Walking into the brick building off Alberta for my first cannabis oil massage, I was a wreck.
Stress in both my professional and personal lives had tied my neck and shoulders into a Gordian knot, and I had recently begun to feel a strange tingling in my left arm as an extra fun byproduct of all that extra tension. A massage sounded like the ticket out of a physically uncomfortable situation, but I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from a cannabis component—especially since I was due to meet friends for drinks after my experience.
As masseuse Esther Yan explained, though, in her experience offering cannabis massage to friends and select clients, the THC-infused oil creates much more of a deep, restorative relaxation rather than the typical high you get from smoking flower or even a dab. Yan targets specific muscle groups with Luminous Botanicals Sky Blend, which has 18 mg of THC and 2 mg of CBD per 0.8 ml dose, blending it with standard vegan massage lotion on areas of the body in less dire need of release.
Prior to starting, Yan checked in about the level of pressure I prefer during a massage—hard, but not so intense I think the masseuse is trying to extract state secrets—and continued to check in throughout. Once I'd had a chance to slip out of my clothes and between the sheets of the massage table, Yan got to work.
The oil didn't smell strongly of cannabis when first applied, and throughout the 90-minute massage, I caught only an occasional whiff of dank. For at least 30 minutes, I drifted off to some meditative place between wakefulness and sleep—not fully conscious, but still present. I came to when Esther began working on an especially distressed section of my left trapezius. That was when I discovered that, rather than dreamily contemplating the first season of Outlander as I had been before sinking into repose, I had emerged in a state of grace.
Somewhere in the middle of the massage and my own murky subconscious, I'd activated the ability to forgive—really forgive—the people responsible for my worst traumas. As Yan pinched a pressure point deep in my armpit and kneaded the base of my skull, I felt profoundly unburdened, both of the physical tension that had been plaguing me the past couple of weeks, and much of the emotional baggage that made my 20s such a gyre of whiskey and woe.
While scientists are still working to better understand how the human body processes cannabis topically, it's clear the effect pure massage has on the autonomic nervous system is enhanced when our skin's cannabinoid receptors are activated by THC or CBD, which also stimulate the central nervous system. That's great news for people living with anxiety and depression, conditions which can also affect the central nervous system and even contribute to chronic pain disorders.
At the conclusion of the massage, Yan checked in on how I was feeling and let me know what to expect afterward. I was instructed to take it easy at happy hour, drink plenty of water, and ice any sore spots the next day. According to my friends waiting at Hale Pele, I practically floated to the table.
I definitely didn't feel high as if I'd just burned a joint. Instead, I was noticeably, undeniably serene—and apparently did smell of herbaceous terpenes. With that in mind, you might want to save your own cannabis oil massage for after work, rather than a long lunch, if your office is the sort of place that frowns on its employees giving off a scent of the devil's lettuce as they pass.
That said, Esther's work was truly the best massage of my life, both in technique and the wide-ranging therapeutic effect of the cannabis oil itself. While spiritual awakenings are not guaranteed, Luminous Botanicals does note that "the soaring effects of THC can be helpful for…making space for insight, inspiration, and reflection."
If you want to experiment with at-home massage or spot treatments, you can purchase these tinctures yourself at dispensaries throughout Portland and Oregon. Or you can leave application up to the experts, and book an appointment with Esther Yan for a little dip into serious, hardcore bliss.
GO: Visit estheryan.com to make an appointment.