Here are The Top 5 Reasons to Use CBD Topically

By Shona Curley

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a phytochemical derived from the hemp plant. CBD has none of the psychoactive properties of marijuana and is legal all over the United States. CBD may benefit your health in myriad ways.

Many people take CBD sublingually or mix it into candies or beverages to disguise the taste. CBD can also be used topically – incorporated into body butters, creams, and salves. Topical CBD has its own benefits and may be more palatable for some. (Of course, you can always use CBD both internally and topically if you’re inclined.)

Topical Use of CBD

Here’s a list of five reasons to check out topical preparations of CBD. As always, check in with your health practitioner to make sure topical CBD is a good fit for you, and be sure to choose high-quality, organic products that don’t contain chemical additives.

1. Pain Relief

Probably the most common reason people use topical CBD salves and creams is for pain relief. If you are among the many people with arthritic joint pain or another inflammatory pain condition, topical CBD may be of benefit. In fact, a 2016 study on arthritic rats determined that a gel infused with CBD significantly reduced joint swelling and pain without negative side effects.

CBD applied topically can act quickly on the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) to lower inflammation and lessen pain – simply rub some salve on the affected area to see if this works well for you. Unlike pharmaceutical creams, you don’t have to be too concerned with the dosage of topical CBD, as it is generally quite safe, with no negative side-effects. Start with a small amount, and add a little more if you don’t notice effects. In time, the dosage should become intuitive.

2. Antioxidant Properties

As a byproduct of normal immune function, we all suffer a certain amount of oxidative stress caused by molecules known as free radicals. The body produces antioxidants to combat oxidative stress, and antioxidants are also found in many healthy foods. In times of heightened stress or immune response, however, we could all use a little antioxidant boost.

Topical CBD is a good source of antioxidants. Because of its antioxidant properties, CBD may be of benefit for use against various oxidation related diseases, such as autoimmune disorders and inflammatory conditions.

3. Neuroprotective Qualities

CBD may contain neuroprotectant qualities.

CBD may help to repair neurological damage, in part due to its potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. More study is needed to understand CBD’s use in this area fully – but if you suffer peripheral neurological damage, topical CBD may be a safe and effective tool to support your recovery.

4. Skin health

Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, topical CBD may benefit skin health. If your skin is already healthy, it may just increase your glow. For those suffering from inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis, topical CBD could help to lessen inflammation and mitigate symptoms.

A 2020 review suggests that topical CBD acts on the endocannabinoid receptors found in the skin. Although more research is needed to confirm CBD’s efficacy against skin disorders, preclinical evidence indicates it may be quite effective.

5. Relaxation

CBD is widely used to lessen anxiety and aid in relaxation. Topical CBD can be wonderful for this, especially in combination with a massage. Try giving yourself a gentle hand or foot massage using salve infused with CBD. Or, bring along some CBD-infused massage oil to your next treatment. It may help you feel more relaxed and enjoy the bodywork.

The Take-Home

Using CBD topically is an easy, generally safe way to incorporate the health benefits of this phytochemical into your daily life. Topical CBD affects the endocannabinoid receptors found in the skin and may lower inflammation and limit oxidative stress. Topical CBD may lessen pain, combat damage caused by free radicals, protect neurological health, improve the health of your skin, and help you to relax. Best of all, it has few, if any, adverse side effects. Choose a salve, cream, or body butter that’s organic, certified for purity, and free of any harmful chemicals. And settle in for a relaxing and rejuvenating self-massage.


  • Hammell DC, Zhang LP, Ma F, et al. Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain-related behaviours in a rat model of arthritis. Eur J Pain. 2016;20(6):936-948. doi:10.1002/ejp.818
  • Baswan SM, Klosner AE, Glynn K, Rajgopal A, Malik K, Yim S, Stern N. Therapeutic Potential of Cannabidiol (CBD) for Skin Health and Disorders. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2020 Dec 8;13:927-942. doi: 10.2147/CCID.S286411. PMID: 33335413; PMCID: PMC7736837.

Shona Curley lives and works in San Francisco. She is co-owner of the studio Hasti Pilates, and creator of the website Shona teaches meditation, bodywork and movement practices for healing Lyme disease, chronic illness and pain.

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