CBD Vaping vs Topical Applications: All the Info You Need

Reading time - 21 minutes

CBD. This three-letter abbreviation has been the nexus point of a growing wave of holistic health buzz in the past few years, and more recent attention has been drawn to two different ways of consuming this product - CBD vaping, and topical applications. But what actually is the difference between these two methods, and what do they have to offer to the average consumer? And, for that matter, what is all the fuss about CBD itself? We’ll dissect the facts here and give you all the vital information you need to know.

What Is CBD? 

Cannabidiol, abbreviated to CBD, is a non-neurotropic cannabinoid - a natural compound produced by plants such as hemp and marijuana, or others in the genus Cannabis. Although cannabis plants have been used for traditional remedies and recreational purposes for a long time, this humble group of plants has become a hot topic in recent years as public opinion, research, and legislation shift to view them in a more appreciative and brighter light.

Cannabis plants have been cultivated and processed for centuries in many parts of the world, and are traditionally renowned for their soothing effects on the mind and body, and their psychotropic qualities. All of the notable effects that cannabis plants have when consumed or taken can be traced back to cannabinoids - natural compounds produced by cannabis plants, of which there are around 113 identified compounds.

CBD in particular is of note as one of the most well-researched cannabinoids. It accounts for up to 40% of cannabis plant extract, and studies to date have pointed towards CBD having therapeutic benefits for treating anxiety and depression, movement disorders, psychiatric disorders, and chronic pain, among other conditions.

Key to the appeal of CBD is its non-neurotropic nature. While CBD is psychoactive - meaning a given dose will affect your brain and mental faculties - CBD is unique from its relatives in that, when ingested, it doesn’t produce what we consider a “high”, or an altered state defined by feelings of euphoria and pleasure or heightened sensory perception. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is another prominent cannabinoid in cannabis plants which does produce those intoxicating, psychoactive effects, but CBD on its own does not interact with the body in this way.

In many countries or areas, hemp-derived CBD products are not approved or regulated properly in an official government capacity, which often makes acquiring good-quality and safe CBD products difficult. However, as a nonprescription product, it’s growing increasingly popular as a supplementary method for dealing with many harmful medical conditions as well as for recreation and relaxation in a hectic modern life.

How CBD Affects The Body

With all this new interest and information on cannabidiol, it begs the question: what does CBD do to you, exactly?

The short answer: a whole spectrum of different things! Our understanding of the extent of CBD’s reach in the human body is incomplete, but research indicates that it’s actually very broad in its interactions. To know why it’s best to first familiarize yourself with the system through which CBD and other cannabinoids act in the body.

Cannabinoid receptors (CBRs) and cannabinoid receptor proteins are distributed throughout the vertebrate brain and nervous system and are acted upon by endocannabinoids - neurotransmitters produced by our bodies that are highly similar structurally to cannabinoids of plant origin. Endocannabinoids act as messengers for these receptors, and can both amplify or suppress signals from the brain by activating these receptors. Cannabinoids can affect human physiology precisely because of these analogous counterparts found within the human body, like fitting a key to a lock.

This biological cell-signalling system is known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and is thought to be crucial for regulating a wide range of bodily functions, including metabolism, mood, digestion, immunity, sleep, learning, heart function and temperature. Most famously, it mediates the pharmacological effects of cannabis and cannabinoids in the body, thus giving endocannabinoids and the ECS their names.

Cannabinoids affect physiological processes by binding to CBRs, which are found on cells all around the body. Two primary types  are known to exist:

  • CB1, which is found mainly in the brain and nervous system. It’s most prominently expressed in the frontal cortex, basal ganglia and cerebellum, and is also present in several tissues and organs, including the spinal cord, the liver, the gastrointestinal tract, and others. CB1 receptors are believed to affect memory, appetite, sleep, temperature, and motor function. This receptor is the main mediator by which we feel the usual psychoactive effects of cannabis, which occurs when THC binds to it.
  • CB2, which is found mainly in immune cells, but is also found in various other cell types. It’s considered the peripheral cannabinoid receptor, and is also present in some nervous tissues, including the dorsal root ganglia and microglial cells. These receptors help control inflammation and the body’s response to pathogens.

