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As its popularity has skyrocketed over the last few years, you may have noticed that CBD (or cannabidiol), has been infused into just about everything from bath bombs to toothpicks to coffee. A recent Gallup poll found that 14 percent of Americans use CBD products. Because the chemical influences certain receptors in the nervous system involved in pain and inflammation, one of the most promising uses of topical CBD is aiding in musculoskeletal complaints.
Studies have found that topical CBD may be able to significantly reduce inflammation, regulate the perception of pain, and balance cortisol levels. So if you’re looking to soothe running soreness to recover faster from workouts, topical CBD balms could be effective. As an added bonus, topical CBD has been shown to reduce anxiety and improve sleep, both of which aid in recovery.
We tested out eight of the best CBD recovery salves, creams, and balms on the market this year. Here’s what we thought.
Bluebird Botanicals Hemp Sport | $40
Price: $40 / 3.4 oz. tube
Strength: 200 mg. / oz.
This warming and cooling lotion by Bluebird Botanicals is made with a sativa hemp extract, ginger arnica, mint, jojoba, and coconut oil, so it smells as soothing as it feels. There’s a mint-cool zing as it works its way (rather rapidly) into your skin, then, moments later, a warming sensation that relieves tight muscles.
As an added bonus with this one, we enjoyed that the lotion added moisture and rejuvenation to dry skin and was easily absorbed. Bluebird recommends that you massage a dime-sized amount into specific areas twice daily.
Pachamama Athletic Rub | $50
Price: $50 / 2 oz. jar
Strength: 225 mg. / oz.
This super thick, oil-based salve is combined with lavender and peppermint essential oils and a full-spectrum hemp extract to provide deep relief to your tissues as well as your senses. The aroma is mood-lifting and energizing thanks to the calming lavender and the zippy peppermint combo.
Its creamy consistency is oily, but fast-absorbing. It leaves your skin grease-free yet nourished and moisturized by the shea and cacao butter after a few minutes. This works the best if you apply it frequently throughout the day to reap the full restorative benefits.
Extract Labs Muscle Cream | $90
Price: $90 / 2.95 oz.
Strength: 500 mg./oz.
Delivering a powerful dosage of full-spectrum CBD in a soothing paste that melts into your skin, Extract Labs Muscle Cream was a favorite of our testers. Made with organic shea butter, jojoba and beeswax, the cream is lightly scented with rosemary and lavender. The mix includes cooling menthol and anti-inflammatory arnica in addition to the lab-tested CBD, whose potency you can check by batch number on their site.
Venga CBD Recovery Balm | $50
Price: $50 1 oz. jar
Strength: 500 mg. / oz.
This beeswax-based balm packs a potent dose of CBD with a little 2 ounce jar containing 1000 mg of phytocannabinoid-rich hemp extract. The waxy consistency smooths right onto your skin and can be applied liberally to sore areas. We loved rubbing this on right after a hard running workout because the cooling effect could be felt immediately, quelling inflamed muscles.
The salve’s soothing effects are compounded by the lavender and eucalyptus essential oils, giving you a dreamy sensorial experience. Plus, this additional anti-anxiety benefit promotes anti-inflammatory effects to improve overall healing. We recommend smearing it on right before bed to capitalize on this effect and to let the balm work its magic on your muscles over night.
Naked Leaf CBD Muscle Relief | $44
Price: $44 / 3 oz.
Strength: 70 mg. / oz.
Ideal when you’re on the move, you can toss this handy roll stick into your sports bag or purse if you’re heading out for a workout or into the office. It’s packed with organically grown full spectrum “nano encapsulated CBD” that targets and relieves sore or tight muscles for immediate relief. Its inactive ingredient list includes aloe vera and tea tree infusions to enhance the calming properties of the formulation.
This bad boy is great for targeting specific muscle groups and tendons, and you’ll feel the CBD formula doing its thing after about 5 minutes of rolling it on. Speaking of which, we loved that this one was conveniently roll-on so that our hands stayed clean after use.
SMPLSTC Full Spectrum CBD Roll On with Menthol | $40
Price: $40 / 3 oz.
Strength: 167 mg./oz.
One of the cleanest topicals we tested, SMPLTC’s clear, non-greasy lotion rolls on smoothly without having to touch it with your hands and disappears quickly into your skin leaving only the trace of an odor. The menthol crystals, eucalyptus and camphor oils provide an immediate soothing feel, which persists as the CBD absorbs into your muscles.
Myaderm Sport Cream Double Strength | $50
Price: $50 / 1.7 oz.
Strength: 1412 mg./oz.
By far the most potent cream we tested, Myaderm Sport Cream is delivered in a lightly eucalyptus-scented lotion that glides over your skin and absorbs quickly leaving no greasy film. We noticed deep pain relief quickly with this lotion, which is a bargain, particularly the $30 regular-strength bottle which still contains more CBD/volume than most other topicals.
CBDistillery Warming/Cooling Cream | $25
Price: $25/ 1.7 oz.
Strength: 176 mg./oz.
CBDistillery’s cream is a great choice if you’re looking for the simplest, least noticeable delivery of CBD. This odorless, greaseless lotion absorbs within 30 seconds, leaving no detectable trace. The warming and cooling effects are subtle enough to hardly notice, leaving the broad-spectrum CBD to do its work.