For the past year I have been using CBD products to help with pain, nausea and muscle spasms. I have found it to be an incredibly helpful tool as part of a multi-prong approach to managing several chronic conditions including Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder, Fibromyalgia, and pelvic pain.
I have primarily been using sub-lingual oils and have favoured a slow and steady approach, finding that I get the best results using just a couple of drops every few hours.
Unfortunately, this approach can become expensive and has limitations (during the night for example), so when I decided that I was going to stop using other painkillers that gave me side effects and commit to using CBD almost every day, I was happy to discover a new trend in CBD administration: transdermal patches.
In today’s article we will look at the potential advantages of transdermal CBD patches over other methods, as well as my experience using transdermal CBD patches from two reliable brands (Cannacares and Dutch Natural Healing) over the course of several weeks.
I do not have any affiliation with either of these brands and am not receiving any compensation in exchange for this review.
You can click here to jump straight to a summary of my findings.
Please note: This is the second half of a two-part series about CBD and chronic illness. If you have not yet read part 1 – CBD: Separating Fact From Fiction, I highly encourage you to do so before continuing. It summaries the existing scientific research into CBD, as well as exploring some of the problems within the growing CBD market. Today’s article will not include any evidence-based information about the pros and cons of CBD. It will simply be about my personal experience.
As always: This is NOT medical advice. CBD is a medicinal compound like any other. As such, it carries risks and has the capacity to interact with other medications and cause side effects. Always speak to your doctor before trying CBD and check the legal standing of CBD products in your state/country.
A note for my Belgian friends: CBD is currently in a legal “grey area” in Belgium. Please read the FAMHP guidelines about this carefully and speak to your doctor about the products that you can legally and safely access in your specific situation. They may be able to write you a prescription as Doctors in Belgium enjoy “therapeutic freedom.”
Why try transdermal patches?
In many countries, CBD products are not a recognised medical treatment and are not covered by insurance. This combined with the tight regulations and mandatory laboratory analysis (within countries like Belgium) mean that CBD oils and creams are very expensive and not a viable option for many people, especially those who may have a limited capacity to work due to chronic health challenges.
In comparison, transdermal CBD patches (even the ones with third party lab analysis) are very affordable. These patches also claim a number of other advantages over oils, such as providing a slow, long-lasting release of Cannabidiol into the bloodstream and up to 36 hours of relief from symptoms!
They also have one of the highest levels of bio-availability as the CBD is absorbed directly into the bloodstream, bypassing organs such as the stomach and liver. Early research suggests that transdermal patches are one of the most efficient methods for using CBD, as they rely on the drug concentration gradient between the patch and your skin to create a steady stream of absorption. More information on this is linked down below.
Apart from the aforementioned issue of price, transdermal patches appeal to me on a personal level for three reasons Firstly, they are easy to apply and do not involve getting product on your hands or leaving it on your skin where it may spread and stain surrounding objects. Secondly, patches can be easily carried around in a handbag (without fear of breaking fragile glass bottles). They are thin, lightweight, and allow you to accurately track your dosage without needing to measure out oil or use a mirror to ensure it successfully lands under your tongue. Finally, transdermal patches can be applied at bed-time for long-lasting overnight relief.
Where can I buy transdermal CBD patches in Europe?
There are many online stores which sell transdermal CBD patches to European consumers. I decided to trial products from two different brands, Cannacares and Dutch Natural Healing. I chose these brands because they both provide clear information on how their products are made, how they work, and the potential side effects. I also found them to both be responsible brands that differentiate between proven and unproven health claims, and encourage users to communicate with their doctor about their CBD use. Finally, both brands’ products are lab tested by a third party to ensure that they contain less than 0.2% THC. As such, I was able to successfully import samples of each into Belgium.
The first products that I received were the Cannacares 2 x 20mg CBD patches and 4 x 10mg CBD patches. These products cost me a total of 23€ and I was charged an additional 8€ in import fees on delivery. However, this fee was later refunded to me by Cannacares.
The 10mg patch was easy to apply and had a soft, gel-like underside, rather than being sticky or tape-like. It was easy to apply to the outer side of the arm. However, it needed to be completely flat without any wrinkles in order to remain secure.