Additionally, CB1 and CB2 receptors both play an important role in pain sensation by relaying signals through the peripheral nervous system and the spinal cord. They are part of the ascending and descending pain pathways by which we process pain and harmful stimuli.

However, the mechanisms by which CBD affects CB1 and CB2 receptors are unique. While we don’t fully understand its interactions, studies indicate that CBD actually modulates hepatic cytochrome p450 enzymes instead of directly interacting with these receptors, thus modifying the receptors’ ability to bind to cannabinoids. By occupying these enzymes, it increases the availability of our own naturally-produced endocannabinoids or pain mediators, like serotonin, or externally-supplied analgesics such as THC.

Interestingly, CBD’s non-neurotropic quality is due to its particular affinity for certain CBRs, referring to the preference of a given compound to bind to another. In CBD’s case, it has a low affinity for CB1 receptors, which are the most concentrated in the brain and central nervous system, and this lack of direct binding to these receptors is why it doesn’t cause any intoxicating effects to a user. In fact, it actually antagonizes compounds that would activate CB1 and CB2 receptors, thus inhibiting their functions. Additionally, CBD has been found to mitigate the negative side-effects of THC when ingested together, which gives a boost to therapeutic effectiveness.

Health Benefits

So, we can clearly see that CBD has a range of effects on human physiology. Now we look at the larger picture: what can CBD do for us on a wider, more systemic scale?

The exciting news is that CBD has a host of health benefits that it can offer to a given consumer. This humble compound is far-reaching in its scope and holds promise not just as a relaxant and mood-improver, but also as a pain reliever and beyond.

One of the main reasons people take CBD is to deal with anxiety and mood disorders. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter crucial to mood and mental health - low serotonin levels are characteristic of people with depression or anxiety. CBD may alter serotonin signals and thus benefit people with these disorders. The evidence currently isn’t strong enough to support CBD use in the case of depression, but its aid in dealing with anxiety  has been studied and proven.

In addition, CBD has also been highlighted for its promise as a therapeutic avenue for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), by helping with emotional memory processing. CBD also shines in relieving chronic pain - it’s effective in providing pain relief for various types of pain, from neuropathic pain to fibromyalgia, and other musculoskeletal diseases.

For people with epilepsy and other conditions which can cause seizures, CBD can be used to effectively deal with the frequent muscle spasms and convulsions. For example, in patients suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune disease that affects the nervous system and brain, short-term usage of CBD has been reported in cases to reduce the intensity of the spasms and symptoms characteristic of the condition. CBD is also the basis behind Epidiolex, a form of therapy approved in the USA for treating two rare types of epilepsy.

CBD is also of great use to cancer patients, where it is primarily used to alleviate pain and nausea and improve appetite, particularly following chemotherapy. Most of the research surrounding CBD and cancer in humans has revolved around its pain management ability. There’s also evidence that CBD can act more directly against cancer, namely by killing malignant cells and reducing tumour size, but more research and clinical trials are required to assess these findings.

CBD is also a promising method of managing dermatological conditions, from the more commonly seen acne to psoriasis. It can alleviate pain and inflammation locally when applied, and assist with healing. Even epidermolysis bullosa, a rare blistering skin disorder, has been reported in some cases to be treatable with topical CBD application.

In many of these cases, results are promising but mostly anecdotal or with limited data. Further clinical trials are needed to build the scientific evidence for these observed benefits and allow for robust conclusions to be made.

To cap off all of these health benefits, CBD is also non-addictive, which makes it a promising option to deal with long-term, chronic conditions in a safer and more holistic manner. Studies indicate that people who consume CBD are unlikely to build up a tolerance to it, which means regular users are less likely to have to constantly increase the dosage over time.

With the scope of CBD’s therapeutic potential in treating so many conditions, it’s become a compound of great interest to researchers, and of increasing popularity commercially.

CBD Product Labelling

Health benefits and science aside, we’re now going to dig into the more pressing matter for a consumer - what types of CBD products are out there, and what do you need to know to choose one?

