Biology lesson aside, all of this has yet to be proven in scientific studies on humans.
"When it comes to cannabis-based topicals for muscle soreness or other pain relief, there's absolutely no reason why it should be a big deal to try," he says.
There is an argument to be made for the simple fact that science hasn't caught up to the trend (and laws) of cannabis yet. (Here's what research has to say about the potential benefits of CBD and cannabis so far.) And there are doubtlessly researchers testing the efficacy of CBD creams for pain relief as we speak.
How CBD and Cannabis Might Help Pain Relief
If you read the ingredient list, often everything in the jar is straight from mother earth. As long as that's indeed the case with the cannabis cream you have your eye on, the formula is immensely safe, chemically, says Gregory Gerdeman, Ph.D., neurophysiologist who researches cannabinoid biology and pharmacology at Eckerd College in Saint Petersburg, FL. And since hemp pain relief creams are formulated to be topical (absorbing into the top layer of skin) and not transdermal (which would pass through the skin and into your bloodstream) there's no risk of getting high, explains Gerdeman. (P.S. Here's How Marijuana Affects Athletic Performance.)
These topical ointments, creams, and lotions are infused with CBD, or cannabidiol, a compound found in the cannabis plant. Manufacturers claim it can help alleviate acute pain and muscle soreness. To reiterate for the uninitiated: CBD is not the same as THC because CBD does not have any psychoactive effects — aka it won't get you high.
A study analysis in the Journal of Pain Research confirms that topical use of certain cannabinoid topicals can reduce pain in animals with inflammation or neuropathic pain. And science has found topical creams with THC and CBD help relieve pain for conditions like multiple sclerosis. But for the vast majority of chronic pain — and most certainly for acute pain like post-workout — the scientific jury is 100 percent still out. "There's a little bit of data in support of CBD for pain relief, but to go from animal to human is a giant leap," says Sexton.
Finally, you have receptors called TrpV1 that detect and regulate your body temperature. When activated, they put out heat, soothing your pain receptors. Using this channel, CBD makes these pain receptors hyperactive for a period of time, causing them to get hot, desensitizing them and downregulating those pain-sensing nerve endings.
While many people swear by topical CBD, more research needs to be done. Currently, the majority of the studies on CBD pertain to oral dosages, which, in some cases, have been associated with diarrhea, nausea, fatigue, drowsiness, and more. None of these results, however, have been tied to topical use as of now. As such, when considering a CBD massage, remember that, while it seems like everyone on social media is singing CBD’s praises, the science isn’t all there (yet).
Health-wise, incorporating CBD into your routine has been shown to have amazing anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, and antibacterial properties, and lately, there’s been a boom of CBD products and treatments in the wellness space.
Let me just start by saying that there’s nothing I hate more than when people tell me to “relax.” As a highly emotional person, this is possibly the worst thing you can say to me when I’m feeling stressed or high-strung, and I guarantee that I will do the exact opposite the second I hear those words (my ex-boyfriends can attest!). Therefore, I felt like I had come to a place that understood me when I walked into NYC’s Chillhouse and saw that all the staff were wearing shirts that said, “Don’t tell me to relax.” Finally, a place full of kindred spirits who understood me. If more people realized that relaxing is not just something you can tell yourself to do, the world might be a more understanding place.
Bliss out. That’s it. Simple as that. Following a CBD massage, there’s no need to immediately hop in the shower—in fact, it’s advised against. By going about the rest of your day with the CBD cream still intact, you’ll be able to benefit from the calming ingredient for hours to come.
For me, the concept of relaxing often feels like a nice but unrealistic fairytale. Yes, of course, I’d like to Zen out and release tension from my body and mind. Now, would someone explain to me how I’m supposed to do that? Clearing your thoughts and allowing yourself to slip into deep relaxation is something that feels quite unattainable in a world where information is exchanged at lightning speed and there’s always, always something on your mind—from work stress to realizing you really underestimated Jessica Biel after watching season one of The Sinner (just me?). Anyway, all of this goes to say that I walked into Chillhouse feeling hopeful but slightly dubious about the de-stressing benefits promised by its CBD massage, an add-on you can choose to boost any of its normal massages for just $15.
As mentioned, the biggest difference between a CBD massage and a regular massage is the CBD. When it comes to Chillhouse (and most massage studios for that matter), the kneading technique doesn’t change. That way clients are able to really tell the difference of the CBD inclusion alone, as opposed to trying to figure out what’s a result of the CBD and what’s due to the rubbing motions.
In terms of the benefits of CBD massage specifically, “CBD oil has natural anti-inflammatory effects that can more effectively soothe sore muscles and joints, which makes it great for massages,” explains Cyndi Ramirez-Fulton, Chillhouse founder. “It encourages the body to speed up the healing process and is beneficial in relieving anxiety as well as gastric distress. Our CBD cream also has arnica and lidocaine, which allows for additional anti-inflammatory benefits.” (As a note, arnica is a common natural ingredient that people swear helps reduce bruising and muscle fatigue more quickly, and lidocaine gives a soothing, cooling feeling). Ramirez-Fulton is clearly a CBD believer and told me that if she ever can’t make it in for a massage, she’ll turn to her inventory of CBD oils and creams. The second she puts them on her shoulders or anywhere tense, she feels temporary relief. “For creams, I love Lord Jones ($60) and Cannuka ($28). For ingestibles, I love Soul Addict’s hemp butter ($35) and Cap Beauty’s The Daily Hit,” she says. “Hard to say what’s working for me long-term, but I’m overall less stressed these days, so something’s gotta be working!”
With CBD massage oil, you get an enhanced therapeutic experience, although it’s less potent than when taken orally. CBD oil works to deliver powerful muscle relief throughout your massage. It’s for this reason that many spas have started using CBD oil to level up in-spa treatments, but those treatments come at a price.
CBD oil has been popping up in tons of massage therapy, both in salons and DIY home treatments. The non-psychoactive compound, called cannabidiol and shortened to CBD, is an active ingredient found within the cannabis plant. Studies show that CBD may provide a range of therapeutic benefits, such as pain and anxiety relief, along with alleviating cancer treatment side effects. This wide-reaching oil has lots of topical benefits as well, like increasing skin elasticity and reducing acne and redness.
If you don’t want to pay a spa’s high prices, it’s possible to purchase a vetted CBD-infused topical online. That being said, not all CBD is created equal. For instance, many prefer a full or broad-spectrum formula to a pure CBD isolate product, as it can contain beneficial terpenes and cannabinoids. Some lotions and oils do contain a pure, full-spectrum formula at a reasonable price point. Get all the therapeutic effects minus the hefty price tag with our picks of the best CBD massage oil below.