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.)
The other issue? Topical hemp pain relief products and cannabis creams will treat anatomical structures within 1 centimeter of the skin—and the muscle where your actual soreness is located is going to be deeper than that, explains Ricardo Colberg, M.D., a physician at Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center in Birmingham, AL. (The good news: Since it doesn't need to be absorbed deeply, CBD and cannabis could do amazing things as a skincare ingredient.)
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.
What Science Says About Hemp Creams for Pain Relief
Science has shown that cannabis is an effective pain reliever, reinforced in a massive new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. But there's a big difference between ingesting cannabis or its individual chemicals orally and absorbing it topically through your skin.
Biology lesson aside, all of this has yet to be proven in scientific studies on humans.
"The pain and stiffness that comes post-workout or from overexertion certainly has a pro-inflammatory component to it, so it's reasonable to think CBD or other cannabinoids might have benefits, but we have no research to support this yet," adds Gerdeman.
Hemp creams for pain relief are typically is made from infusing high-quality cannabis flowers in some kind of quality oil-coconut or olive typically-which extracts the active compounds, either CBD, THC, or both depending on the type of hemp used. (Here's a guide to the difference between THC, CBD, cannabis, and hemp.) This oil is then blended with other therapeutic herbs, such as arnica or lemongrass essential oils, that are thought to also ease pain.
Consumers aren’t waiting for clinical trials. But they need to remember, says Hurd, that slathering on creams can be risky, considering how the skin absorbs everything. Even topical CBD can react with oral medications.
Opioid pain relief can cause nausea, constipation and addiction. Standard anti-inflammatory meds carry the risk of stomach issues, including bleeding. The limited options prompt many folks to try creams and lotions containing cannabidiol (CBD).
Researchers have confirmed that CBD works against pain and inflammation , and they’re still finding new ways that it works in the body . They're also working to nail down the proper dose of topical CBD needed for pain relief. For example, the dose that brings relief to achy joints may be insufficient to effectively treat nerve damage in feet. While rubbing topical CBD onto the skin seems to work, researchers still need to figure out how much skin coverage is most effective. Some skin creams also contain menthols, which carry their own pain relief and anti-inflammatory properties, possibly masking any effect from the CBD itself.
Skin in the Game
Pain is a big driver behind opioid addiction. Many people who began treating chronic pain with prescription opioids have switched to heroin when other drugs became difficult to get. A lot of people have died as a result, says Yasmin Hurd , an addiction specialist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. “We have so many people in our society now experimenting with CBD to manage pain,” she says. “They are going to their clinicians and asking them for CBD.”
By the time you feel any annoying itch or prick of pain, CB1 and CB2 receptors on your skin cells have already fired off signals to help dampen those unpleasant vibes. These receptors — part of the body’s endocannabinoid system — spend their workdays responding to chemical messages that help our skin nurture a healthy balance. CBD cream bypasses the CB1 and CB2 receptors and heads straight for a neurotransmitter middleman that blocks signals for pain and itch by working through agents called anandamide and 2-AG.
Consumers need to be educated, as well, says Cather. She works to develop a trusting relationship with her patients, so that they’ll feel comfortable talking about using CBD. She also urges her patients to find companies that document what’s actually in the bottle or jar. Asking the company about their quality control, such as how often they document ingredients, can help also vet the product.
Hurd suggests telling your doctor if you are using CBD creams because what’s absorbed into your skin will get into your bloodstream. “These are sometimes things people don’t appreciate when they are putting cream ‘only on my knee,’” says Hurd. “We also have a lot of seniors using CBD creams for arthritic pain and we need to know sooner rather than later whether this chemical cream used by so many people can indeed be effective.”
Medterra goes above and beyond when it comes to quality standards and transparency. It follows cGMPs for topical manufacturing, and its products are formulated with soothing natural ingredients to alleviate pain sensations. Every Medterra product has a detailed third-party lab report available that breaks down cannabinoid and terpene content, as well as pesticide and heavy-metal testing. This is a great CBD lotion to try if you want to avoid THC.
This pain relief cream expertly combines broad spectrum CBD extract and other beneficial ingredients to promote joint support and reduce inflammation. Each bottle is made from Colorado-grown hemp plant extract, and this cream is also completely THC-free. All CBDistillery products are fully lab tested and made in America, so you can trust that its products are of the highest quality. CBD cream reviews usually include CBDistillery because of the value the brand offers. The brand also makes one of the best CBD oils.
Best Organic CBD Cream: Cornbread Hemp CBD Lotion + Menthol
Plant People prides itself in selling high-quality hemp products, which are organic, lab-tested, non-GMO, and gluten free. The brand's Soothe+ Balm topical is made with full spectrum hemp extract that includes minor cannabinoids, including cannabichromene (CBC) and cannabigerol (CBG). Plant People is also a certified B Corp, making this a pain cream from a top-notch organization.
CBD has been shown in clinical studies to help with pain-specific medical conditions including chronic pain, peripheral neuropathy, pain and inflammation, arthritis pain, and myofascial pain. Cannabinoids can also help improve pain in patients receiving palliative care. A 2020 cross-sectional study found that nearly 25% of outpatient palliative care patients use CBD, with topical application being the most common form used.
Once you've finished applying, you can wash your hands and wait. Most CBD lotions will take a few minutes before they kick in, but can peak one to two hours later. You may need to reapply a few times a day for full effect.