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Transdermal vs. Topical Applications of Cannabinoids: Whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the differenceâ&#x20AC;Ś? von Dr. Jeremy Riggle, Ph.D.
Many people often conflate the meanings of topical and transdermal, particularly when it comes to cannabinoid applications. It is an easy mistake to make, however, they differ in one important regard. The key difference lies in their final objective, as transdermal refers to the drug or medicine reaching the bloodstream where it will have a systemic effect, while topical refers to the drug or medicine acting locally. To further delineate the two: transdermal
medicines are designed to act on the entire body via application to the skin, topical medicines are designed to act on the area of application, i.e. the location on the surface of the skin where the medicine was applied. Depending on the particular indication, both routes of administration have been shown to be effective forms for the application of many therapeutic drugs, including cannabinoids.