As the patch started to heat up on my skin, a rather strong smell began to emerge, (one that may remind some of you of your party days!) which I didn’t particularly like, but it did not irritate me in the same way that artificial fragrances do.
I started to notice an improvement with my pain levels within 5 minutes, my muscles felt less stiff too and I did not require any additional pain relief. Impressive!
I wore the patch for 6 hours, including during a gentle cycling workout and it remained attached. After this I decided to remove it (although it seemed to still be working) as I had to wash my hair. Upon removal, there was no irritation on my skin from the adhesive; a big win as this was one of my main concerns.
Not long afterwards I received the Dutch Natural Healing 30 x 15mg patches. These cost me 19.80€ and there were no additional fees as these came from within the EU. I also received a bonus 10ml bottle of their 5% Back2Life CBD oil.
I was surprised to see that in comparison to the Cannacares patches, these were extremely thin, flexible and lightweight. They applied much more like a sticker, had a “barely there feeling” and stayed on immaculately. However, I was a little underwhelmed by their initial pain relief effect. It’s possible that this was due to me taking a complete break from CBD products the week before (due to my EEG examinations). In my experience, it takes at least a few days for CBD to build up and reach its full effect on the body.
I wore this patch for 12 hours and decided to supplement it with a few pumps of the Back2Life CBD oil that I had received, which worked well. I could have easily kept the patch on overnight if I did not have to shower.
Fortunately, there was once again no irritation on my skin and the Dutch Natural Healing patches had absolutely no smell.
24 Hour Test
Both patches performed similarly when applied for a 24 hour period.
While the Cannacares patch had a more potent effect, it stopped working after about 14 hours (honestly…still impressive!). The Dutch Natural Healing patch took longer to start making a noticeable difference (about 30 minutes) but had a more noticeable effect than during the previous day. I also woke up the next morning with less pain and stiffness than usual, giving me the impression that it continued to work during the night.
Unfortunately, the Cannacares patch required strapping tape to keep it in place after about 12 hours, as it had started to become loose from moving with my skin and was sticking to the fabric of my sleeves. The Dutch Natural Healing patch on the other hand stayed in place for the full 24 hours without so much as a wrinkle.
The Dutch Natural Healing patches also have a mechanism by which the inky design on the patch fades in order to indicate when it is empty. However, I found that this was not particularly helpful as patches are supposed to be applied to the back, hip, chest, or outer arm. These are all areas where I have birth marks or Keratosis Pilaris, obscuring the already faint design. I imagine that people with a deeper skin tone would also have difficulty taking advantage of this function.
Neither patch caused any skin irritation after 24 hours.
A few repeat trials of the 24 hour test confirmed my overall impression that the Cannacares patches have a slightly more potent and immediate effect, but the Dutch Natural Healing Patches provide a slower release and longer lasting benefit for pain and stiffness.
A few days into trying CBD patches, I found myself suffering from bad neck pain and decided to try applying the patches directly to the neck area. Both patches provided a better level of pain relief directly to the neck and shoulder area when applied in this way. However, they did not provide much relief from the associated tension headache. This is similar to my experiences with sub-lingual CBD.
The Cannacares patch required extra strapping after about 6 hours as it became loose from bending with my neck joint. Overall, it provided about 10 hours of quality neck pain relief.
The Dutch Natural Healing patch did not require any additional securing and provided an impressive 24 hours of neck pain relief, however, its pain relief benefits did not extend to my lower body as well as with the Cannacares patch.
Having made an initial study of my reaction to transdermal CBD patches, I was interested to see how I would be affected by different dosages. I did not feel that there was a noticeable difference in the initial potency of the Cannacares 20mg patch in comparison to the 10mg one. However, the effect did last slightly longer, about 17 hours.
I noticed a more significant difference when I applied two 15mg Dutch Natural Healing patches at once. I applied one to each side of my lower back (my most troublesome area for the day) and was rewarded with an excellent level of back pain relief for the entire day. It also gave me a reasonable level of relief in other areas of the body, albeit a bit lacking in the neck and shoulder region. I did not feel the need to supplement the patches with oral CBD when they were paired like this.