Firstly, CBD products are classified into three types: full-spectrum, broad-spectrum or CBD isolate. When selecting CBD products, you need to consider whether or not you just want the benefits of pure CBD or the full suite of cannabinoids, as effectiveness and side effects vary between them.

Full-spectrum refers to CBD oils that contain a full range of cannabinoids, which includes terpenes and other compounds found naturally in cannabis plants. Full-spectrum CBD products are generally considered to be more effective since a running theory called the “Entourage Effect” is that cannabinoids are more active and effective when working in combination. However, this also means that these products usually contain small amounts of THC, which is the compound that causes the “high” state one gets from smoking marijuana. The UK and other countries also have regulations on the allowed amount of THC in a given product - in the UK, a THC content of over 0.2% is illegal, so check the labels and be aware.

Broad-spectrumCBD oil is similar to full-spectrum, with the caveat that it contains no THC. This makes it legal in most countries and a much less potentially incriminating method of getting a CBD fix. CBD products classified as broad-spectrum are generally produced with industrial hemp, which has a lower THC content than marijuana.

Lastly, CBD isolate refers to products containing pure CBD, without any additional compounds. This preserves all the benefits one can get from CBD without potentially incurring any other effects from other cannabinoids. These products are, like broad-spectrum products, usually made with industrial hemp. As a side note, CBD isolates typically don’t carry that distinctive cannabis plant aroma.

Next, we have to consider delivery methods - how to get CBD into your system. Traditionally when thinking about CBD or other cannabis-related products, you would think of taking them by smoking or as an ingested product, like an edible. In reality, there are a wide variety of commercially available delivery methods you can use to take CBD and try this natural compound, from tinctures to sublingual application.

The range of different products and methods can leave many new users confused and wondering which way to turn, stuck in between all the jargon and similarities. Remember that there is no absolute “best” way to take CBD that applies to everyone, so understanding which is the right one out of the pack can be a hassle.

Here, we’ll discuss two types of delivery methods that have been growing in popularity with CBD’s rise: topical application and vaping.

CBD Topical Application

Topical application usually refers to taking medication or a product by applying it to a particular place on or in the body. In most cases, this simply means application to body surfaces, such as the skin of any of the body’s mucous membranes. The types these topical products come in can vary from creams or lotions meant to be directly applied to the skin, or liquid drops meant to be applied to other tissue surfaces such as ear drops placed in the ear.

By design, CBD topicals see the most use as an option for consumers to manage skin conditions, such as eczema and acne, as well as manage chronic pain and muscle soreness.

Topicals are usually meant to be applied directly to an affected area by way of massaging into the skin. The specific dosage is usually rather vague and depends on the individual. Certain ingredients included alongside the CBD in a given product may incur tingling, warming or cooling sensations, so they should be no cause for alarm.

The speed at which you see effects will also differ depending on what condition you’re attempting to treat. When treating pain, effects should kick in after a short while, but for skin conditions like eczema, it may take multiple applications to see any results. Most topicals should be safe to reapply as frequently as needed, but be careful if you have a cut or scrape, or an injury that breaks the skin since most topicals are only intended for external use.

For most people, topical application is one of the easiest and most accessible ways of taking CBD. It's one of the safest methods and allows you to apply it directly to the problem area, bypassing the bloodstream entirely.

However, this also does mean that CBD topicals are less efficient against more large-scale problems, and there’s little information currently available to support CBD’s effectiveness as a topical. Despite the lack of concrete studies, many consumers report success with using CBD to treat their own ailments and conditions.

CBD Vaping

Vaping, once a nouveau and niche new trend, has rapidly become part of the norm. Marketed as the safer alternative to smoking, people now widely use devices known as vaporizers or vape pens, heating up oil to inhale clouds of aromatic vape smoke. They’ve become especially popular due to their ease of use, functionality, potency, and sleek and discreet appearance. CBDvaping  comes as a natural next step, an innovation from smoking cannabis

It’s important to first note that generic CBD oil should not, under any circumstances,  be vaped. CBD oil in its commercially available form usually contains coconut or olive oil, which is unsuitable for inhalation and should not be smoked. Using actual oils like these puts the consumer at risk. The CBD oil advertised for vaping doesn’t contain these oils and is thus safe for us.

