no THC. THC is a psychoactive substance that causes a high effect. Marijuana-derived CBD has some amount of THC, approximately 0.3%. While this level of THC may be inadequate to create a buzz effect, it may show up on drug tests.

    CBD oil is also extracted in various ways, such as CO2 extraction, steam distillation, etc. Most CBD companies already breed hemp plants to have the least possible amount of THC. As a result, CO2 extraction is the most commonly used method. It involves the treatment of raw extracts of hemp or marijuana plants with carbon dioxide gas in an extremely high-pressure environment at extremely low temperatures. This method of CBD extraction incorporates the least amount of solvents, thus leaving little residue.

    CBD oil is taken orally below the tongue, from where it enters the bloodstream directly via the mucous membrane. As a result, its effects are felt almost immediately since it doesn't pass through the digestive tract, where it has to be broken down by the liver. CBD oil is available in various concentrations; used in the correct dosage depending on personal needs. Additionally, CBD oils come in various tastes if you cannot withstand the smell and taste of pure CBD oil.

    CBD Topicals

    A CBD topical is any CBD-infused cream, lotion, or salve that you can apply directly to the skin. CBD has little or no THC, so these products won't get you high. According to most users, CBD topicals effectively treat specific pain-affected body areas since you can apply creams directly to the affected areas for pain alleviation. However, creams are somewhat slow in providing relief compared to oils since they're not directly absorbed into the bloodstream but have to seep through the skin before reaching the affected area. Patel & Lio (2021) outlined the sourcing and safety of topical cannabinoids.

    Users claim that creams are useful in alleviating the tension build-up in overworked muscles. Unlike CBD oils, CBD creams must have a higher potency to get into the skin for optimum effects. Higher potency means better results. If you’re unsure whether to use CBD topically or orally, refocus on what best suits your needs.

    Most CBD oils are available in glass bottles with dropper caps. The amount consumed varies depending on the potency of CBD oil and individual needs. Upon consuming CBD, the molecules interact with CB receptors of cannabinoids. These receptors help block any other molecule from binding to the receptor and thus produce soothing and anti-inflammatory effects. CBD creams are good for topical treatments and are not invasive. CBD creams work by binding themselves to the cannabinoid receptors found on the skin that users claim to yield an inflammatory effect. Therefore, don't apply CBD oils designed for oral consumption to the skin since they have nothing to hold them on the skin or influence them to work there and are intended to be in the bloodstream.

    There's also the convenience issue, as oils might be messy to handle and may not be suitable for use outside, while creams and sprays are more easily accessible, and you can use them in any setting.


    Both CBD oils and topicals are subsidiaries of CBD and competent in their ways. The distinguishing factor is the use of the product and the results you expect from the product. CBD oils are great for internal problems that are not location-specific. Users claim that CBD oils can help with anxiety, sleep, etc. CBD creams are regarded as ideal for topical issues. Users claim that CBD topical creams help alleviate joint pain, muscle pain, acne, etc. Selecting the right product largely depends on the type of pain, a person's physical characteristics, tolerance, and preferences. For instance, CBD oil may have a smell and taste that not everyone will like. In conclusion, use the product that best tailors your needs, and we hope this discussion will guide you in making an informed decision about your best product.


    Hložek, T., Uttl, L., Kadeřábek, L., Balíková, M., Lhotková, E., Horsley, R. R., ... & Páleníček, T. (2017). Pharmacokinetic And Behavioural Profile Of THC, CBD, And THC+ CBD Combination After Pulmonary, Oral, And Subcutaneous Administration In Rats And Confirmation Of Conversion In Vivo Of CBD To THC. European Neuropsychopharmacology, 27(12), 1223-1237.

    Nelson, K. M., Bisson, J., Singh, G., Graham, J. G., Chen, S. N., Friesen, J. B., & Pauli, G. F. (2020). The Essential Medicinal Chemistry Of Cannabidiol (CBD). Journal Of Medicinal Chemistry, 63(21), 12137-12155.

    Patel, P. M., & Lio, P. A. (2021). Safety And Sourcing Of Topical Cannabinoids: Many Questions, Few Answers. The Journal Of Clinical And Aesthetic Dermatology, 14(8), 49.

    Vandolah, H. J., Bauer, B. A., & Mauck, K. F. (2019, September). Clinicians’ Guide To Cannabidiol And Hemp Oils. In Mayo Clinic Proceedings (Vol. 94, No. 9, pp. 1840-1851). Elsevier.