The only thing that comes close is a Phase 2 clinical trial using a proprietary CBD transdermal gel (meaning it’s meant to go through the skin into the bloodstream) in 320 patients with knee osteoarthritis over 12 weeks, which has not been peer-reviewed to date. Unfortunately, in almost all of the study’s measures of pain, those who received CBD didn’t have statistically different scores from those who got placebo. But “they found some reductions in pain and improvements in physical function,” Boehnke says.
And even though the lotion was applied topically in the rat study, it wasn’t applied locally to the knee. Instead, the researchers were really using the topical application to get it into the rats’ bloodstream, or what’s called systemic administration. But you’d likely need a different dose for it to be effective locally (if you applied it just to your aching shoulder, for instance) in a human. We have no idea what that dose should look like.
But some studies have found essentially zero side effects of high-dose CBD (900mg) and those that researchers do see—like drug interactions—aren’t considered to be issues when CBD is used topically.
Here’s what the research says about using CBD for pain.
More recent research suggests that many of CBD’s effects may occur outside of CB receptors, Jordan Tishler, M.D., medical cannabis expert at InhaleMD in Boston, tells SELF. In fact, according to a recent review published in Molecules, CBD may have effects on some serotonin receptors (known to play a role in depression and anxiety), adenosine receptors (one of the neurological targets for caffeine), and even TRPV-1 receptors (more commonly associated with taste and the sensation of spiciness).
“Cannabidiol is a super messy drug,” Ziva Cooper, Ph.D., research director of the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative in the Jane and Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and the department of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences, tells SELF. “It has lots and lots of targets and it’s not clear how much of its effects on each target contribute to the potential pain relieving effects.”
The first thing to be aware of is the amount of CBD that a product claims to contain. Because the studies we have about CBD and pain all looked at systemic administration rather than truly local, we don’t really know what the correct dose would be when applied locally. It’s tempting to go for the highest amount you can find, but it’s really up to you since we don’t even know where to start.
If you’re ingesting something that only has CBD in it and no THC, you won’t have significant effects in the brain. This is why CBD is often referred to as being “non-psychoactive,” although that’s clearly a bit of an oversimplification because it does do something to the central nervous system.
This high–dose balm seems to be a crowd favorite, certainly in my household. The jar itself contains two ounces of product. It doesn’t seem like much—But because the consistency of the cream is particularly smooth and spreadable, it glides easily onto the skin and covers more real estate. In terms of relief, you can expect gradual relaxation of the muscles—especially if you’re prone to spasms or simply incredibly tight.
I’ve long been a fan of edibles and tinctures, but for those who are skeptical of ingesting it, I’m also a big believer in topicals. From lotions and creams to balms and bath bombs, I have experimented with many different kinds—and I’ve come to rely on them for localized pain and reducing inflammation.
In my early thirties I dabbled in SoulCycle, swimming at the 14th Street Y, and three disastrous attempts at SLT. These days it’s running loops in Central Park, Y7 yoga, and contact combat. And let me tell you, hitting a weekly fitness goal isn’t always easy—especially when you’re rapidly approaching your 40s with a few minor injuries under your belt.
BASKIN GLOW (50MG THC + 500MG CBD; $80)
Here’s what I have found most effective over the years.
One thing to note, though: Only buy from established brands from licensed dispensaries—not random bodegas, sketchy websites, so-called health food stores, or even Amazon. Always ask for COAs (Certificates of Analysis) to ensure that the topical actually contains the cannabinoids it claims to have. And have an open mind about using CBD topicals incorporated with THC—because those two cannabinoids combined are more effective when addressing inflammation, which is the primary cause of soreness and pain.
Baskin has a lower–dose formula that clocks in at 150mg CBD that costs $20 less. But I say, Go big or go home. Invest in the higher dose if you want real relief all over: It’s meant to be used all over the body versus its cousin, which was specifically created for smaller targeted areas. Beyond that, you can always use the 400mg cream the way you see fit: Nobody is going to stop you if you want to use it only in specific pain points.
“CBD is extremely anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective. A normal person may use it to prevent conditions such as arthritis or even topically to prevent acne breakouts,” Dr. Shivani Amin, a physician and cannabis expert who is a member of the AMMPA (American Medical Marijuana Physicians Association), says. “I think CBD shows great promise for the future. It all boils down to educating the public about the correct usage and understanding the plant better.”
We then researched each brand by looking deeply into customer reviews on products, how each company sourced and created its CBD extracts, third-party lab test reports, and more.
Fast and Easy to Use: Not only is the topical salve potent and effective, but it’s also extremely easy and fast to use. The easy-to-use applicator stick allows you to simply rub the salve onto the affected area.
Best CBD Cream for Pain in 2021
CBD creams are an easy, fast, and effective way to decrease pain and reduce and relieve inflammation. Studies show that CBD is highly effective at relieving inflammation because it interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system to calm down overactive pain receptors. Not only that, but CBD itself contains many soothing and healing properties. Therefore, applying CBD cream to swollen, painful, and inflamed areas allows the CBD to soak into the skin to bring down swelling and reduce pain.
FAB’s founder and staff have many years of experience in the health, nutrition, and fitness industries. The company creates CBD products according to a high set of standards that it never deviates from. FAB has a fresh-smelling, highly-effective topical cream that contains 600mg of CBD per jar, a top-shelf line of CBD oils in varying strengths and flavors, top-rated CBD gummies for both anytime and nighttime, Calm & Cool CBD dog treats, and an amazing new line of CBD-free Green Vegan Superfoods.
Clean products: All of CBDistillery’s products are full-spectrum, non-GMO, third-party lab-tested, and US Hemp Authority certified.