Does Topical CBD Enter Your Bloodstream?

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Topical CBD creams and oils seem like the perfect way to spot-treat pain and inflammation regularly without side effects, but do they actually work? If so, how?

Topical CBD products don’t enter the bloodstream; instead, they bond with endocannabinoid receptors found on the skin. These receptors allow CBD to directly influence sensation in the area of application, reducing discomfort or pain as a result.

Much of what we understand about CBD and how it impacts our body comes from our knowledge of the endocannabinoid system inside of the body. More inquiry into topicals and just how they get the job done is certainly needed, but for now, we do have some information to work off of. 

Understanding how your topical products actually do what they’re supposed to makes it easier to use them wisely, and it can also give you some much-needed peace of mind.

How is Topical CBD Absorbed?

Topical CBD, or CBD products that are rubbed onto the external surface of the body (skin, joints, etc.), can be absorbed into the body via endocannabinoid receptors on human skin.

What are endocannabinoid receptors? They function almost like messaging systems that run between molecules found in external substances like CBD and various systems in the body. 

These receptors are a fundamental part of the endocannabinoid system, a complex network that exists in the human body to help it maintain homeostasis. The endocannabinoid system, or ECS, is found in the body regardless of whether or not a person uses substances with cannabinoids (marijuana or CBD hemp).

When a cannabinoid comes into contact with a receptor, the two interact with one another and create a specific effect as a result. 

CBD, for instance, tends to bind to receptors that influence the central nervous and immune systems, giving it the ability to impact things like inflammation, pain, and anxiety.

Topical CBD is absorbed thanks to these receptors. Their presence on the skin means that CBD can bind to them without having to fully penetrate into the body, though the consequence of such a reality is that the effects of your product will be localized, not full-body.

Jar of lime green CBD cream with a hemp leaf laying on top and the lid laying on the ground to the right.

Is CBD cream absorbed through the skin?

Yes, CBD cream is absorbed through the skin – as it’s rubbed in, the base of the cream itself as well as the CBD found within it are worked into the area in question.

It may seem strange that CBD creams and other topicals can produce effects without actually being ingested into the body via inhalation or oral consumption – after all, the reason these methods produce effects is because they allow CBD to enter the bloodstream.

However, it’s important to remember that it’s not necessary for CBD to actually absorb into a person’s blood for them to experience therapeutic effects. 

Topicals are meant to target specific areas, usually to address pain. Unlike traditional painkillers, though, the effects of these products won’t apply to all parts of the body.

It’s also important to note that not all topicals formulated with hemp are CBD topicals or creams. Hemp seed oil is a common ingredient in many products, but it does not contain CBD (or at least not levels significant enough to cause results).

Is Topical CBD Absorbed Into the Bloodstream?

Topical CBD is not absorbed into the bloodstream. When topical CBD is applied, it seemingly disappears into the body — right into the blood, many presume — but in reality, it merely disappears into an individual’s skin.

As discussed, topical CBD gets the job done by working with endocannabinoid receptors on the skin. These receptors can lower feelings of pain, swelling, stiffness, etc. in the area in question.

In this way, topical CBD can behave very similarly to other topical pain-relief tools (Bengay, for instance, a popular analgesic topical that temporarily numbs pain). 

Choosing a CBD topical that has an appropriate dosage for your level of pain is a good way to ensure that you actually reap noticeable benefits from your product. 

Since it’s not being absorbed into your bloodstream, your CBD topical will likely produce much shorter-lasting effects and create a less intense experience than you might experience otherwise.

How Long Does CBD Cream Stay in Your System?

Because topicals aren’t absorbed into the bloodstream, they can’t cause the same sort of build up of CBD in bodily tissue (fat, mainly) that other products might. The effects of CBD topicals may wear off within a few hours, but it really depends on how frequently you use your product.

Generally, CBD and other cannabinoids linger in the body for longer periods of time because they are partially stored in fat (and other tissue) found in the body. 

