The fatty tissue can only hold so much oil, so, theoretically, if you apply enough of a cannabis cream to your skin, it might leak down into your skeletal muscle just out of diffusion, adds Sexton. But there's no study to show this, and that means you're going to be rubbing on a whole lot of the stuff.
So cannabis lotions may be safe, but there's one problem: There's practically no scientific data to support the idea that a CBD-infused topical pain relief cream is any more effective than other topical pain relievers, such as Tiger Balm, BenGay, or Icy Hot. Michelle Sexton, a San Diego-based naturopathic doctor and medical research director of the Center for the Study of Cannabis and Social Policy says that her patients do seem to have a great interest in cannabis creams and ointments, and roughly 40 percent of them have indeed tried one. However, these people are in her office now because the topicals didn't work for them. "As a medical professional, my opinion is there's little evidence to back up the claims being made—it's all marketing for now," she says.
Even still, cannabis creams could still reduce your acute pain or muscle soreness. That's because pretty much all of these hemp pain relief creams on the market right now have other scientifically-proven analgesic compounds, such as menthol, camphor, and capsaicin which are also found in other, non-CBD topical pain relievers. "Any cream with a heating or cooling sensation desensitizes the nerves to pain by distracting them with stimuli on top," explains Dr. Colberg. Plus you're often massaging the area as you apply, which improves circulation and reduces muscle spasms, he adds. (Get the best of both worlds by trying a CBD massage.)
What Science Says About Hemp Creams for Pain Relief
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.
This brings up an underlying issue with all CBD and hemp products: There is no regulation around how much active CBD or THC is in each cream or how much of the compound is needed to see relief. Read: "If you have three products that say 1 percent CBD infused in coconut oil, one could be great and the other two could be crap—that's the reality of cannabis medicine right now," says Gerdeman. (See: How to Buy Safe and Effective CBD Products)
Biology lesson aside, all of this has yet to be proven in scientific studies on humans.
Chances are if you're on this website and reading this story you currently have an achy muscle or seven somewhere on your body. You might be familiar with foam rolling, warm compresses, or even ice baths as a means of easing muscle soreness, but what about hemp cream for pain relief?
California, for example, requires dispensaries to sell only marijuana that has been tested for pesticides, contaminants, and microbial impurities. Beginning in July 2018, California also began to require testing to determine plant potency (ie, levels of THC and CBD). This information is included on the product label. 12 In addition to t he above, 12 states have enacted legislation allowing for limited use of medical marijuana (ie, low CBD: THC ratios).
For those with concerns about the psychogenic effects, he recommends starting with a one-to-one ratio of THC to CBD for chronic pain. “I usually suggest that people start with 7.5 mg [which, using a standard unit converter amounts to 0.003 oz.] of THC and 7.5 mg of CBD, three or four times a day,” he told Practical Pain Management. “I tell them that the most likely effect is that (a) it’s not going to make their pain go away, and (b) they’re not going to get high.”
The form/route of administration may also play a role in the pain effects of cannabis. Medical cannabis comes in herbal (marijuana), tincture, oil, and edible forms. It can be smoked, vaporized, ingested in edible or other oral forms, taken sublingually (under the tongue), or applied topically (oil). Research on the efficacy of different routes of administration for pain is sparse. However, a 2013 randomized, placebo-controlled, double-dummy, double-blind study compared analgesic effects of smoked marijuana and dronabinol. 7 The results indicated that under controlled conditions, marijuana and dronabinol both decreased pain. However, compared with marijuana, dronabinol produced longer-lasting decreases in pain sensitivity and lower ratings of abuse-related subjective effects, which can be predictive of use and abuse patterns. Other studies suggest that smoking cannabis produces rapid effects, while oral forms take longer to work but may last longer. 8
Herbs, Oils, and Edibles, Oh My!
Medical cannabis is currently legal in 34 states (as of spring 2019), many of which require patient registry or identification cards for the purchase and use of the substance for specific diagnosed medical conditions. These conditions differ by state and continue to change. At the federal level, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I substance under the “Controlled Substances Act,” and there are no recognized medical uses. In many of the states with legalized cannabis, some type of product testing is required, however, testing varies by state and may be limited contamination tests or may include quantification of CBD and THC levels.
For pain relief, he recommends a dose of 15mg THC (0.0005 oz) to 15 mg CBD. In his experience, doses of THC less than 15 mg generally don’t provide pain relief. Doses may be increased if necessary, best guided under a doctor’s orders, to achieve pain relief without unacceptable side effects.
The key to using medical cannabis for pain is two-fold. For starters, a personalized approach is needed. Each person is different, and many adjustments may be needed to zero in on the dose that controls pain with minimal side effects. It’s also important to start on a low dose of THC and CBD.
But I don’t engage in physical activity solely because of my woefully wobbly midsection. My sanity depends on it. Truly. In the immortal words of Elle Woods: Endorphins make you happy!
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.
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Here’s what I have found most effective over the years.
This is every woman’s dream come true. High heels are just not made the way they used to be—stilettos these days are narrower, higher, and pointier. Remember: Louboutin does not concern himself with the comfort of his designs. (He said so himself in the documentary and several other news outlets.) Gone are the days of the sensible heels our grandmothers wore. But alas, sky–high footwear is a necessary evil. So Lord Jones, the wildly–popular CBD company, collaborated with Tamara Mellon to help ease that discomfort. Just dab a little solution onto your feet and wait for your skin to absorb the formula before putting on your four–inch torture device.
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.