Instead, CBD-infused products are available that are specifically manufactured for smoking. These come packed into vape cartridges, which are slim e-cigarette tanks pre-filled with a gram or half-gram of cannabis oil. For a vaporizer cartridge to work well, the contents of the cartridge need to have an appropriate viscosity, being not too thick or too thin to properly vaporize. Manufacturers thus employ several methods for producing oil for their pens, varying from pure CBD distillate to CBD produced using CO2 or solvent-based extraction methods.

CO2 oil, which refers to products made using carbon dioxide supercritical fluid extraction technology. These oils can be compatible with vape cartridges because they don’t require additives to need the necessary viscosity levels to be vaped. When properly made, they can even retain small amounts of terpenes, which act both naturally to thin the liquid as well as to infuse the oil with unique flavours.

CBD vape oil, also known as CBD vape distillate or CBD vape juice. Distillates are made from pure, isolated CBD, making them high in potency. These products don’t actually contain oil, contrary to their popular moniker, since they’re made for vaping purposes. They’re an attractive option as they can be produced from a wide range of starting materials, but they need to have a thinning agent of some sort added to cut the viscosity.

Additivesare also used as supplemental thinning agents, in order to maintain viscosity and oil consistency optimal for vaporizer function. However, these substances have become controversial because of rising health concerns surrounding their use.

Terpene infusions,instead, have risen to fill that gap as a safer alternative. These naturally occurring compounds, when included in vape cartridges, help lower viscosity and imbue flavour and aroma. They can either be retained in the oil as part of the manufacturing process or re-added after refinement. Terpenes, as cannabis plant compounds, are also thought to contribute to the Entourage Effect, and can potentially augment benefits and mitigate adverse effects of a given CBD product.

As an additional note for those who already use e-cigarettes, CBD vapes also may be a helpful method to opt for in the long-term. Studiescurrently point to CBD’s potential in dealing with nicotine addiction without having any addictive qualities itself.

Vaping VS Topical Application

Looking at these two delivery methods, it’s clear that they’re distinctly different beasts for different purposes. Here, we’ll break down the facts more clearly to distinguish between them and help you make an educated decision as to which is right for you.

Cost -as a consumer, you need to consider whether or not you’re willing to face up to the prices of your purchases. Prices for topicals can vary wildly, considering the sheer variety available on the market, but generally, most will fall into the $30-60 range. Any that fall above the $100 margin may be worth it, but read up and research beforehand to be sure before you open your wallet. Vape cartridges can be quite expensive as well, going for around ($20-60) or more per half-gram or gram of oil, and varying depending on the market and extraction method.

The time it takes to see effects -when using a product, the length of time it takes for effects to kick in can make a great difference. CBD vapes far outdo topicals, and in fact most other delivery methods in this regard, since it allows for CBD to be absorbed via the lungs in an incredibly rapid and efficient process. Peak concentrations are reached within three minutes after consumption, allowing for effects to be felt fast. CBD topicals, by contrast, take much longer - depending on the product, it can take anywhere from 15-60 minutes for effects to be felt, and peak concentration is only reached around 90 minutes in.

Physical effects -The immediacy and effectiveness of a given CBD topical or vape differs wildly because their mechanisms of entry are so different. We can compare these by looking at bioavailability - this refers to the percentage of a substance that actually reaches systemic circulation when taken.

Topicals, by design, do not enter the bloodstream directly, because CBD administered this way only interacts with the local receptors in the skin. While there are no studies that have specifically quantified CBD topical bioavailability it’s expected to be quite low - CBD doesn’t pass through the skin easily either. This means that while effective for targeted pain relief in specific areas, topical application is an inefficient and ineffective way of treating conditions which need CBD to bind to CBRs in the brain and central nervous system, such as anxiety or epilepsy.

