Do CBD-Infused Patches Really Work?
Transdermal patches are the new rage, and our writer thinks they're worth the hype.
While CBD is generally known for its calming effects, it can also be an effective natural stimulant. But, getting a CBD regimen together can feel like a chore unto itself, requiring hours of research and some trial-and-error to find the right product and get the dosing just right. Enter an easier, more potent CBD solution: transdermal patches.
The buzzy, science-backed product is currently taking the CBD space by storm. Patches take less than three seconds to apply and last for hours on end, powering you from morning to night (and back again) with little to no effort on your part. Think of it as a boost for your wellness toolkit — one that you can take daily, like any other supplement, or break out anytime you feel like you’re dragging instead of coasting.
Patches of the past
While they’re just getting more recognition in the CBD space, the science behind transdermal patches is far from new. The FDA didn’t approve the first adhesive transdermal delivery system (TDDS) until 1979 — and even before that, topical therapies had already been around for centuries. As outlined in the Papyrus Ebers (one of the oldest surviving medical records that date back to 1550 BC), ancient Egyptians used topical and transdermal remedies to treat many ailments, including headaches, hair loss, and skin conditions.
Similarly, the Ishinpō (the oldest Japanese medical record from 984 AD) describes chopping herbal medicines into fine pieces; then applying them to the skin using a compress. This knowledge informed the Japanese’s modern concept of shippu — a hot or cold pain-relieving patch with a mix of herbs, anti-inflammatories, and analgesics. Shippu are still used today to treat stiffness in the shoulders and back and general stress.
Today, the transdermal patch continues to be a reliable format for a laundry list of medications, notably bubbling up in smoking cessation and hormone therapy markets. It was only in recent years that cannabis entrepreneurs began parlaying the technology into the CBD space — and it’s quickly drummed up a broad set of fans.
What makes CBD patches unique
Not only are patches a mess-free, taste-free, scent-free way to use CBD, but they’re also considered one of the most reliable CBD delivery formats. This is because transdermal patches wield a higher bioavailability (the amount of a substance that can affect the body) than several other CBD product classes. According to a 2018 study by the National Institutes of Health, transcutaneous patches avoid first-pass metabolism — which is when the liver and GI tract reduce the concentration of an active substance before it can circulate through the body. Instead, patches transmit cannabidiol directly into the bloodstream, guaranteeing that no CBD gets lost on its way from the patch into your system (unlike an edible, beverage, or capsule).
Longevity is another bonus that prospective buyers can tally along with efficacy. The average CBD patch lasts for up to 12 hours (including a 30-minute absorption period). Its slow, steady delivery makes for a consistent experience that faster-acting formats can’t keep pace with, making it an especially sensible option for those in a 9-to-5 work setting seeking a subtle and controlled, all-day vibe.
Are they right for you?
While anyone of legal age (18 in some states; 21 in others) can benefit from CBD patches, many properties make them a compelling option for users who constantly feel overworked. In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified burnout as a real occupational phenomenon that causes exhaustion, mental distance from one’s job, and reduced workplace efficacy. This can translate to anything — motherhood, working overtime, caring for a loved one, and so on. If you’re the one holding down the fort 24/7, there’s a high chance that patches are for you. (No pun intended.)
For those who are short on time, convenience is an ever-important factor in addressing these concerns. You’ll want a swift delivery format that makes it easy to be consistent with your CBD routine, rather than overwhelming your schedule with another box to tick. Luckily, patches come with a foolproof application process (peel it, stick it, and forget it) that makes using cannabis quick and hassle-free. Vapes and pre-rolls can’t exactly match up to that convenience level, as they demand the “right” setting to smoke in (offices, airports, and most indoor public spaces are immediate nonstarters). While you can bring tinctures and edibles from here to there and consume them in the open, they’re far from as discrete — or as portable — as the stick-on patch.
All of this is to say that, if you struggle to peel (no pun intended!) yourself away from your desk to grab lunch or wind up pushing to-dos back several times (we get it), you won’t have to despair over adding another time-consuming task to your list.
Plus, patches are confusion-free: they’re pre-dosed, meaning that you won’t have to go through the trial-and-error process of figuring out the best dosing for you. This feature makes for a controlled, sustained experience. No surprises, just a boost in those moments where you need it most.
There's a patch for that
Now that you’ve decided on your delivery format, it’s time to figure out which patch is right for you. Luckily, there’s something for everyone. Whether you want a pure CBD patch or you’re looking for potent formulations that combine CBD with other valuable ingredients, if you’ve got a problem, there’s probably a CBD patch that can help. Feel like your tank is empty? An energy patch will work wonders. What about a dip in libido? Not to worry — there’s a patch for that, too. Just make sure to look for patches from reputable brands with clean ingredients from nature (vs. a lab).
Behind all the different versions and labels, each patch has one thing in common: they’ll help you slow down, be present and make the most of every moment. After all, the point of CBD isn’t to add fuss and clutter to your life — it’s to turn down the noise and help you to find balance in everything.
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