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Cannabis has been used in topical salves and poultices for millenia. From helping wounds to managing pain, the herb is a long lost ancient remedy for a variety of first-aid and therapeutic needs. Now, this old plant is getting a modern update.

Transdermal cannabis patches are a trendy (and useful!) new way to reap the medicinal benefits of the healing plant. Discrete and effective, these topical technologies deliver a long-lasting dose of cannabis from the outside in. Here’s the scoop on this futuristic new application:

What are transdermal patches?

What are transdermal patches

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Transdermal patches are adhesive patches infused with medicine. The patches deliver medicine through the skin and into the bloodstream.

Transdermal technologies are nothing new. Some popular examples include nicotine and contraceptive patches, which provide low and sustained doses of medicines throughout the day.

Yet, the transdermal patch is a fairly recent innovation in the cannabis space. And, boy, are they smart.

Cannabis-infused transdermal patches often contain isolated cannabis compounds, such as psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and non-psychotropic cannabidiol (CBD). To the science world, these compounds are known as “phytocannabinoids”.

THC is the compound that provides the famous cannabis “high.” CBD does not provide a high, but is a compound of interest for many pain related conditions, cancer, and epilepsy.

Some cannabis patches may include full-extracts of cannabis oil, however these patches are available through limited providers only.

How do transdermal cannabis patches work?

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Transdermal Patch technology is different from cannabis topicals. Cannabis topicals are herb-infused creams, balms, and lotions. These products are excellent for first-aid purposes and for ailments affecting the skin.

However, simply rubbing on a cream will not deliver active phytocannabinoids into the bloodstream. Instead, topical creams work in a localized area and are unable to penetrate to the deepest layers of the skin.

Transdermal patches work by providing a concentrated dose of medicines in a specific location for prolonged periods of time. With time, the skin absorbs heavy concentrations of the medication.

When the medication permeates to the deepest layer of the skin it then passes into capillaries and blood vessels. From there, medications like isolated cannabis are able to travel throughout the bloodstream.

What are the benefits of transdermal cannabis patches?

So, what’s with all of the excitement over transdermal cannabis patches? Transdermal cannabis patches offer a unique way to get cannabis compounds into the blood.

Once there, the cannabinoids can work their magic. Keep in mind that transdermal patches work best when adhered to venous parts of the body. Here are four reasons why transdermal patches might just provide the high of the future:

1. Prolonged release


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Unlike smoking, transdermal cannabis patches release cannabis compounds slowly. In theory, this would be beneficial for those who need prolonged relief throughout the day. In contrast, smoking or vaporization tend to provide intense relief over shorter periods of time.

Transdermal patches may also help cannabis consumers better regulate their dose. Instead of providing a relatively large dose all at once, the cannabinoids trickle in and deliver active medicine in relatively small amounts at a time.

Some medicated transdermal patches can last as long as eight to 12 hours.

2. Improved bioavailability


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While it may seem counterintuitive, transdermal cannabis patches actually improve the amount of THC that makes it into the bloodstream. In fact, transdermal application may improve the bioavailability of THC and other cannabinoids.

When you eat and edible, many of the active compounds are lost through the process of digestion and metabolism.

This means that you need to eat a relatively high amount of THC in order to feel the effects of the product. With transdermal patches, 10 milligrams of THC stretches farther because it does not have to first travel through the digestive tract before entering the blood.

Similarly with smoking, many cannabinoids are burned off in the process of using fire to heat the herb. Transdermal patches avoid this process by delivering cannabinoids directly into the bloodstream without heat.

3. Smoking alternative

transdermal cannabis smocking alternative

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Don’t want to smoke? Cannabis patches would be worthwhile for those looking for a more discreet way of taking cannabinoids.

Cannabis-infused transdermal patches also provide a healthier alternative to smoking, allowing consumers to avoid the potential carcinogens present in burning plant material.

4. More control over the cannabis experience

Unlike edibles and tinctures, transdermal cannabis patches may provide consumers with a more manageable experience that does not cause some of the intense mind-bending changes that other consumption methods provide.

Don’t like it? Simply take the patch off and the cannabinoids will quickly leave the bloodstream.

Do transdermal cannabis patches make you high?


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Transdermal cannabis patches that contain THC may still produce a noticeable change in mood and cognition. However, they do not provide the same experience as inhaled or edible cannabis.

Due to the slow release, it is more difficult to “overdose” or get too high from a transdermal patch. Instead, many may find that the patches produce such a mild experience that it does not interfere with function or cause undesirable psychoactive side effects.

This means that these patches would be ideal for those who would like the benefits of all-day cannabis without getting too drowsy or unfocused.

Of course, the overall experience from a cannabis patch depends on what compounds the patch contains and the product’s precise dosage. The higher the dose of THC, the more likely you are to experience some of the cognitive effects of THC.

Where can I find cannabis-infused transdermal patches?

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Right now, several companies are exploring the transdermal applications of cannabis medicines. However, many of these patches are not currently available to consumers.

One company, Mary’s Medicinals, offers several varieties of transdermal patches in some legal and medical cannabis states, including Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

Those outside of canna-friendly states can still purchase transdermal CBD patches from Mary’s Nutritionals online, which is an offshoot of the original business.

Another company, Cannabis Science Inc., is developing a transdermal pain patch for fibromyalgia and diabetic neuropathy. Currently, transdermal patches containing prescription painkillers could be prescribed for these and other chronic pain conditions.

Transdermal cannabis patches may offer a safer alternative to patches containing opioid pain medications. Opioid drugs carry high risks of addiction, substance abuse, and overdose. In contrast, cannabis has a high safety margin and has yet to be the determined cause of any death.

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