An Explanation of Topical Vs. Oral CBD Products

Topical CBD Versus Oral CBD

There’s a wide variety of CBD products on the market right now. In this article, we’ll go over the uses and function of topical CBD products versus oral CBD products.

Topical CBD

How It Works

CBD Topical

CBD products made for topical use are applied externally to the skin. They can come in creams, lotions, balms, or ointments (which are sometimes infused with other beneficial ingredients like moisturizers). They’re administered directly to the skin and are absorbed through the epidermis and pores. The skin contains cannabinoid receptors, which is when the CBD’s effects start to kick in.

CBD topicals absorb quickly, so they’re fast-acting. They also tend to be less invasive than other delivery methods (including oral), since the CBD doesn’t have to travel all the way through the body to take effect. In fact, skin doesn’t absorb enough CBD for it to ever make it into the bloodstream. This low bioavailability can be both an upside and a downside, depending on its intended use.

Common Uses

While the research is still relatively new, topicals are generally used for conditions that affect the skin or the surface of the body. They can also be used to treat muscles that are just underneath the skin.

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Because of its close connection with the skin, topical CBD is best known for its potential to treat certain skin disorders – particularly skin conditions caused by inflammation, acne, psoriasis, and eczema.

But a body of evidence is mounting for using topical CBD to treat non-skin conditions as well. A 2016 study on arthritis in rats found that topical CBD reduced the subjects’ pain and inflammation symptoms. A 2020 study found topical CBD may be helpful for people suffering from peripheral neuropathy. Results found that CBD could be an effective treatment for intense or sharp pain, feelings of coldness, or itching sensations in patients. It’s also been linked to promising results for people who suffer from migraines.

Oral CBD

How It Works

CBD Oil Dropper

Oral CBD is often seen as the default way to administer CBD. It’s quick, easy, and discreet. The oil can be added to food or drinks to mask the taste, taken straight using a dropper, or through an edible method like a capsule or gummy.

When taken orally, CBD is processed through the digestive tract and liver before entering the bloodstream. Because of this process, it takes longer (up to 2 hours) to feel the effects than it does with topicals. Some CBD ingested won’t become bioavailable – only about 20% of CBD per dose is actually absorbed. However, the effects of oral CBD tend to last longer, compared to topical delivery methods.

Common Uses

While the use of oral CBD has expanded in recent years to include a long list of ailments, here are a few of its most well-known uses.


A daily dose of CBD is often taken orally to treat chronic anxiety. Researchers speculate that this works because CBD may change the way the brain responds to serotonin, which is a key neurotransmitter related to mental state.

Preventing Seizures

Although the research is still in its early stages, tests are currently underway to determine how much CBD can reduce the number of seizures in people with epilepsy and whether it has potential as a viable medical treatment.

Knowing the differences in biochemical breakdown and functional uses between topical and oral CBD is an essential step in understanding CBD’s role in the market and in people’s lives.


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