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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 peeps say it works.
While we don’t have a whole lot of evidence about topical CBD’s effects on people yet, there’s some evidence that it can help reduce certain kinds of pain — like neuropathy, arthritis, and inflammatory pain. Other research shows that it can help clear up acne and reduce symptoms of eczema and psoriasis.
Curious to see if CBD balm is right for you? We’ll dive into how they can bring you relief, the best products to try, and how to choose the right one for your specific needs.
- Best on a budget: PLUS CBD Balm Extra Strength
- Best CBD muscle balm: Level Select CBD Level 3 Sports Cream
- Best CBD balm for skin: NuLeaf Naturals Full Spectrum CBD Balm
- Best CBD balm for inflammation: Lazarus Naturals Full-Spectrum CBD Balm
- Best CBD balm stick: TheraOne Revive CBD Body Balm Stick
- Best CBD balm for anxiety: Koi Naturals Hemp Extract CBD Balm
CBD balms are thick, waxy, and practically solid. They’re super concentrated, which is why they work well for soothing achy muscles and relieving pain.
But what the heck is the difference between a salve, lotion, and cream?
Lotions and creams use water as their base ingredient, giving them a much more liquid texture. Balms and salves use waxes or fatty oils, giving them a much thicker consistency. Balms are generally thicker and firmer than salves, tho.
CBD balms have a ton of great uses, particularly when it comes to managing pain and soothing skin conditions.
CBD is known for packing a pain-fighting punch when applied directly to sore muscles and other trouble areas.
Most CBD balm products also include other natural ouch-fighting ingredients like menthol, capsaicin, and camphor. When combined with CBD, these elements work together to kick pain’s a$$ pretty dang quickly.
While CBD can help ease general pain, research is still ongoing on how it may affect specific types, such as:
In one small study, researchers found that topical CBD use significantly reduced sharp or intense pain, as well as relieved cold or itchy sensations in subjects with symptomatic nerve damage.
A recent study suggests that applying CBD to the face can relieve certain types of jaw pain over time. This study only looked at young adults in their early 20s, however, so it’s unclear whether the results would hold with an older group.
In a 2015 study on rats, researchers found that applying topical CBD directly to the skin reduced joining swelling and inflammation. While these findings are promising, more human studies need to be done in this area.
Soothing skin conditions
CBD can also help reduce inflammation and relieve itchiness caused by certain skin conditions. People with eczema, psoriasis, and acne may benefit from the magic of CBD balm and other topical products.
Topical corticosteroids are usually the go-to treatment for many skin conditions, but they can cause a variety of negative side effects. CBD, on the other hand, has all the anti-inflammatory impact of corticosteroids and none of the nasty side effects.
- 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 well-known and researched.
- CBD (cannabidiol). One of the compounds in cannabis that, unlike THC, won’t get you high.
- Hemp. A federally legal low-to-no THC variety of cannabis that’s used to make CBD products.
- Terpenes. Fragrant compounds within the cannabis plant with therapeutic benefits that may enhance the effects of cannabinoids.
- Flavonoids. Found everywhere in nature — like in fruits and veggies — flavonoids have anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, anticancer properties.
- Full-spectrum CBD. A type of CBD that contains all the compounds naturally found in the cannabis plant, including terpenes, flavonoids, and THC (though never more than 0.3 percent).
- Broad-spectrum CBD. The same as full-spectrum CBD, but all of the THC has been extracted.
- CBD isolate. A CBD-only, or “single-molecule” extract.
- Entourage effect. A theory that says cannabinoids like CBD tend to work better alongside other cannabis compounds — like terpenes, flavonoids, and THC.