In contrast, the bioavailability of CBD vapes is much greater, at around 34-46%, with some studies even reporting rates of 56%. This is the highest out of pretty much all commercially available methods short of giving CBD intravenously. Inhaling CBD allows for it to be rapidly absorbed via the lungs, and from there allows it to enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the body to interact with CBRs. Every breath allows more CBD to be inhaled, thus providing a steady dose of efficiently and quickly-absorbed CBD.

However, vapes tend to provide shorter-lasting effects because they’re consumed in smaller, quicker-acting doses. Topicals, on the other hand, have longer-lasting effects due to their gradual absorption over time.

Precautions and Side Effects - Taking CBD Responsibly

After all is said and done, and all of the benefits of both CBD topicals and CBD vaping are laid out, one still needs to be mindful of the dangers or the drawbacks in the process of actually using these products. It does no good to consume CBD in a way that puts your own health and wellbeing at risk.

As a broad set of rules, you should first always refer to the packaging for specific directions and recommendations.

Always consult with a doctor before using CBD products of any sort, especially if you’re taking CBD to manage a serious condition. People who are pregnant or lactating, for example, should not be using CBD.

Dosage differs from person to person and can change over time because the optimal CBD dosage a person needs is influenced by their body weight, metabolism and frequency of use. While CBD is thought to be non-toxic and you cannot overdose on it, consumers should always monitor their own dosage and effects and check with their doctor regarding safe dosage for them.

Before purchasing any CBD products, look into how your region classifies CBD and cannabis-derived products, and their regulations on THC content. Being in an area with legalised cannabis products is a good step to purchasing quality products with a guarantee of lab-testing according to local laws. 0.2% THC is the general threshold mark for the UK - if a product contains less than that amount, you can safely obtain it from a dispensary, grocery store, online retailer, or from the manufacturers.

Source your products from reputable and high-quality manufacturers. Make sure you check for a label that confirms that the product has received third-party lab testing to ensure quality. If the product or brand doesn’t have that, it may not be legitimate and might contain other compounds or different concentrations of CBD than listed, which may put you at risk.

In the case of vapes, it’s especially crucial that you purchase high-quality, lab-tested products from trustworthy suppliers, and read the ingredients list and fine print. Additives and other chemical agents like lipids added to alter viscosity in vape cartridges can pose serious health risks. When inhaled, they can cause coughing, chest pain, shortness of breath and potentially cause lung damage. A recent spate of vaping illness cases in the USA has drawn light to the use of vitamin E acetate in illegal or poorly-made THC vape products, injuring over 2,000 people across the country. Keep an eye out for these and research thoroughly when buying.

As with all products that you ingest or absorb, certain adverse effects  are rarely associated with CBD use of any kind. These include fatigue, diarrhoea, weight and appetite changes. CBD vaping can affect people in different ways - if you experience nausea, dizziness or chest pain while vaping CBD, cease using the product immediately.

CBD can also interfere with other prescription medications or dietary supplements. Studies indicate that CBD may interact with liver enzymes and interfere with drug metabolism or keep the liver from breaking down toxins.

Getting CBD Vapes

Lastly, after familiarizing yourself with the nuances of CBD topicals versus vapes, you now need to grapple with the tricky question that plagues all new users: who to buy your CBD products from?

If you’re looking for the fastest and most effective CBD products, here at Amphora we’re proud to offer our wide range of CBD vapes. All our CBD products are made from hemp plants, grown organically and extracted with innovative carbon dioxide extraction technology. Our products are certified THC-free, and our ingredients tested and verified to a medical standard by a third-party laboratory.

Amphora offers a collection of four variants of CBD vape cartridges, with each blend tailored to holistically aid you in a different aspect of life. From recipes to give you a much-needed boost for a busy day, to help you find some peace of mind, to heal your body after rigorous exercise, or to soothe you into a fulfilling rest, Amphora has the right vape for your needs.





Written by  |  Infused Amphora Team 

The Infused Amphora Team is dedicated to creating resources to educate and engage consumers on the growing evidence of CBD benefits and the extensive health and wellness properties of CBD Oil. 

Contributor  | Angus Taylor CEO



Infused Amphora “Learn” is intended for informational purposes only and is NOT a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.