Topicals are a hot topic these days. Unfortunately, the cannabis-infused creams, lotions, salves and bath products won’t be available for legal purchase until new amendments to the Cannabis Act take effect in October 2019. Until then, it’s perfectly legal to turn your favourite cannabis oil into a simple do-it-yourself cream by following the recipe below.
Why use topicals?
Fans of cannabis-infused creams, or topicals, say they are great for soothing painful cramps, relieving localized pain and reducing inflammation.
Currently, Health Canada does not permit the sale of cannabis creams, although some licensed producers (LPs) sell pre-made creams that can be mixed with their oils for legal home use.
Will topicals get me high?
In most cases, even if a topical contains THC, it’s unlikely to induce the intoxicating effects you’d expect from swallowing or inhaling an equivalent amount. This is because the cannabinoids can’t breach the bloodstream through the skin. (It’s worth noting that some transdermal patches can deliver cannabinoids into the bloodstream and induce intoxicating effects, but these products are not yet legally available in Canada).
What symptoms do topicals treat?
Anecdotally, topicals are useful for localized pain relief, soreness, inflammation and more. Recent studies indicate they may be useful in treating inflammatory and neuropathic pain, skin allergies, psoriasis, dermatitis, arthritis, mild skin irritations and more. Many people are also using topicals in the form of lubricants for enhanced sexual pleasure.
Recipe for homemade topicals
The simplest topical is the one you already have in your medicine cabinet. Simply take your favourite cannabis oil and apply to it the area that hurts, avoiding the ears, eyes and genital areas . “Apply liberally and massage it in well, like you would any other pain-relieving cream, such as A535,” says Natural Care nurse Karen Newell.
To extend value and save money, some people prefer to mix their cannabis oil with an existing cream, lotion or oil, such as coconut, olive or almond oil. Once mixed, follow the same process as above, applying liberally and massaging well.
That’s all it takes! If you decide to try this simple recipe, please let us know how it’s going at your next check-in with your Natural Care nurse or educator.
Don’t have a Natural Care nurse or educator in your life? Click here to learn more about medical cannabis prescriptions with Natural Care, including free personalized medical cannabis plans and ongoing support for the life of your prescription.
There aren't many studies, but so far research supports what fans of cannabis topicals have been saying: that they help with inflammation and pain.
How to Make Herbal Cannabis Salves
How to Make Herbal Cannabis Salves
When I first heard the word salve, let’s just say I was confused. Here was this small tin filled with a body cream, but everyone was calling it a salve, which I also couldn’t pronounce for the life of me.
Shortly thereafter, curious and confused, I began a quest to uncover what were these magical creams that aren’t creams at all and what can they even do? Well come to find out, they can do a whole heck of a lot! And, since I’m always up for trying a new DIY project, especially when it involves treating myself to a nice rub down afterward, I began digging and uncovering all the things these magical herbal salves could do for you.
However, I ran into a few hiccups along the way. There were plenty of recipes, but none involved cannabis alongside other medicinal herbs. And, while cannabis is a powerful and potent plant, I wanted more. More benefits, more healing, and more love!
But, there was nothing of the sort to be found. Annoying? Yeah, I thought so too, which is why I’m writing this today — to provide you with the helpful tips and pointers I wish I could have easily Googled and the answers appeared. I mean, it is nice when that happens…
So, what exactly is a salve?
Alright, so since I was confused about this, I’m sure there are others that may be too. It’s not a body butter or body cream or lotion. It is in fact a salve, which can be defined as:
“an ointment used to promote healing of the skin or as protection.”
While body butter or cream will lather and moisturize the body, they don’t do much else. Whereas, a salve can heal the skin, as well as ease muscle tension, joint pain, and inflammation within the body (and even more!). Pretty cool, right? I thought so too.
But that’s not all, there are loads of ingredients for you to choose from when making your salve! And, that’s what will give your save it’s special healing properties!
However, when you aren’t too sure what ingredient does what or how much to add, it can become quite confusing to figure out how to formulate the perfect salve for your needs.
Common Ingredients Used and Why
This is where I got slightly annoyed. Sure, there are loads of recipes, just Google “salve recipes” and you’ll come up with a whole slew of them, but none explained why the herbs were good or how you could further mix ingredients to benefit your specific needs. After all, we are all different!
So, I’ve put together a short list of common herbs that you can use in your salve and how the herb is going to benefit you.
- Arnica: Primarily known for its ability to quickly heal bruised skin, arnica is great to add into a pain relieving salve for arthritis, inflamed or tense muscles, and even just minor aches and pains.
- Calendula: This beautiful flower has a number of properties including anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial, which are believed to aid in reducing skin rashes and healing wounds.
