Talkin’ Topicals: From Transdermals to Terps, A Complete Guide

  • By Jake May
  • Sep 28, 2021
Many thanks to Alex Hildreth, Jamila Elnagger and our lab team for the expert info that went into the writing of this piece!

Need to Know’s

  • Our topicals are infused with full-spectrum cannabis oil and go through a rigorous dewaxing and filtration process to create a product that retains the full plant profile while providing swift, localized, full-spectrum relief for joints and muscles. 
  • Though some of the best feedback on our topicals comes from patients with arthritis, we recommend them to anybody with the usual assortment of achy knees, bum elbows, tweaky backs, post-workout muscle soreness or even everyday aches and pains.
  • With a CBD to THC ratio around 4:3 and multiple product offerings at price points as low as $15, there’s something for everyone within the topical category! Stop by your nearest Sanctuary location and chat with our budtenders about which option best suits your needs. 

What is a “topical,” and how are they made?

Broadly speaking, topicals are substances that are applied directly to the skin to provide localized relief for stiffness, soreness and other muscle or joint-related pain. Gels, muscle rubs, massage lotions and more all fall within the realm of topicals.

When creating cannabis-containing topicals such as our Transdermal Gel, the key lies in the extraction process. At Sanctuary, we only use our full-spectrum Liquid Shatter cannabis oil, the same high-quality product found in our vape carts. A stringent, twice-over dewaxing process strips the oil of superfluous plant waxes and fats. 

From there, the oil is run through activated charcoal and other bleaching clays to remove any remaining impurities. The filtration treatment is a light one; it lends the proper amount of additional refinement without stripping out valued plant compounds. The result is a clean oil packed with all the terpenes, cannabinoids and other compounds from the plant’s original profile that can then be incorporated into our topicals. For our Transdermal Gel, we take a high-quality silicon base that contains pharmaceutical-grade permeation enhancers. These allow the full-spectrum cannabis oil to be drawn deeper into muscle tissue and joints, compared to topicals without such enhancers.

What type of user is this for? What can I expect? 

Thanks to their simplicity of use, topicals are an easy, accessible option for consumers and patients of all stripes. That said, patients suffering from joint pain, arthritis or inflammation are especially encouraged to try our transdermal gel. In a nutshell, the CB receptors that THC and CBD bind to are part of the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is responsible for keeping your body’s internal environment stable (homeostasis, in other words). Inflammation is one of several immune system responses to which the ECS is tied, which lends credence to the efficacy of cannabis-infused topicals–and, more broadly, cannabis–in easing those aches and pains. 

It’s important to note there are no hard-and-fast rules here, though there have been studies that explored the connection between cannabis and the ECS. Topicals are by no means a silver bullet for all conditions, but we recommend that anyone suffering from localized pain give them a try! Though some of the best patient feedback we’ve received came from those with arthritis, those with more typical achy knees, bum elbows, tweaky backs or even just everyday aches and pains will experience relief. 

To use, just apply a conservative amount to the affected area, rubbing in thoroughly and adding more as needed. The topical will take effect within a couple minutes, lending much-needed relief and relaxation to the relevant body area without any strong psychotropic feeling. 

What makes Sanctuary topicals special or unique? 

Once again, the answer starts with the extraction process. To dive a bit deeper, the twice-over dewaxing process keeps everything in situ, meaning the THC-A isn’t separated from the terpenes, minor cannabinoids and other elements from the original plant. From there, our specialized decarb procedure allows us to go from crystalized THC-A to liquid THC that retains its original terpene profile. Preserving that profile creates a full-spectrum oil, as opposed to an isolate. There is an increasing amount of research comparing full-spectrum extracts to isolates and how each affects the body via the entourage effect. One of the best pieces of research supporting the superiority of full-spectrum extracts is this 2015 study out of Israel. 

The other key piece is the THC:CBD ratio. Though the inclination may be to pump as much CBD as possible into each topical for maximum relief, we have found a 4:3 ratio of CBD to THC provides the best effect. THC and CBD work hand-in-hand–particularly in topicals–to create the entourage effect, so it’s vital to have both accounted for. The Liquid Shatter we use, often from our YMCA strain, typically checks in between a 1:1 and 4:3 ratio of CBD to THC. 

Finally, Sanctuary has a number of options within the topical category that cater to various needs. The Transdermal Gel is our “flagship” topical, but you can grab a 3 oz. container for just $15 to see if topicals are for you. If you find that to be the case, we offer a Deep Tissue Rub specifically for muscle soreness as well as larger containers of the Transdermal Gel to get more value out of your dollar. We also have our excellent Lab Manager, Jam, who uses her background as an essential oils/perfumes expert to give our topicals, such as the Massage Lotion pictured above, the perfect aromatic balance to complement the relief your body feels.

Check out our menu and stop by your nearest Sanctuary dispensary today to chat with our budtenders about whether topicals are suitable for your needs!