Cannabis has been used to treat wounds for thousands of years.
Now, however, this ancient remedy features a new and improved application.
Cannabis pain patches can now be purchased from a variety of access points, marketed for the relief of painful ailments like fibromyalgia and diabetic neuropathy.
A long history of relief
Did you know that the cannabis plant may be one of the oldest economic and agricultural crops in human history?
Over the centuries the herb has had a great many uses, including use as fiber, as food, as a spiritual tool, and, perhaps most amazingly, as a medicine.
According to research presented by cannabis researcher Robert Clarke and Dr. Mark Merlin, infused poultices and other types of topical cannabis applications have been used to treat various medical conditions for centuries.
For example, as Clarke and Merlin quote a passage from 1966 research stating that in Chinese folklore, the wound-healing properties of cannabis were passed down from stories about the ancient emperor Liu Chi-nu.
The passage states:
“Sometime later Liu himself was injured and he applied crushed marijuana leaves to his wound. The medicine healed him and Liu subsequently announced his discovery to the people of China and they began using it to treat their injuries.”
However, while topical cannabis preparations have been around for thousands of years, they are only now making a comeback in a big way.
The newest topical innovation? The cannabis pain patch.
Thanks to advancements in technology and an increased interest in the medicinal herb, topical cannabis now comes in a new and improved format: an adhesive transdermal patch.
How do cannabis pain patches work?
Cannabis pain patches are similar to nicotine and birth control patches, which are two of the most common transdermal patches available.
To make cannabis pain patches, an adhesive patch similar to a bandage is infused with cannabis oils or isolates.
Theoretically, cannabis pain patches work by delivering a slow release of cannabinoid medications through the skin and into capillaries that allow the medicines to enter the bloodstream.
However, there are some important caveats to consider regarding these claims.
The active molecules of the cannabis plant, called cannabinoids, may be too large to efficiently absorb deep enough into the skin to penetrate into the bloodstream without technological support.
For this reason, several companies hold patent applications for the development of cannabis pain patches that rely on the use of microneedles to more successfully penetrate the skin and deliver cannabis medicines where they need to go.
Other investigations have tested the effects of CBD patches on rodents and shown success. However, this success was seen in patches that utilized ethosome technologies to allow the cannabis medicines to effectively penetrate into the skin.
Ethosomes are like little bubble sacks made from lipids (fats), ethanol (alcohol), and water. These sacks can be filled with medicines like cannabinoids and allow cells to more readily absorb these materials.
Thus far, no large-scale clinical trials have reported on the success of these transdermal technologies.
Yet, while the overall efficacy of transdermal patches has yet to be put to large-scale clinical trials, several entrepreneurial companies have already put cannabis-infused transdermal patches onto the market.
For example, Cannabis Science Inc. recently released a prototype cannabis pain patch for the control of fibromyalgia and diabetic neuropathy to the California medical cannabis market in response to a soaring demand for transdermal products.
It is important to note that while large-scale trials of these products are currently lacking, many patients and consumers have reported anecdotal success with cannabis pain patches.
What are the benefits of cannabis pain patches?
You may be wondering: if research on cannabis pain patches is only just emerging, why are they becoming so darn popular?
As it turns out, the potential benefits of transdermal cannabis are vast.
For example, when cannabis is either ingested or inhaled, only 33 percent or less of the total cannabinoid content in the plant can actually be used by the body.
With transdermal treatments, medicines are expected to more easily enter and be used by the body. With transdermal delivery, active medicines avoid processing through the digestive and respiratory system.
However, there are a few additional benefits that make pain patches so appealing. These include:
1. Slow-release relief
When you inhale or ingest cannabis medicines, the effects can present themselves all at once. Cannabis patches, however, deliver a more targeted dose slowly over time.
This slow release means that the effects of transdermal patches can be milder than smoking or eating cannabis preparations, which may be beneficial for those hoping to avoid inebriation during the workday.
2. Long lasting
When it comes to long-lasting effects, transdermal patches take the prize over almost all other cannabis preparations.
The effects of inhaled cannabis last as long as three hours. One transdermal patch may provide as long as eight hours of slow, prolonged relief.
This is likely excellent news for those in need of continuous pain management without the hassle of dosing up again throughout the day.
3. Easy dosage control
Cannabis medicines are notoriously difficult to dose, especially for the vast numbers of self-managing cannabis patients out there.
Transdermal patches come pre-loaded with measured doses of cannabinoids, allowing consumers to have more precise control over how much medicine they are consuming.
As a bonus, when you feel like the effects of your medicine are becoming too strong, you can simply remove a transdermal patch and quickly eliminate potentially uncomfortable side effects.
How to use cannabis pain patches
Curious about trying cannabis-infused transdermal patches?
There are a few tips and tricks that may be helpful if you want to get the most bang for your buck.
1. Read package directions & ask your doctor
Different brands of transdermal patches will utilize slightly different delivery methods. For the best results with your particular product, it’s always best to closely follow package directions or contact the manufacturer for more detailed information.
Talking with a medical professional can also help you determine how to best use transdermal treatments.
2. Place somewhere close to an accessible joint
Where you place your transdermal patch matters. Placing a patch on areas that feature a thick layer of fat tissue or dense skin will make it much more difficult for the medicines to reach effective absorbancy.
For optimal benefit, those hoping for more localized relief will likely reap the best results by placing patches on a region close to the affected area that does not feature a thick layer of skin, muscle, or fat tissue.
For example, a transdermal patch may be more effective somewhere near a knee or shoulder joint than it would closer to the hip joint. Why? Joints at the knee and shoulder feature a thinner layer of fat and tissue than the joints of the hip, which is also covered by thick layers of muscle.
3. Place on the wrist, shoulder blade, or lower abdomen
Those hoping for more general relief may want to consider placing patches on the wrist, the lower abdomen, or on the shoulder blade.
These locations feature the best access to blood vessels. Although, as mentioned above, it is important to follow package directions and consult a medical professional regarding how to best use your transdermal patch.
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