- Cannabis (full spectrum): When choosing to use a full spectrum mix of cannabis, you will be extracting both THC and CBD, as well as other cannabinoids in the plant. By doing so, you can expect to receive anti-inflammatory and pain relief properties, as well as cancer, arthritis, and psoriasis fighting benefits.
- Cannabis (CBD hemp): If you prefer to use CBD hemp, which should not contain any THC, there are still amazing benefits! Some of these include anti-inflammatory, feelings of relaxation, soothing irritated skin, anti-aginging properties and more!
- Chamomile: More often known for drinking in tea to relax, chamomile also have a number of skin-loving properties as well such as reducing irritation and inflammation (effectively calming the skin).
- Comfrey: This herb is used in a number of sensitive skin recipes on the market already. Within the leaves there is allantoin and rosmarinic acid providing new skin cell growth and pain/inflammation support, respectively.
- Echinacea: Commonly used for its immune-supporting benefits, echinacea can also be used for its ability to fight acne, reduce wrinkles, and treat inflammation on any area of the skin. Just as it can aid in healing a cold, it can aid in fighting infections on the skin too.
- Goldenseal: Another option to use as an anti-inflammatory and anti-septic herbal treatment within the salve for skin disorders.
- Holy Basil (Tulsi): This plant also provides anti-inflammatory and joint pain relief properties, as well as de-stressing and anti-anxiety too. It could be a powerful herb to use simply as a tea while you make the salve!
- Meadowsweet: This herb is slightly different, as it will be more suited for a cough suppressant salve to treat bronchitis or a cold. It can also be used on individuals suffering from gout to relieve joint pain.
- Mint: Mint is another great addition to a salve focused on healing the respiratory system and clearing phlegm as well as for those looking to heal acne or reduce muscle tension.
- Motherwort: Over the years, the leaves of the plant have been topically applied for healing wounds, itching and Shingles. This herb is also known for it’s ability to reduce menstrual cramps and labour pains in pregnant women.
- Passionflower: Commonly thought to aid in reducing anxiety, passionflower is typically added to salves for its ability to boost blood circulation and provide anti-inflammatory properties.
While this is by no means a comprehensive list of herbs you can add into your salves, it’s a pretty good start for anyone just trying to start and test the waters with their own recipes.
All of the above herbs will be infused into oils for the salve – keep reading to learn how!
Choosing Essential Oils
For essential oils, I cannot possibly include all of the options available. There are hundreds. And, honestly, when picking essential oils, you should be asking yourself “what purpose is the essential oil serving me?”
- Emotional support (i.e. stress relief, relaxation)
- Primary ingredient
- Skin penetrating properties
- Complimenting ingredient for another oil or herb being added
Once you are able to answer this, you’ll have a better idea if the oil you would like to add will be suitable for what you wish the salve to achieve.
For example, if you were making a chest rub meant to penetrate and aid in respiration, the essential oil white camphor or eucalyptus would be the primary ingredient. However, you would also have harmonizing oils and herbs, such as peppermint, lavender, or herbs that aid in vasodilation.
A few common essential oils used in making salves include:
- Clary Sage
- Ylang Ylang
To gain more information on essential oils available, as well as what their healing properties are, visit this resource: https://www.aromaweb.com/essentialoils/default.asp.
Note: Always be mindful of where your essential oils are sourced from. It is best to find USDA organic essential oils where possible, otherwise, commercial or standardized grade.
Choosing the Oil Combination
First you will want to decide what oils you will use to infuse your dried herbs. Many simple salves may just use coconut oil with no other oils utilized. However, if you’re looking to heal cracked skin, a rash, or some other ailment, why not make the vegetable oils work for you too?
With a number of options to choose from, no matter what skin type you are, there’s a combination you can conjure up that’s just perfect for your skin.
Here are some of the most popular skin loving oils for you to choose from, as well as the properties they provide:
- Avocado Oil: Not always thought of, this fabulous oil is packed full of not only rich fatty acids, but it’s also packed full of vitamin E, potassium, lecithin, and other nutrients that aid in nourishing the skin. It aids in reducing inflammation, preventing breakouts, and reducing wound healing time.
- Castor Oil: Rich in fatty acids, castor oil is well known for helping those with dry or cracked skin. However, it also has anti fungal properties due to the high concentration of ricinoleic acid (an omega-9 fatty acid). Some studies conducted on this oil have shown the oil to reduce inflammation as well as relieve pain.
- Coconut Oil: Due to this oil being rich in fatty acids, it’s very nourishing for the skin, as well as a good moisturizer for dry, cracked or inflamed skin.
- Grapeseed Oil: Probably the lightest oil on this list, grapeseed oil is able to quickly absorb into the skin unlike many of the heavier oils on this list. Due to it’s high concentration of linoleic acid, the oil can aid in balancing out dry and oily patches of the skin, reduce inflammation, and aid in wound healing.
