Topicals are the gateway drug of modern cannabis.
It's an easy way to dip a toe into new products without risking getting too high, or even stoned at all. They also cut across consumer demographics—whether it's a senior taking his granddaughter's advice for arthritis relief or a millennial tossing a balm in her purse to soothe carpal tunnel
syndrome at work.
But the realm of cannabis products for external use has exploded far beyond the likes of balms and salves, all without the chemicals or fillers found in drugstore pain-relief creams and ointments. In some cases, topicals made with whole-plant extract can effectively treat nervous-system pain better than prescription steroids.
From treating tennis elbow to gentle care for sensitive skin types, here is our roundup of topical varieties for cannabis-based relief.
Balm: Hana Medicinals Bar
A balm's solid consistency doesn't leave oily or sticky residue, so you can swipe some directly onto your bad shoulder while at work without staining your shirt. Topicals only work while they're in contact with your skin, so I slather and massage a good amount onto my forearms and hands before bed to relieve my sore typing muscles while I sleep. Hana's beeswax-based bar is made with 63 mg THC and 52 mg CBD from whole-plant extract via Siskiyou Sungrown, along with arnica and menthol, which can amplify the effects of the THC and CBD.
Massage oil: Sacred Herb Medicinals
If you're talking a real massage, waxy balm will not cut it. An oil formula is key for regularly treating larger areas of the body. The glide is just right for heavier pressure when working out tension set in deeper muscles, and a little of this lightweight formula goes a long way. This 4-ounce bottle of oil from Sacred Herb Medicinals contains 88.5 mg THC, but remember—you won't feel intoxicated, regardless of the layers of oil you rub into a problem area. The THC is absorbed by the skin, but it only relaxes muscles from the outside in.
Where to buy: $40 at Rose City Wellness, 214 NW Couch St., 503-206-4781.
Intimacy oil: Apothecanna Sexy Time
Yes, I'm talking about lube. And this lube is not cheap. But the cannabinoids and luxurious additions like neroli and jasmine essential oils bring about a notably more comfortable and indulgent experience. The coconut and argan oil lasts longer than water-based formulas, and then softens skin and hair long after the sexy time is over. It's definitely many dollars better than any experience involving a squeeze tube of KY.
Face lotion: High Desert Pure Lotion
There are a ton of skin care products hitting shelves, but if you're buying CBD skin care from somewhere other than a licensed dispensary, the ingredients are not derived from real, tested cannabis plants. A bottle of this moisturizing face lotion from the state-licensed processor High Desert Pure is made with a blend of mango and shea butters, almond oil, safflower oil and CO2 extract containing 160 mg THC and 100 mg CBD. Like all skin care, it takes experimentation to find what works with your skin type. But THC can help with circulation, which is what stimulates collagen production and heals broken skin, and CBD is an anti-inflammatory, which can help with redness or irritation.
Face mask: Grön CBD Rejuvenating Mask
Here is an example of an all-CBD, non-cannabis-derived product you can buy outside of a dispensary. The reason I trust it is because Grön tests its CBD products under the same standards required of its THC-infused chocolate bars. The 240 mg of CBD in this mask is synthesized from tree lichen, and it has a similar anti-inflammatory effect that will help calm acne, while familiar ingredients like seaweed, kaolin clay and ginger extract are what many skin care brands call upon to absorb impurities and detoxify congested areas.
Patch: Mary's Medicinals Transdermal Patch CBD/THC 1:1
A transdermal patch is hands-down the most efficient way to administer a controlled dose of cannabis relief directly to your muscles—just slap it on and, within 20 minutes, feel systemic relief in that area. When you're done, simply take it off, or move it to another painful point of tension on your body. These silicone patches contain 16 mg THC and 13 mg CBD, providing eight to 12 hours of relief without the hassle of reapplying cream or popping an ibuprofen every four hours.
Bath salts: Empower Bath Soaking Salts
What improves upon a classic, muscle-repairing epsom salt bath? About 25 mg THC and 29.6 mg CBD from whole-plant cannabis extract. Since submerging your whole body exposes the bathwater to mucous glands that can absorb THC, this is a topical where it's possible to experience a slight buzz. Don't worry, though—Empower conducted numerous focus groups and human tests before landing on a trustworthy formula that effectively relaxes muscles without impairing the consumer. The epsom salt-based mix also contains pink Himalayan and Dead Sea salts, organic jojoba oil and a proprietary fragrance blend that includes bergamot and wintergreen essential oils. It will bring your self-care game to a whole new level.