THC in Cannabis Topicals: Why It Matters

DiDi Davis is Founder of Sweet ReLeaf, a topical cannabis manufacturer located in California. Sweet ReLeaf has created one of the most effective and enjoyable topicals on the market today which is creamy and smells wonderful. As Didi says "We believe in the healing power of plants, specifically how the human endocannabinoid system communicates with the compounds found in Cannabis. We like to call it ‘Intelligent Medicine.’" In her this blog post Didi talks about why THC matters in topicals.

The Importance of THC In Cannabis Topicals

Though CBD has been on the tip of everyone’s tongue lately, we’re taking a look at how vital THC is to the pain equation.

Cannabis is made up of over 500 compounds and cannabinoids represent around 85 of them. The most significant cannabinoids, by and large, have been THC, THCa, and CBD. In today’s news, CBD (or cannabidiol) has practically become a buzzword. Vogue magazine recently wrote about how marijuana-infused products can give you better orgasms. Whoopi Goldberg’s new line of menstrual cycle pain relief products contains CBD exclusively. Even nuns have gotten into the CBD product market.

Although CBD hosts a myriad of benefits and its non-psychoactive effects are a commercial favorite the star player is still THC when it comes to pain relief. CBD and THC have very similar benefits, but vary in how they interact with our bodies.

The History of THC

THC as an isolated compound was discovered by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam in 1964 at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel. He and his associates were able to successfully extract THC from cannabis allowing them to study it exclusively. Dr. Mechoulam is a strong advocate for cannabis as medicine and his research has led to several other discoveries about cannabis including the discovery of the human endocannabinoid system. This naturally occurring system communicates organically with cannabis compounds.

What is THC?

THC (or tetrahydrocannabinol) is the chemical compound found in most marijuana plants. When smoked or ingested, THC stimulates brain cells to release dopamine creating a euphoric high. If THC is applied to the skin, however, it skips the bloodstream and causes no mind-altering effects. It does, however, penetrate deeper tissues to bring relief for pain and inflammation.

What is THCa?

THCa, essentially, is the mother of THC. It is a non-psychoactive acid that, once heated to a certain temperature, eventually becomes THC. This process is called ‘decarbing’ (short for decarboxylating). When used in its purest form, THCa can relieve pain with less dosage than THC or CBD.

What is CBD?

CBD is often the more submissive compound in cannabis strains. With selective breeding, however, there have been developments of strains containing mostly CBD and almost no THC. CBD is non-psychoactive and tends to create an all-over effect, flooding the entire body.

THC & Pain

Pain, in essence, is nothing more than a communication between our brain and our body to signify that something is wrong. Pain can be felt in different ways. We can feel pain through our nervous system, through our tissues and organs and even through our imagination. THC can intercept this communication and prevent pain from being experienced on a physical level. One of the mechanisms in our bodies which regulates pain is our own endocannabinoid system.

Inhaled or ingested, THC carries side-effects like euphoria, sleepiness and increased appetite. These are life-saving benefits to patients with AIDS, cancer, and other serious illnesses.

But for some, this could be a hindrance to their daily lives. Perhaps a patient has small children to look after and needs as much energy as possible. Those who work in fields that require random drug testing also have to avoid smoking and ingesting cannabis. In these cases, THC-rich topicals provide effective options.


The comparison comes down to patient need. CBD is often prescribed to children and those who need a powerful medicine without mood or mind-altering side effects. However, THC is simply more potent. You need less of it to experience relief and it can be extremely useful in calming and sedating patients who need serious help overcoming intense pain or psychological episodes.

THC used topically is the best of both worlds. It affects the source of pain quickly and exclusively and produces no high to the user. Because it skips the bloodstream, cannabis topicals are undetectable in drug tests and don’t upset the patient’s ability to function. THC-based topicals are a great option for people living with conditions such as:

Chronic Pain and Arthritis

By applying directly on the joints, muscles and other parts of the body, even people with chronic pain see immediate results.

Menstrual Cramps

Menstrual cramps are essentially muscle aches caused by minor contractions. Applying a THC-rich topical to the site will decrease cramps if not eliminate them altogether.

Skin Conditions

Conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and acne can all be treated and even cured with a THC-heavy cannabis topical. Because these conditions are often a sign of a larger problem, a cannabis topical should be part of a holistic approach to correcting the imbalance.

Migraine Headaches

Recent studies have shown that topical cannabis reduces headache frequency when applied directly to the temple.

Whether you prefer an all-over body high, a euphoric mindstate or area-specific pain relief, the first step is to do your research. Don’t be turned off by THC’s less desirable side effects. And don’t automatically assume CBD isn’t strong enough for your condition. Cannabis gives birth to a diverse array of options depending on needs and preferences. THC may be the very thing missing in your treatment plan. We encourage you to ask questions, do your research and stay open to how cannabis and all its cannabinoids can heal.

Do you have questions about Sweet ReLeaf? Ask a question about the product in HelloMD’s new Answers feature. A doctor or member of our community will answer.

If you are 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 100% online, private and efficient.


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