Transdermal patches have become an increasingly popular method for delivering active ingredients into the body. They are easy to use and are becoming more widely accepted as an alternative to traditional active ingredient delivery routes such as taking pills or supplements orally.
But how do these patches work? This article explores the mechanisms and potential benefits of transdermal patches, including their effectiveness in delivering active molecules like CBD and other functional ingredients like vitamins. We will also look at the scientific evidence that supports the use of transdermal patches and their potential to be used in the future.
By the end of this article, you should have a better understanding of the potential benefits of transdermal patches and their effectiveness.
How Transdermal Patches Work
Transdermal patches are small, adhesive patches applied to the skin to deliver active ingredients painlessly through the skin and into the bloodstream.
This pathway is very efficient as it bypasses the digestive system and liver - where much of the ingredients are broken down and filtered out by your body - meaning that transdermal absorption can significantly increase the level of active ingredients that actually get absorbed and put to use (bioavailability).
This means that for some substances patches have the potential to deliver better results than the same dosage would via oral administration.
Transdermal drug delivery has been used in medicinal settings for many years for a variety of drug treatments - from nicotine patches to help smokers quit to HRT patches to aid with symptoms of menopause.
There are a few different types of transdermal patches that are used for different ingredients, but they all act in a very similar way.
When a transdermal patch is applied to the skin, the adhesive mix in the patch acts on the skin to allow the ingredients to be delivered and absorbed through the skin pores, and from there into the capillaries which carry them to the bloodstream.
The main difference between the different patch types is how long the ingredients are delivered for and how much of the ingredients are delivered.
In Matrix system patches, the active ingredients are combined with an adhesive layer in a semi-solid form, which is applied to a backing material and delivered on a protective liner. When the protective liner is removed and the patch placed on the skin this creates a concentration gradient, which allows the ingredients to flow from the patch on the skin (where the concentration is high) into the body (where it is lower).
Reservoir-style patches use a liquid component, separate from the adhesive layer and this tends to be prone to leakage.
How To Use Transdermal Patches
Transdermal patches are very simple to use. They are simply peeled from their temporary liner and the sticky side is then applied to the skin.
Once direct contact with the skin is made they will begin to deliver their active ingredients and continue to do so until they are all absorbed. At this point the used patch can be removed and if required a new patch can be applied, generally not to the same site so that the skin can breathe.
Benefits of Transdermal Patches
Efficacy - One of the many benefits of transdermal patches (or medicated patches as they are also called) is that they allow the delivery of ingredients that aren’t easily absorbed through the digestive system, getting them directly into the bloodstream so that they can get to work quickly.
This makes patches very effective in delivering ingredients like CBD (cannabidiol), which is naturally found in the hemp or cannabis plant. CBD is a non-psychoactive compound used for many different purposes, including pain relief, sleep disorders, anxiety, and more. CBD is also one of the most researched natural ingredients in the world, with over 1600 studies being published at the time of writing this article.
When CBD is administered via a transdermal patch, it is delivered through the skin and into the bloodstream, so the CBD can be easily transported throughout the body. This makes a transdermal patch very effective for delivering CBD and other functional natural ingredients.
Convenience - Another benefit of transdermal patches is that they are convenient. When a transdermal patch is applied to the skin, it is designed to stay there for up to 24 hours or even longer, depending on the patch you use. This means that you don’t have to take a daily pill or remember to take a supplement.
A transdermal patch will start to deliver its ingredients when it is applied and stop once it is removed. This can make a big difference for people who struggle to remember to take supplements or who have difficulty taking pills or measuring out their daily doses.
Potential Issues with Transdermal Patches
While transdermal delivery systems like skin patches are generally very safe, some users may experience reactions or adverse effects to the adhesives or even the active ingredients used, generally manifesting as skin irritation.
Not all substances are suitable for current patch technology - the molecules need to be able to be incorporated in a suitable adhesive and be able to permeate the skin without significant risk of irritation.
Where a very high dose is required, the area of patch needed to successfully deliver the dose is increased (especially with Matrix patches) and so very high strength patches can be quite large. Generally though for most applications patches are very discreetly sized.
It is also important to apply patches to clean skin, free of lotions or other substances as this can prevent proper adhesion so that the patch falls off. Similarly applying too close to a joint may cause the patch to loosen and lose effectiveness.
Some of the many benefits of transdermal patches are that they are easy to administer and are convenient for the person using them. They can also deliver ingredients that can’t be easily absorbed through the digestive system, like CBD, Valerian, Passionflower, Gotu Kola, Black Cohosh, Turmeric, Resveratrol, Blue Skullcap and Hops.
They can allow the user to benefit from natural active functional ingredients and reduce digestive side effects.
In America, transdermal patches are regulated by the FDA, meaning that they have been studied and proven safe and effective for delivering active ingredients.