The most common cannabis based products for topical use are balms/lotions. These products are typically made by infusing some kind of oil with cannabis. However, patches are slowly becoming more popular. Each of these products are absorbed into the body in a discreet, transdermal fashion.
Balms, lotions, and gels are all considered medicated creams and do not invoke a mental, psychoactive “high” that is produced by other cannabis products. Cannabis infused topical products provide immense relief for chronic or sharp localized joint and/or muscle pain. All topical products begin as some sort of salve, consisting of a base. An oil-based foundation is typically used, such as some kind of butter (i.e. shea or cocoa) and/or oil (i.e. vitamin E or coconut). Decarboxylation is a crucial step in making topicals (and edibles). This is done through heat, which releases and activates important chemical compounds in the cannabis plant. Essential oils like peppermint or eucalyptus are sometimes added for additional benefits and pleasing aromas.
There are two types of patches, matrix and reservoir. A matrix patch has cannabis infused within the stitching of the patch. Once the patch is stuck to the skin, the product is immediately released onto the skin and absorbed into the bloodstream. A reservoir patch releases cannabis at a consistent rate throughout the day. This is due to a rate-controlling membrane that encases the the cannabis contents. Both types of patches are suitable, however, reservoir patches seem to be the most popular.