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 meet the following requirements:
- made by a company that provides proof of third-party testing by an ISO 17025-compliant lab
- made with U.S.-grown hemp
- contains no more than 0.3 percent THC, according to the certificate of analysis (COA)
- got passing results for pesticides, heavy metals, and molds, according to the COA
We also considered stuff like:
- indicators of user trust and brand reputation, such as:
- customer reviews
- whether the company has been subject to an FDA warning letter
- whether the company makes any unsupported health claims
- company certifications and manufacturing processes
- product potency
- overall ingredients
Prices are per 200 milligrams (mg) of CBD:
- $ = under $15
- $$ = $15–$40
- $$$ = over $40
Best CBD balm on a budget
PLUS CBD Balm
- Price: $29.99
- CBD type: full-spectrum
- Potency: 100 mg CBD per jar
- Other ingredients: willow bark, green tea extract, almond oil, beeswax, safflower seed oil, horsetail extract
- COA: available online
This formula is light on CBD but low on the 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 also has the hydrating and antioxidant power of vitamin E to help soothe and nourish your skin.
Many users say that PLUS CBD Balm works especially well to relieve swelling, stiffness, and joint pain. They’ve found that not only does it help manage aches during the day, but also eases tension and pain to help them get a good night’s sleep.
While great for easing mind discomfort, reviewers facing more intense pain or who have specific conditions, such as osteoporosis or severe sciatica, found that this product’s low potency had little to no effect on their pain.
Best CBD muscle balm
Level Select CBD Level 3 Sports Cream
- Price: $89.99
- CBD type: broad-spectrum
- Potency: 1800 mg per jar
- Other ingredients: menthol, rosemary extract, arnica Montana flower extract, chestnut seed extract, grapeseed oil
- COA: available online
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.
Many reviewers claim this cream is their go-to for tense or stressed muscles. A large majority of users rave about how effective they’ve found it, sharing that they feel it working almost immediately. The only real gripe anyone has with this product is in its super high price point — this stuff doesn’t come cheap. Despite this, most users find Level Select’s Level 3 Sports cream to be well worth it.
Best CBD balm for skin
NuLeaf Naturals Full Spectrum CBD Balm
- Price: $26.99–$71.10
- CBD type: full-spectrum
- Potency: 300, 600, or 900 mg CBD per jar
- Other ingredients: organic shea butter
- COA: available online
If you’ve got sensitive skin, then you know less is often more.
With the NuLeaf Naturals Full-Spectrum CBD Balm, you get skin-soothing support with only two simple (and clean!) ingredients: full-spectrum hemp extract and organic shea butter. This fast-absorbing formula is also unscented —sensitive skin rejoice!
NuLeaf uses proprietary genetics to naturally create highly concentrated full-spectrum CBD that is full of secondary cannabinoids. These cannabinoids work in harmony to provide the coveted entourage effect, on top of sweet skin relief.
Users have found that a little goes a long way with this creamy balm and say it absorbs quickly for fast-acting relief. A few reviewers mention that the product separates a bit upon arriving in the mail, but a quick stir and letting it sit overnight seems to help.
Best CBD balm for inflammation
Lazarus Naturals Full-Spectrum CBD Balm
- Price: $16-$42
- CBD Type: full-spectrum
- Potency: 1000 or 3000 mg per jar
- Other ingredients: beeswax, jojoba seed oil, sunflower seed oil, mango seed butter, lanolin, sweet basil oil, wintergreen leaf oil
- COA: available online
Lazarus Naturals’ Relief + Recovery CBD Balm provides full-spectrum support for all of your aches, pains, and sore spots.
One of this CBD balm’s magical elements is its warming and cooling powers. Wintergreen oil provides cooling comfort, while capsaicin extract offers a pain-relieving warm sensation to give tense muscles a one-two punch of sweet relief.
With its beeswax base, non-GMO formulation, and skin-soothing ingredients (like jojoba and mango butter oil), this full-spectrum balm helps reduce inflammation — all while keeping your skin nourished and moisturized.
Reviewers are big fans of this balm’s minty fresh scent. They also rave about its cooling/warming effect, sharing that it provides them with the perfect balance of warm and cold to ease pain and inflammation.
