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If sore, achy muscles are your nemesis, you’ve probably got a jar or two of muscle balm on your nightstand.
Balms are meant to absorb into skin, bring down inflammation, and ease those overworked parts of your body.
More of a spot treatment than a whole-body kind of deal, balms tend to be thicker than lotions, moisturizers, or massage oils. Now, CBD makers are bringing the ever-popular cannabinoid to the muscle balm game — and plenty of users say it works.
While we don’t have a whole lot of evidence about topical CBD’s effects on people yet, it has been shown to reduce arthritic pain in rats. Plus, the American Academy of Dermatology says that topical CBD may help treat certain kinds of skin inflammation.
Curious to see if CBD balm is right for you? We rounded up the nine best options on the market right now.
Because the FDA hasn’t yet established standards for CBD testing and labeling, the quality and potency of CBD products can vary a lot. Here, we included only CBD oil balms that are:
- free of THC
- made with domestic hemp (it’s both safer and more transparent)
- independently tested for total CBD content
- made all or mostly with natural ingredients
- loved by customers
Best all-natural formula: Joy Organics Premium CBD Salve
For clean, simple, and high-quality ingredients, Joy Organics always comes through. Beeswax and MCT oil form the base of this broad-spectrum salve with soothing notes of organic lavender and eucalyptus. Joy Organics CBD salve is moderately priced, well-reviewed, and ships free.
Best quick effects: CBDfX Muscle Balm
The CBDfX Muscle Balm combines age-old pain-relieving ingredients with CBD for a synergistic effect. Camphor warms and soothes sore muscles, while peppermint and wintergreen oils deliver a fresh, cooling sensation.
Combined with quality CBD, and featuring a clean list of ingredients, here’s a balm that’s easy on your wallet as well as your skin.
Best on a budget: PLUS CBD Balm
This formula is light on CBD but low on overall cost. On top of that, occasional big sales can make the PLUS CBD Balm a great buy. The balm is made with full-spectrum, terpene-rich CBD derived from sun-grown hemp — a plus in the environmental category.
It’s also got the antioxidant power of vitamin E to help soothe and nourish your skin.
Best for athletes and weekend warriors: Level Select CBD Level 3 Sports Cream
Of Level Select’s three balm formulas, this one is the most concentrated. Gram for gram, this broad-spectrum rub offers a lot of CBD, so it’s definitely worth a try if you count yourself in the “sorest muscles” category.
Users appreciate that the formula isn’t greasy and that a scannable QR code appears on every product — making it simple to track the lab results of each jar.
While this balm is a very good deal for its high CBD content, it’s not actually cheap overall. But if you’re a fitness buff who runs through your muscle balms quickly, Level offers discounts with a subscription.
Best to treat yo’self: Lord Jones Heavy Duty Chill Balm
Lord Jones has the look and feel of luxury — so if you’re in the market to treat yourself, the Heavy Duty Chill Balm may be just your ticket. It features clean, high-quality ingredients and is rich in natural moisturizers like shea butter and jojoba oil.
Though it brings a fairly light concentration of CBD, customers rave about the calming scent, smooth feel, and relaxing effects of this balm.
Best nongreasy formula: Vertly Cooling Workout Recovery Spray
Meant to soothe muscles and calm inflamed or sunburned skin, the Vertly cooling spray features peppermint, menthol, aloe vera, and comfrey in addition to CBD. The spray is light and nongreasy — tending to absorb quickly and leave you feeling refreshed and relaxed from the skin in.
Best spray: CBDMedic Muscle and Joint Pain Relief Spray
Though CBDMedic is a bit new to the scene, it’s brought to you by the people behind the well-respected CBD brand Charlotte’s Web.
This THC-free muscle and joint pain relief spray is easy to use and very portable — you can apply it almost anywhere for post-workout muscle recovery or simply to help soothe aches.
Camphor and menthol are included to boost pain relief. And while it’s already reasonably priced, CBDMedic offers discounts for subscribers, too.
Best for the entourage effect: GoGreen CBD Balm Salve — Calming Purple
This small jar is packed with 500 milligrams of broad-spectrum CBD and a blend of naturally-occurring terpenes in a beeswax and MCT oil base.
Terpenes may complement and enhance the benefits of CBD via the entourage effect.) GoGreen has been in the CBD business since 2016 and their products are both affordable and well-reviewed.
Best gift for mom or dad: CBDMedic Arthritis Aches & Pain Relief Ointment
This quick-absorbing ointment combines camphor and menthol, two known pain relievers, with 200 milligrams of CBD.
It’s formulated specifically to help with the joint pain and stiffness of arthritis (mentioned above, CBD has been studied for its help with arthritis-related pain in rats). It comes in a tube, is no-mess to apply, and can be the perfect easy-entry CBD product for an older person in your life.
- CBD (cannabidiol). One of the compounds in cannabis that, unlike THC, won’t get you high
- Cannabinoid. A general term for a type of compound found in cannabis; of over a hundred cannabinoids, THC and CBD are two of the most common.
- Hemp. A low-to-no THC variety of cannabis that’s used to make CBD products.
- Broad-spectrum CBD. CBD extract that contains a range of other cannabis plant compounds, minus the THC.
- CBD isolate. A CBD-only, or “single-molecule,” extract.
- Topical CBD balm. A product applied to the skin that contains CBD along with traditional moisturizers or pain-relievers.
- Terpenes. Fragrant compounds within the cannabis plant that may add to, or enhance, the effects of cannabinoids.
- Entourage effect. A theory that says cannabinoids like CBD tend to work better alongside other cannabis compounds, like terpenes.
Cannabis dispensaries and natural foods stores are a good in-person option for buying CBD because, on average, they feature higher quality brands.
When shopping online, be sure to look for an up-to-date certificate of analysis (COA) from a third-party lab showing the product’s CBD totals (and THC totals, if applicable).
Lab work should also show that the product is free of contaminants like pesticides, molds, and solvents. Reputable CBD brands provide COAs on their website, as a scannable QR code, or by email.
When on the lookout for quality CBD, here are a few other points to consider:
- sourcing (U.S. hemp is recommended)
- type of CBD extract used (CBD isolate or broad-spectrum CBD, for instance)
- list of other ingredients like fragrances, colors, or chemicals