Whether you're an athlete or visit your local gym only a few times a year, you've likely experienced soreness or pain. Even sitting still for too long or lifting children all day can cause your muscles to feel stiff. Luckily cannabis and its cannabinoids are well-suited to help soothe the pain. One such cannabis product type that lends itself well to muscle pain relief is CBD muscle balm.
What is CBD muscle balm?
CBD muscle balm, also known as CBD muscle rub, is a fragrant topical oil or cream that individuals use to soothe sore muscles. CBD balm is generally mixed with other soothing ingredients such as peppermint oil, tea tree, eucalyptus, and other oils.
The cannabis industry features a wide range of topicals, of which CBD balm is a member. By definition, these products contain no more than a 0.3% concentration of THC – thus, they won't cause a "high" feeling. CBD balm is an excellent alternative for individuals who want to avoid using THC or who live in an area where THC products are illegal.
Does CBD balm work?
Many consumers find CBD to be soothing and relaxing, but the exact experience you get from a CBD muscle rub depends on several factors. These factors include the type of CBD used in the balm, extra ingredients such as essential oils, the total dosage, and individual differences in the consumer.
CBD products come in various formulas, typically fitting into one of three categories: full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolate. Full-spectrum CBD is extracted from the cannabis plant and contains minor cannabinoids, terpenes, and trace levels of THC. Broad-spectrum includes a similar range of cannabis matter with the THC removed. Finally, isolate is CBD stripped of all other compounds and left in a pure powder form. The presence or absence of these compounds has varying effects on consumers.
The total amount of CBD in your balm has an impact on whether or not the balm provides relief. Some people may need more substantial doses to feel effective relief. Read the label to understand all the ingredients, and know that lab-tested products are more likely to provide relief.
What the research says
Limited research supports CBD's efficacy on inflammation because most studies that examine the anti-inflammatory benefits of cannabis include whole-plant analysis, which naturally contains THC and other cannabinoids.
An in vitro study published in Pain showed that rats who had received doses of CBD in arthritic knees showed less inflammation and fewer signs of pain. A review published in Frontiers in Neurology showed that CBD could reduce inflammation and help improve pain and mobility in patients with multiple sclerosis. However, much more research is needed to scientifically support CBD muscle balm's ability to soothe pain.
It's not entirely clear whether infused skin-use topicals are genuinely effective, but consumers seem to feel improvements. The Arthritis Foundation surveyed 2,600 patients with arthritis and found that 79% of respondents had considered CBD use or had already used it, either as an alternative to other pain-relieving balms or anti-inflammatory prescription medications such as NSAIDs.
How does CBD muscle balm work?
Topical CBD products work locally on specific parts of the body, potentially helping soothe pain on areas such as joints or particular muscles. CBD gets absorbed by the skin and doesn't enter the bloodstream. As such, the balm affects the body similarly to over-the-counter topical creams to relieve pain for a certain amount of time.
CBD muscle balm interacts with the high concentration of cannabinoid receptors in the skin. These receptors are part of the body's endocannabinoid system, which is responsible for maintaining homeostasis across many bodily functions, including pain management.
An in vitro study published in Neurology showed that CBD binds to and desensitizes these receptors, which mediate pain perception and inflammation.
Most consumers rub the CBD topical into their skin where the pain is localized and allow the cannabinoids to work. Some balms also use essential oils such as peppermint oil or menthol, which adds a cooling sensation to the skin and has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.
Does CBD help with muscle recovery?
After an intense sweat session, it's common to experience muscle aches and soreness. Workouts cause microscopic tears to the fibers in muscles, which can lead to inflammation and the subsequent feeling of being sore or in pain. While the breaking down and recovery of muscle fibers after intense workouts is critical to growth, soreness feels unpleasant and, in excess, can cause changes in the body.
Several pieces of evidence, including those illustrated above, indicate that CBD is useful for soothing inflammation involved with soreness. CBD also suppresses chemokine, cytokine, and the production of T-regulatory cells, all of which slow down the muscle recovery process. By suppressing the inflammatory responses of a workout, CBD allows muscles to recover more rapidly.
CBD muscle balm isn't the only thing that helps with recovery. Consumers use CBD-infused edibles, tinctures, and vapes to achieve similar relief measures, though the results depend on the product quality and dosage.
Topicals can also help with conditions beyond muscle recovery or pain relief. Many commercial beauty products use hemp oil or coconut oil ingredients to treat skin conditions or add a luster to the face or skin.