Best stick CBD balm
TheraOne Revive CBD Body Balm Stick
- Price: $75
- CBD type: full-spectrum
- Potency: 835 mg CBD per stick
- Other ingredients: organic turmeric CO2 oil, organic menthol, organic refined shea butter
- COA: available online
The TheraOne Revive CBD Body Balm Stick is a highly potent solution for easing discomfort, stiffness, and tension in your muscles and joints. This convenient stick combines the soreness-soothing power of CBD with three other wonder ingredients: inflammation-busting turmeric oil; the cooling/pain-relieving power of menthol, and the hydrating nourishment provided by shea butter.
Brownie points to TheraOne for using ingredients that are both cruelty-free AND U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) certified organic.
The biggest drawback of this super stick? The hefty price tag. However, many users have found the product to be worth the high cost. They enjoy the targeted relief and easy-to-use application and love that it glides on oh-so-smoothly.
Some reviewers also mention that the product can feel a bit greasy, but most say it absorbs well in time.
Best CBD balm for anxiety
Koi Naturals Hemp Extract CBD Balm
- Price: $19.99–$69.99
- CBD Type: broad-spectrum
- Potency: 150, 500, or 1000 mg CBD per jar
- Other ingredients: grapeseed oil, beeswax, organic coconut oil, peppermint oil, eucalyptus oil, rosemary leaf oil, sweet basil oil, spearmint oil, lavender oil, ginger root oil, cinnamon leaf oil, lemongrass oil, chamomile, aloe vera
- COA: available online
The Koi Naturals CBD Balm targets both your muscles and your mind.
This powerful balm is formulated to melt right onto your skin so that it feels soft and nourished. It penetrates deep to relax sore muscles and release tension.
It also contains a variety of natural and essential oils — including anxiety-reducing lavender and eucalyptus — to deliver a refreshing scent that helps you feel peaceful and calm. This ommm-inducing quality makes the Koi Naturals balm a great way to decompress, destress, and kiss feelings of anxiety buh-bye.
Reviewers enjoy this balm’s ability to release tension, particularly stress knots and stiffness caused by migraine pain. A few users found that the balm’s effects didn’t last as long as they’d hoped, so they had to apply more often.
CBD balms are a great option for folks looking to relieve general aches and pains or reduce inflammation caused by certain skin conditions.
It’s important to remember that CBD isn’t a magical cure-all. While you may hear people raving about its incredible effects, CBD may not work for everyone.
If you’re dealing with severe pain or pesky, persistent symptoms, talk with your doc before heading to the CBD aisle. They can help you decide if CBD is right for you, as well as what types, dosages, and potency levels might meet your needs.
Pros and cons
- Many options have all-natural ingredients in a highly concentrated form.
- It’s a safer alternative for corticosteroids in treating some skin conditions.
- It provides targeted relief for sore muscles and achy joints.
- It’s generally safe, with low risk of side effects.
- It’s easy to use.
- It’s not suitable for severe or long-lasting symptoms.
- May interfere with certain medications.
- May be mixed with other ingredients you may be sensitive to (like essential oils, aloe, or lanolin).
- Dosage and absorption time with topicals can take trial and error to nail down.
There’s a lot to consider when finding your CBD balm bae.
Cannabis dispensaries and natural foods stores are a good in-person option for buying CBD because, on average, they feature higher quality brands.
When on the lookout for quality CBD, here are a few other points to consider:
Type of CBD
There are three types of CBD:
- Full-spectrum CBD. This type contains all of the cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes that are naturally found in the cannabis plant — including THC.
- Broad-spectrum CBD. Similar to full-spectrum, this type contains all of the cannabis plant’s natural compounds like cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes — but without any THC.
- CBD isolate. Isolates don’t contain any other cannabinoids (including THC), flavonoids, or terpenes — they’re simply pure CBD, bb.
Knowing which type best suits your needs can help you pick the right CBD product for you. (Want just a smidge of THC for the coveted entourage effect? Or do you prefer to steer clear of THC altogether?)
The higher the potency, the better the results… usually.