- Olive Oil: Used for hundreds of years in skin care, olive oil is full of skin loving nutrients. It contains omega-3, 6 and 9 fatty acids, as well as vitamins A, K & E and polyphenols (antioxidants).
- Sunflower Oil: For starters, it has vitamin E in it, which makes it a cheap and effective alternative to buying a bottle of pure vitamin E oil. And, if that’s not enough, this oil is packed full of linoleic acid, which has been proven to work as an anti-inflammatory.
Remember you don’t have to limit yourself to the above oils, as there are hundreds of plant-based oils to choose from. This is just a quick list of common ones utilized in salves.
Shop CBD Salves
How to Make a Cannabis-Infused Pain Relieving Salve
Now the fun part — putting all these wonderful ingredients together to make a heavenly pain relieving cannabis-infused salve!
Note: This recipe will fill approximately 20 – 2 ounce jars!
- 1 cup Grapeseed Oil
- 1 cup Coconut Oil
- 1/2 cup Avocado Oil
- 1/4 cup Sunflower Oil
*You can use a combination of any oils equaling up to the desired amount you wish to make.
- 2 oz Cannabis Trim & Flower
- 1/4 cup Comfrey Leaf
- 3 tbsp Chamomile Flowers
- 3 tbsp Lavender Flowers
Other Ingredients Needed:
- 1/4 cup – 1/2 cup Beeswax
- 0.5 oz – 1 oz Essential oils (orange, lavender, and peppermint)
- A double boiler or crockpot
- Cheese cloth
- Mixing utensils
- Latex gloves
- Medium-Large Bowl(s)
- Measuring Cup
- Thermometer (candy thermometer works well)
How to Infuse the Oil
First, we will need to combine and infuse the oil with the medicinal herbs we’ve selected.
- Grab your double boiler or crockpot along with the herbs you plan on infusing into the oil.
- Be sure to break up any large herbs, such as cannabis flowers, so the entir surface area of the plant can be exposed to the oils during the infusion process.
- Place all of your herbs into the double boiler or crockpot along with the oils. Be sure to mix everything around, so that all ingredients are fully immersed in the oil.
- Place on medium to low heat and let the oils infuse over the next 6-8 hours. Do NOT let the infusion exceed 107C/225F. Tip: Place a candy thermometer in the crockpot or double boiler to watch the temperatures.
- Once the time has passed, grab your cheesecloth, latex gloves, bowls, funnel to begin separating the solids from the liquids.
- Place the cheesecloth into the funnel and begin to ladle or pour the mixture through the cheesecloth.
- After full, squeeze the cheesecloth to remove any excess liquids.
- Repeat steps 6 & 7 until all oil and solids are separated.
- Cover the container that has your oil infusion in it until you’re ready to go on to the next steps.
Melting the Beeswax
With the oils infused, we’re ready to start adding the beeswax, which is what provides the salve with its thicker consistency.
For vegans, feel free to switch out beeswax for one of the following:
Beware that wax can be deceiving, so it is wise to take this part slow and steady. Otherwise, you will end up with a lot of chapstick.
To avoid a chapstick nightmare, we recommend adding in 2 tablespoons at a time. Typically, you’ll end up with about a 5:1 ratio of oils to beeswax (or roughly 1/4 cup per cup of oils).
This recipe used just under 1/2 cup and came to the consistency we wanted it, but you may want yours “soupier” or firmer than ours.
Remember: you can always allow the mixture to fully cool, test, and reheat if the consistency is not where you want it to be yet, but infusing more oil to reverse the chapstick nightmare is not always a fun task.
- To start, place the oil back into crockpot or double boiler.
- Place a candy thermometer to keep a close eye on the temperature. Caution: beeswax has a low melting point of 63C – 64C (145F – 147F), so be sure to not let the beeswax exceed these temperatures or discoloration will occur.
- Now start adding in your beeswax 2 tablespoons at a time (4 tablespoons = 1/4 cup).
- If at 1/4 cup of beeswax, you are not satisfied with the consistency, continue adding in a tablespoon of beeswax at a time until you find the right consistency.
Add Essential Oils
Once the mixture has cooled down to 37C/100F, you can add in the essential oil blend that you would like to use.
For this recipe, we added in:
- 2 tsp peppermint
- 1 tsp orange
- 1 tsp lavender
Remember a little goes a long way when it comes to essential oils! And, if you think you shorted yourself, you can always add more in later!
After the essential oils are mixed in, you can store your new salve in a variety of containers (like these ones!). Typically, you will want the container to be glass, metal, or BPA-free plastic that has a lid and can be sealed properly.
That’s it! I sure hope you enjoy your new creation!
Have questions? Ask in the comments below!
Looking to start making healing salves right at home? Use this guide to help you better understand the many options available to you in salve making.