I decided to add this final section of my review several weeks after I did my initial trials. Mainly because my relationship with CBD has changed a lot since I wrote the main body of this article. I realised that I was noticing a strong correlation between taking CBD several days in a row and a big reduction in the frequency of my migraines and other neurological symptoms. After discussing this observation with my doctor, she encouraged me to try using CBD as a daily migraine preventative.
I decided to re-purchase the Dutch Natural Healing patches as well as their Back2Life CBD oil. Although long-term use of the patches gave me an increasingly potent level of relief from joint and muscle pain, they did not quite do enough for my migraines on their own. After this I decided to try combining a daily 15mg patch with a few pumps of sub-lingual CBD oil (spread out throughout the day)…and that my friends is when the magic happened!
After about 10 days of consistently following this regime I only had what I would call “baby” migraines and have not had ANY incidences where I have had to lock myself in a dark room for hours on end. I have also noticed a sharp reduction in my neurological symptoms. I have not had any episodes of partial paralysis for almost four weeks now, and have had considerably less incidences of altered consciousness and uncontrollable jerking. I do still experience episodes of numbness that need further investigation, but I find myself feeling overall happier, less exhausted and more able to cope with the symptoms that I do still have.
Upon taking a break from the patches and only continuing with the use of sub-lingual oils, I continued to experience relief from my neurological symptoms, but found that I did not get as effective relief from joint pain and stiffness. I especially noticed a difference with this when awaking first thing in the morning.
I am extremely glad that I discovered transdermal CBD patches. For me, they have proved to be an effective form of relief for mild to moderate, muscle and joint pain. They appear to provide a comparable level of pain relief to CBD oils for a far cheaper price. They are also an extremely convenient and portable method of relief.
Both sub-lingual and transdermal CBD products start working faster for me than opiate painkillers and cause less side effects. However, when the dosage of CBD is compared in mg, transdermal patches provided me with a longer lasting and more potent effect than sublingual oils, suggesting that there is definitely some merit to the higher level of bio-availability provided by transdermal patches.
Both Cannacares and Dutch Natural Healing patches were comfortable to wear and held up well to the impact of everyday movement as well as exercise induced sweat. However, neither brand’s product can get “wet,” making it difficult to keep them in place for the recommended 24-36 hours.
Cannacares CBD patches did seem to provide a slightly more immediate pain relieving effect, but also required extra effort to ensure they stayed attached to the skin for the full 24 hours. The 10mg patches provided 12-14 hours of relief, whilst the 20mg patches provided 16-17 hours of relief. Overall, I did not notice a huge difference between the efficacy of the different doses.
The Dutch Natural Healing patches were initially less potent in their pain-relieving effect but provided longer lasting relief and better relief overnight. They were thinner, more secure and appeared much more subtle on the skin. The overall cost of these patches was also significantly less, making it easy to justify using the patches in pairs to re-create a similar level of relief to the Cannacares’ patches
The Dutch Natural Healing did patches not seem to provide effective relief against severe headaches or migraines on their own. However, I have been very impressed with the overall results of combing a daily 15mg patch g with 4-5 supplemental pumps of their Back2Life CBD oil. With this method I have experienced a great reduction in the frequency of my neurological symptoms and migraines, and have also noticed that I am overall in better spirits.
I am very much converted to using transdermal CBD patches and would happily re-purchase from either of these brands!
Have you tried CBD patches? Share your experience in the comments below!
Cannacares website – an in-depth summary of current research into the different benefits of CBD. They do a good job of differentiating between claims that still require further investigation and those that are already backed by solid research.
Dutch Natural Healing’s FAQS – information about how different types of CBD products work and the potential side effects.
National Library of Medicine – information about the high bio-availability of transdermal and intranasal CBD.
Psychreg– concise explanation of how transdermal patches work and how the “drug concentration gradient” mechanism allows them to be more effective than oral CBD consumption.
US National Library of Medicine – A study showing a marked reduction of pain and inflammation in rats using transdermal CBD.
For further information about the other existing research into CBD, please see part 1 of this series – CBD: Separating Fact From Fiction.