CBD takes its sweet time absorbing into the skin, so checking a product’s potency levels gives you an idea of how fast or effective a balm (or any topical) might be.
Keep in mind, however, that CBD can affect people differently based on factors like a person’s weight, prior experience with CBD products, or any meds you’re taking. If you’re unsure what potency level is best for you, talk with your doc for guidance or advice.
Most topical products contain more than just CBD. Other ingredients are often combined with CBD to enhance performance or create added effects (like cooling).
Some common add-ons you may find in your CBD topicals of choice include:
- Essential oils for added therapeutic benefits (like stress-reducing lavender or cooling peppermint).
- Beeswax or other natural waxy therapeutics to add thickness and protect your skin.
- Menthol, arnica, and capascin for an extra boost of natural pain relief and icy/warming sensations.
- Plant oils (like jojoba, grapeseed, or coconut oil), which can provide antioxidant or anti-inflammatory benefits, hydration, or pleasant smells.
Always opt for products that are made without harsh chemicals or manufactured ingredients — organic and au naturel is the way to go whenever possible!
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.
If there are any major discrepancies between the product’s label or description and the COA, that’s a red flag. And if there’s no COA at all? Run for the hills.
Balms are topicals, which means you’ll apply the product directly to your skin and massage it in — easy peasy!
While this is pretty straightforward, however, it’s good practice to peep the label prior to use. Because balms come in a variety of potency levels, each manufacturer may have different instructions on how much to use, how frequently to apply, or other helpful recommendations.
When it comes to dosage (aka how much CBD to use), it’s best to start small and gradually increase the amount over time. This gives your body time to adjust to the product, without overwhelming it.
Several other factors can affect dosage, like:
- your weight
- product potency
- type of CBD
- your history with CBD
- what you’re using CBD for
- medications you may be taking
- doctor recommendations
CBD is generally considered safe to use, and research suggests that your chances of experiencing any side effects are slim with short-term use. However, there are some things to take into account when using any CBD product.
CBD might interact with certain meds, so you should def consult your doctor before using it if you’re currently taking anything.
Long-term use may also lead to unwelcome side effects, though more research is needed.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that possible side effects may include:
- live injury
- digestive probs
- lack of appetite
- mood changes
- fertility issues
Even though these side effects are more common with ingestible forms of CBD, rather than topicals, you should still proceed with caution when using CBD products. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and always start with the lowest dose possible (you can gradually increase amounts and dosages over time!).
What is the best CBD balm?
TBH, it depends on what you’re looking to get out of your balm.
A fast-acting stick balm, like the TheraOne Revive CBD Body Balm Stick, is a great option if you want quick on-the-go relief, while the Lazarus Naturals Full-Spectrum CBD balm is a top choice for those looking to experiment with the entourage effect. No matter what you want a CBD balm for, there’s a product out there for you.
What are CBD balms for?
There are several things you can use CBD balms for. Balms are most commonly used to manage general aches and pains, though effectiveness for more specific types of pain (like joint or jaw pain) is still being studied.
Balms are also used to treat certain skin conditions, including acne, eczema, and psoriasis. Its anti-inflammatory properties make it a safer alternative to potentially harmful corticosteroids.
Does CBD balm work?
Yes! CBD balms can work at managing pain and reducing inflammation.
While more research on CBD and its benefits is still needed, current findings — as well as anecdotal evidence — have shown it to be pretty dang effective.
Which is better: CBD oil or balm?
Whether you choose an oil or a balm is up to you. Balms tend to have more concentrated levels of CBD and target pain fast, while oils may not deliver immediate results. But you can ingest CBD oils, which means you’re getting full-body pain relief rather than targeted relief.
- While we don’t have a lot of science to back it up yet, enthusiasts are loving CBD balms for sore muscles, joint pain, and inflammation.
- CBD muscle rubs vary in price, quality, and total milligrams of CBD.
- Check labels and buy from vetted companies to make sure your CBD rub delivers what you want — without a bunch of chemicals and artificial ingredients.