Cannabinoids aren’t immediately broken down all at once when they enter the body – instead, they are slowly disposed of or build up as regular use continues.

No CBD in your bloodstream means no CBD entering other parts of your body or taking long periods of time to break down. It also means that your product can’t interact with bodily systems like digestion, sleep, organ functioning, etc., which may be a con for those looking for a more immersive experience.

Mans hand reaching into a jar of 1:3 CBD to THC relief cream.

Does CBD Cream Show in a Drug Test?

CBD cream can’t show in a drug test because drug tests do not screen for CBD as a substance. CBD is not psychoactive, nor is it a controlled substance. As a result, even in-depth drug testing refrains from looking for it.

It’s easy to confuse CBD with THC, its high-inducing cousin, which is searched for on almost every type of drug test out there. THC is found in high amounts in marijuana, but the CBD sold commercially in stores and online comes from hemp instead.

Though CBD may not be tested for, it can create the risk of cross-contamination. Because some CBD products, especially full-spectrum options, contain trace amounts of THC (0.3% or less is legally allowed), using them frequently can cause some build up of the molecule.

This build up is unlikely to be significant enough to show up on a drug test, but it’s still something to be aware of and take seriously, especially if you’re a heavy CBD user.

Additionally, many CBD sellers fail to properly package their products or truthfully inform consumers of the contents of said products. Without FDA regulation to worry about, it’s fairly easy for sellers to bend rules or skirt past THC restrictions.

While this may be great from a business standpoint for sellers, it’s not ideal for consumers who are watching out for THC. 

Fortunately, with CBD topicals, there’s no need to worry. CBD itself isn’t going to be a problem on a drug test, and the fact that topicals don’t enter the bloodstream means that any THC present in them won’t linger in the body.

Final Thoughts

Topical CBD is a great option for those looking to use CBD to spot-treat pain, inflammation, or other physical discomfort. Because it doesn’t enter the bloodstream, its effects are limited to the area it’s been applied to.

It’s easy to understand why many people assume that topicals absorb into the bloodstream, especially given how misunderstood and overlooked the ECS is as both an element of CBD use and a crucial part of bodily functions.

Still, no CBD topical can work its way through the skin and into blood – that’s simply not how the body (or the ECS) works. If you’re looking for a product that can absorb into the bloodstream and impact your entire body, opt for options that are inhaled or consumed either orally or sublingually

No matter who you are or what sort of products you’re looking to try out, being an educated CBD consumer can take you far. For many of us, that means ensuring that the sellers we buy from are credible and reliable, and that their products are among the highest-quality options on the market.

Finding sellers and topicals that tick these boxes can be a real challenge, though, and no one wants to waste money on products that don’t work for them. 

Be sure to visit our directory if you’re looking for amazing brands, product types, and specific product recommendations. After years in the industry and with lots of personal experience under our belt, we feel confident in our ability to seek out only the best options for anyone looking to take advantage of all CBD has to offer!

If you’re specifically looking for CBD cream, click here for our personal favorite product, Fab CBD Topical CBD Cream.

FABCBD Topical CBD Cream

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FABCBD Topical CBD Cream

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Josh Murdoch

Josh Murdoch

I was born with Cystic Fibrosis, and although it is incurable, CBD and THC have been allowing me to live my life as a healthy adult now for years. For that reason, I’ve dedicated my career to spreading the good news about cannabinoids. Currently, I work for a vertically integrated cannabis company called Unrivaled Brands that operates in California, Oregon, and Nevada. Previously, I worked on two cannabis farms in northern California, one of which was located in the famous Humboldt County. I’ve also managed a medical cannabis delivery service in Marin County, California. I created CBD Facilitator to share what I’ve learned, and to recommend the best products that I have found in this chaotic market.

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1 Comment

Alice Carroll · November 30, 2021 at 11:04 pm

Thanks for explaining that human skin can inherently absorb CBD topicals. I’d like to start trying out such products because I’m interested in taking natural healthcare seriously from now on. It will fit well with the all-natural lifestyle that I’m planning to adopt.

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