Today, lotions and topicals are widely available infused with cannabis and patients find them useful for their potential to treat pain, inflammation, scarring, and much more.

History of Cannabis Topicals

Discovered through papyri writings, topical cannabis products date back (at least) to ancient Egypt. The Ebers Papyrus (c.1500 BCE) is the world’s oldest complete medical book. It reported a number of remedies that included cannabis, such as: a salve of hemp ground in honey, bandages to the skin, and applications to the eyes and by fumigation. 

Around 2,000 BCE, cannabis salves were documented to be used to treat eye sores and glaucoma. And around 1,300 BCE, another papyri documented that cannabis was prescribed as an “ointment to prepare for driving away the fever.”

Cannabis came to Brazil early in the 15th century with the slave trade from Africa. It was incorporated into folk medicine treatments such as rheumatism and toothaches. By the 19th century, cannabis was considered part of the pharmacopeia and used in clinical practice in several countries including the United States. 

How Do Cannabis Lotions Work? 

The benefits of medical marijuana lotions can be experienced because of the body’s natural endocannabinoid system. This system regulates a variety of functions from sleep to the experience of pain. Cannabinoids in topical cannabis-infused lotion work by penetrating the muscles and joints, where they act as a supplement to the endocannabinoid system.

Can Cannabis Lotions or Topicals Make Me Fail a Drug Test? 

Even when topicals contain THC, it’s unlikely that they could make someone fail a drug test by getting into the blood or urine. This study from 2016 confirms this finding. Cannabinoids need your body’s fat molecules to bind with to produce a psychoactive effect. When lotion is applied, the cannabinoids stay on the skin and the underlying tissue of the applied area. The cannabinoids bind to the receptors in these cells causing localized effects such as pain relief and/or anti inflammatory response. 

THC Lotions Patients Love

Medical marijuana patients have reported experiencing the soothing effects of THC lotions. Here’s a few they liked best:

Ohio medical marijuana patient Brittany O. says she likes the 5:1 lotion from GrowOhio. (1180 mg CBD | 295 mg THC per bottle). The highly concentrated lotion is formulated for sensitive skin. It’s plant-derived, full spectrum CO2 extracted cannabis oil. The lotion is water-soluble, nano-emulsified, phthalate free, paraben free, formaldehyde free, EDTA free, and BHT/BPA free. Brittany said, “The scent is very light and fresh. The texture is a bit runny, but you don’t need much AT ALL. It rubs in very nice and sinks into your skin without leaving it greasy. But the pain relief effects are astounding. I’ve had five knee surgeries on my left knee. I shattered my patella and have torn my meniscus twice in it, so I get pretty bad bone pain. Especially at night. When it rains, snows, wind blows weird….etc, all I do is rub that on and within five to 10 minutes I have relief!! Even when my nerves are firing off from my nerve damage in my back, it helps almost just a fast. I was truly blown away after trying this product. I have also tried many others since, but none have held up to butterfly effect 5 to 1.”

BeneLeaves Wintergreen Hypnos + CBG Provence Lavender

Patient Amy C. raves about Beneleaves Wintergreen Hypnos + CBG & Beneleaves Provence Lavender: “It’s been around a month since I began applying the cream to my thumb nail & I’m blown away at how much new growth I’m seeing,” Amy says. “It’s been around a year since the 1st of 3 major open abdominal surgeries and using both Beneleaves Provence Lavender Cream & Wintergreen Hypnos + CBG cream on my incisions and I can barely see where I was cut open three times. I’ve noticed that my two c-section scars & other open abdominal surgery scar when I was cut hip to hip are fading also! My sons are 21 & 16 and the other open abdominal surgery was in 2016, these products absolutely amaze me. Being a T1 diabetic with malabsorption, malnutrition & tube feed for my nutrition complicates my healing process and to see this type of progress without needing to rely on wound care & worry about infection is so promising.”

Another patient, Mary A. raved about her favorite lotion, the COKOH THC Based Lotion 1:1 CBD:THC lotion that contains aloe vera, shea butter, and menthol. cokoh Fix lotion is vegan, paraben free, and infused with distillate. Mary said, “Super mentholated, and takes all the pain out of my plantar fasciitis after a 10 hour shift! Will clear your sinuses right up and cures tension headaches within minutes!” The Cokoh THC Based Lotion is offered in 1.75 oz & .5 oz sizes.

Dr. Solomon’s THC rich transdermal lotion

Patient Tara P. has had success with Dr. Solomon’s THC rich transdermal lotion. She said she just had a follow up with her orthopedic doctor, who asked what she was using. “I told her I tried Voltaren. It didn’t help a lot but I tried this. Oddly enough, my family physician and the Ortho both agreed that it works and highly recommend it. It is NOT cheap but it does dull the pain.”

CBD Lotions

Researchers have confirmed that CBD works against pain and inflammation, and they’re still finding new ways that it works in the body. Topical CBD lotions seem to help a lot of people who use them, but researchers are still working to figure out how much skin coverage is most effective. Some skin creams also contain menthols, which carry their own pain relief and anti-inflammatory properties. 

One medical marijuana patient describes the way applying a topical CBD rub has been therapeutic. Carson Ness suffers with HHT, an inherited blood disorder and eight genomic abnormalities in addition to her fibromyalgia diagnosis. “I can’t absorb, metabolize, or expel medications and foods properly. On top of all this, it was discovered I have a blood-borne parasite caused by a tick bite, 18 years ago.”

Carson has been going to the Cleveland Clinic since arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) were discovered in 2018. Carson says she’s grateful that five of her Cleveland Clinic doctors approved of her trying cannabis as a therapy. “They know my genomics. They know what is safe for me. Even Tylenol turns toxic in my system.”

Carson struggles every day with pain and has been on disability for her fibromyalgia since 2015. “The only relief I have is cannabis,” she said. Her chronic pain caused her to develop a CBD rub specifically for pain, called Eliot Ness Untouchable Rub. (Carson’s product pays homage to her family ties to the Prohibition agent known for his efforts to bring down Al Capone in the 1930s.) Find out more about Carson’s pain rub product here

Have a favorite cannabis lotion or topical? Tell us about it for our next article!



  • Gabrielle Dion

    Medicate OH's Founder and Publisher is a native of Cincinnati, Ohio and holds an undergraduate degree in journalism and a master's degree in public administration, both from Northern Kentucky University. She has more than 20 years of experience writing and editing professionally for the medical and wellness industries, including positions with The Journal of Pediatrics, Livestrong, The Cincinnati Enquirer, and Patient Pop.