You’ve likely heard of CBD as a buzzy ingredient that’s being added to everything from iced matcha lattes to no-nonsense tinctures and even dog treats. The latest craze within this trend is getting a CBD massage. But what exactly is a CBD massage? And is it worth the hype?
For me, massages are a lifesaver—my chronic back and neck tension leave me visiting a masseuse at least a few times a year. I stretch in yoga class and at home using physical therapy techniques, and I even have one of those Thera Canes that looks like a straight up torture device (my dog is actually scared of it). But still, there’s nothing quite like a massage: The soft smell of lavender and frankincense oils in the air, the smooth trip-hop beats setting the tone and that sweet, sweet relief when the therapist works out several long-standing knots. Massages are the ultimate luxury and a total necessity, all wrapped into a 60-minute session.
All of this to say: I was really interested in discovering what CBD could bring to the experience, so I did a little digging. According to expert Sabina King, a holistic health advocate and founder of Hempure CBD, “a CBD lotion or balm is primarily used for muscle inflammation (soreness) and skin inflammation,” which sounded like exactly what I needed. So I booked myself an appointment. More on that below, but first, let’s get the basics out of the way.
What is CBD, exactly?
CBD, or cannabidiol, is an active ingredient found in cannabis and hemp. It’s thought to interact with receptors in your brain and immune system to help with pain management, anxiety, epilepsy and insomnia. It can be ingested orally in the form of oils and tinctures, capsules or edibles, or used topically as a balm, cream or bath soak.
While CBD and THC are both derived from the cannabis plant, there is a crucial difference between the two compounds: THC produces psychoactive effects that can alter your state of mind. CBD is non-psychoactive and will not give you a “high.”
While more extensive research is still necessary to make firm conclusions about the measurable effectiveness of CBD, there are a lot of firsthand experiences that tout some pretty impressive results—like these parents who use CBD to stop their daughter's seizures—and many researchers believe in its effects on the receptors in our brains and bodies to positively influence brain function, mood, immunity and perception of pain.
So how does a CBD massage work?
A CBD massage is just like a regular massage—the difference is in the lotion used on your body. The cream is infused with the ingredient and applied by your massage therapist during bodywork. “Applying CBD topically is one of the best ways to get direct activation and relaxation,” says King. “Stimulating the endocannabinoid receptors with CBD during a massage can open up stiff muscles so you can reach your body’s full potential.”
She goes on to note that “the CBD concentration for topical applications is important. A 200mg lotion in a 4oz bottle contains negligible amounts of CBD. Look for a very high concentration, not just the mg on the bottle.” For context, anything in the 250mg to 300mg range is considered a low-concentration topical. High-concentration topicals can reach up to 1500mg of CBD. While you certainly want the lotion to work, you have to find the right concentration for you.
Great, but I get drug tested for work. Will the CBD from my massage show up?
Because you’re using it topically, the answer is no. CBD is not water-soluble, so it won’t absorb into your body enough to enter your blood stream—it’ll absorb just through the skin’s surface to interact with nearby receptors to relieve pain.
Pure CBD in general will not alter the results of a drug test, but you have to be careful. There’s little regulation when it comes to producing CBD products, and in some cases where the producer isn’t upfront, trace amounts of THC can be found in their supply. But, if manufactured ethically and marketed honestly, your pure CBD product won’t cause you to fail a drug test. Just make sure you’re always doing your research and using the brands you trust.
OK, so what’s a CBD massage actually like?
I’ll be honest, when I went in for my massage, I wasn’t expecting much. I’d dabbled in ingestible CBD products before and wasn’t always impressed. But boy, did I underestimate the power of a topical lotion.
I popped into my favorite local massage spot in Denver, Lodo Massage Studio, for its signature Mile High massage. I talked about my pain points with my massage therapist, and we decided that she’d focus the session on my back. Then came time to choose a lotion. I went with the Apothecanna Extra Strength, which has 236ml of CBD in an 8oz bottle (that’s equal to a whopping 1,000mg, if you’re looking to compare to King’s concentration example).
As my therapist went through the motions of my massage, my mind didn’t wander to stressful thoughts about work or worrying about the fact that I still hadn’t texted my friends back from two days ago. Instead, I fell into a more meditative state because I was able to relax more deeply than ever before. It was like the CBD lotion was letting the healing effects of the massage go deeper.
For the first time ever, I actually took the massage therapist up on the offer to just lie on the table for a few extra minutes after she was done. I needed that time to snap back to reality and wake up from this ridiculously unwound state I was in. And, you know, to wipe the drool off my face.
Once home, I felt incredible. My neck and back were free of the constricting tension they always carry and I recognized a satisfying sense of calm. Again, CBD is not psychoactive; I think I was simply still riding the wave of zero pain (which is a rarity in my case). In the next couple of days after the CBD massage I felt less soreness and my muscles stayed loose for longer.
The verdict? It was like an even more effective massage, and I loved it. If you’re wondering if I’d do it again, the answer is yes. And I may or may not already have my next appointment in the books.
A final note…
If you’re still trying to figure out if a CBD massage is right for you, King says, “Applying CBD as a balm or lotion would not be the most effective form of CBD ingestion for someone looking to improve stress, digestion, and cognition. If you're looking for relief in those areas, it’s best to go with a concentrated tincture.”
Can I buy my own CBD massage lotion?
You bet you can. Here are a couple we recommend: