Cannabis Transdermal Patches: Medicate Through Your Skin

Cannabis transdermal patches are a new and unique way to experience the benefits of medical marijuana. You may be familiar with transdermal patches that administer other medications like birth control, pharmaceuticals for pain or nicotine. Cannabis transdermal patches work much the same way, with cannabinoids time-released directly into the bloodstream to provide long-lasting relief without the side effects associated with smoking, vaping or eating cannabis.


How Do Marijuana Transdermal Patches Work?

Cannabis transdermal patches store active cannabinoids inside a reservoir that has an impermeable backing on one side and an adhesive that sticks to the skin on the other side. When adhered to the skin over a veiny area, cannabinoids are transferred from the patch through all layers of the skin and absorbed directly into the bloodstream.

Our skin has a protective permeability barrier, which prevents us from absorbing microbes like bacteria, fungi, viruses and other substances. To get past this barrier, marijuana transdermal patches use carrier molecules, which attach to the cannabinoids and carry them over the skin barrier and into the bloodstream.

Transdermal patches have a higher bioavailability than that of any other method of marijuana consumption, because they bypass the digestive and respiratory systems. When you ingest or inhale cannabis, a percentage of the cannabinoids is digested or metabolized by the liver before entering your bloodstream. With a transdermal patch, you absorb 100% of the available cannabinoids, giving a 10 mg dose of cannabis though a patch a medicinal value closer to an 80 mg dose from other consumption methods.

The measured dose of cannabinoids in a transdermal patch is slow-released to provide consistent and continual dosage for all-day or all-night relief. You’ll feel the effects of a patch within roughly 20 minutes of applying it, and they’ll generally last between eight to 12 hours.

The effects from a marijuana transdermal patch come on quicker than the effects of edibles do, though their onset is a bit slower than that of smoking. Meanwhile, transdermal cannabis’s effects last longer than both of these modes of administration. With a gradual entry and exit, the overall experience with a transdermal patch is more even and consistent than experienced with other ways of consuming cannabis.

Transdermal Patches Are Made With Cannabis Isolates

Transdermal patches contain cannabis isolates that have been extracted from the plant and purified, with no other active molecules present. Patches are generally available in a variety of formulations with different isolated cannabinoids, including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), cannabinol (CBN) and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA). Doses can range from 10–50 mg, and there are indica and sativa options for both nighttime and daytime use.

Among the cannabis transdermal patches available, you’ll find a variety of ratios of CBD to THC. These two cannabinoids offer benefits on their own even as they work well together. While THC is known for its analgesic, anti-emetic and anti-inflammatory properties, CBD offers anti-anxiety, anti-psychotic and anti-seizure benefits. THC is known as the molecule that causes you to feel high, while CBD balances out the psychoactivity of THC and eases the paranoia or anxiety that can come with consuming THC.

To find the ratio that’s right for you, consider how much psychoactivity you can handle and what conditions you want to relieve. A pure CBD patch has none of the psychoactive effects of THC, and provides mood uplifting and anti-inflammatory benefits. Balanced 1:1 ratios of CBD to THC offer a wide range of therapeutic benefits for sleep, pain and muscle spasms. Ratios with more THC will result in greater psychoactive effects while transdermal patches with more CBD will have a more calming influence with less psychoactivity.


Cannabis Topicals vs. Marijuana Patches

While both patches and topicals—such as lotions, creams, balms, salves and ointments—are administered via the skin, the effects are different. With marijuana topicals, cannabinoids are absorbed into the top layers of the skin, but aren’t absorbed into the bloodstream. This means they have little to no psychoactive effects and are best used for localized relief on a specific body part.

On the other hand, transdermal patches deliver cannabis past all of the epidermal layers to reach the bloodstream. This means transdermal patches can produce psychoactive effects. This also makes transdermal patches a better option when you need steady and long-lasting relief.

Why Choose a Marijuana Transdermal Patch?

  • They’re discreet and easy to use. You can stick one on your skin and wear it all day without anyone knowing. Plus, you only have to do this once instead of medicating multiple times.
  • The slow-timed release offers long-lasting and consistent relief. Transdermal patches only release a certain amount of cannabinoids into the bloodstream at a time, so there are no peaks to the medication’s effects.
  • Transdermal patches provide precise dosage and higher bioavailability. Absorbing 100% of the cannabinoids means you can accurately track and control your dosage. This also allows you to ingest less marijuana overall while experiencing the same level of relief.
  • You can consume cannabis in a way that’s smoke-free and calorie-free. Bypassing the digestive and respiratory systems also bypasses many of the side effects that go along with ingesting or inhaling cannabis.
  • With transdermal patches, you can more precisely choose your cannabinoid. You’re in control of how you treat your condition—with a pure isolate and no secondary metabolites or byproducts.
  • Cannabis transdermal patches can decrease the cost of your medicine. You can purchase less medicine overall because of the patches’ higher absorption rate and less frequent dosing requirements.

Which Cannabis Transdermal Patch Is Right for You?

  • If you suffer from insomnia, you may want to try a CBN patch, which has a sedative effect. Some patients report no psychoactive effects from CBN, but this isn’t universal. If you’re particularly sensitive to THC, then you may feel some psychoactive effects from CBN.
  • If you seek relief from chronic pain and inflammation, you may want to try a patch with a 1:1 or 1:3 CBD to THC ratio.
  • If you’re looking to treat anxiety, a pure CBD patch or a 3:1 CBD to THC ratio may be right for you. A pure CBD patch will have no psychoactive effects.
  • If you suffer from nausea, appetite loss, neurodegenerative disease or arthritis, start with a 1:3 CBD to THC patch or a patch containing THCA, which has neuroprotective and anti-emetic properties.

Cannabis transdermal patches are easy to use and the most effective way of consuming medical marijuana. They’re perfect for folks who wish to medicate with cannabinoids but who aren’t interested in smoking or eating their medicine. Plus, if you try a transdermal patch and discover it’s not for you, simply remove the patch and the effects will go away in just a few minutes. Do you consume cannabis via a transdermal patch? If so, let us know why in the comments section below.

Photo credit: Makhmutova Dina

If you’re new to cannabis and want to learn more, take a look at our Cannabis 101 post. HelloMD can help you get your medical marijuana recommendation; it’s easy, private and 100% online.


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