5 of the Best CBD Creams for Pain
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- Best CBD warming cream for pain:CBDistillery CBD Warming Cream
- Best CBD cooling creams for pain:Aspen Green Muscle Relief Cooling Cream and Naternal Rescue CBD Muscle Cream
- Best CBD isolate pain cream:Medterra Pain Cream
- Best anti-inflammatory CBD cream for pain:CBDfx Muscle & Joint CBD Hemp Cream
If you’re looking for a cannabidiol (CBD) product to soothe your aches and pains, you have a ton of choices. From gummies to pills to oils, CBD products abound, and they all have the potential to help alleviate pain. But for muscle or joint pain, topical CBD — like a CBD cream — may be particularly useful.
Unfortunately, it can be a bit tough to sift through the many CBD products on the market. How can you tell which CBD creams are the real deal? We’ve done the work for you to make shopping a little easier.
Research into CBD’s pain-relieving abilities is still in the early stages. However, what we do know is promising. Studies suggest that CBD may provide relief for pain and inflammation.
There’s also evidence that topical CBD products, like creams, can help with a variety of pain sensations, including:
- Arthritis-related pain. A 2016 animal study found that applying topical CBD may help with arthritis-related pain and swelling.
- Nerve pain. A small 2020 study looked at the effects of topical CBD oil on pain. Many people in the study, all with nerve damage, reported having reduced pain levels. They described feeling a dip in sharp, intense, and cold and itchy pain sensations.
- Jaw pain. A 2019 study looked into how topical CBD may provide relief from a specific kind of facial pain that mainly affects the jaw. The study found that people who applied topical CBD about two times a day experienced a lot less pain after 2 weeks.
Recent research found that some people in palliative care use CBD regularly and that topical products, in particular, help reduce pain.
All the products listed below meet our rigorous criteria for quality. Each CBD cream in this article:
- is made by a company that provides proof of third-party testing by an ISO 17025-compliant lab
- is made with U.S.-grown hemp
- contains no more than 0.3 percent THC, according to the certificate of analysis (COA)
- passes tests for pesticides, heavy metals, and molds, according to the COA
We also considered:
- the company’s certifications and manufacturing processes
- product potency
- overall ingredients
- indicators of user trust and brand reputation, such as:
- customer reviews
- whether the company has been subject to a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warning letter
- whether the company makes any unsupported health claims
You might also notice that some of our picks include extra ingredients that may help specifically with pain, including arnica, camphor, and menthol.
- $ = under $30
- $$ = $30–$50
- $$$ = over $50
Best CBD warming cream for pain
CBDistillery CBD Warming Cream
Use code “healthline” for 15% off sitewide.
- CBD type : Broad-spectrum
- CBD potency : 300 mg per bottle, 2 mg CBD per pump
CBDistillery’s cream is made with broad-spectrum CBD, which means it doesn’t contain any tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The formula includes camphor, which delivers a soothing, warming sensation intended to help with aches and pains. The product also contains several extracts from plants like honeysuckle, rosemary, and aloe vera, which moisturize and calm the skin.
The cream is fragrance-free, which makes it a great option if you’re sensitive to smells. But just in case you don’t end up liking it, CBDistillery also offers a 60-day money-back guarantee.
You can access the COA either by scanning the product’s QR code or checking the product page. You’ll find it in the image slideshow.
Best CBD cooling creams for pain
Aspen Green Muscle Relief Cooling Cream
Use code “HEALTHLINE” for 20% off.
- CBD type : Full-spectrum
- CBD potency : 1,000 mg per jar
If you’re not fond of creams that warm the skin, you might want to try a cooling cream like this one. It’s made with arnica extract and organic menthol, which, along with full-spectrum CBD, help provide pain relief.
Keep in mind that full-spectrum CBD contains a small amount of THC. This can be helpful due to the entourage effect, which theorizes that CBD and THC work better together than they do alone.
You can access the COA from the product page.
Naternal Rescue CBD Muscle Cream
- CBD type : Full-spectrum
- CBD potency : 1,000 mg per bottle
Naternal’s full-spectrum cream combines camphor, arnica, menthol, and eucalyptus with CBD to deliver a pleasantly scented and soothing cream. It’s intended for daily use to prevent pain flare-ups.
Naternal makes its products from North Carolina-grown hemp that’s processed using an ethanol extraction method. Ethanol extraction is said to preserve more therapeutic terpenes in the final product, but it may leave behind trace solvents.
Batch-specific COAs are posted here.
Best CBD isolate pain cream
Medterra Pain Cream
Use code “health15” for 15% off
- CBD type : Isolate
- CBD potency : 500 mg or 1,000 mg per bottle
If you’re interested in steering clear of THC altogether, you might want to try Medterra’s CBD pain relief cream. It’s made with CBD isolate, which means it only contains CBD, and no other parts of the hemp plant.
Arnica and menthol are also featured to help with pain. The menthol delivers a pleasant cooling feel.
Medterra posts its COAs on each product page. You can also access them
Best anti-inflammatory CBD cream for pain
CBDfx Muscle & Joint CBD Hemp Cream
Use code “HEALTHLINE” for 15% off.
- CBD type : Broad-spectrum
- CBD potency : 500 mg or 1,000 mg per bottle
Here’s another CBD cream with cooling capabilities, thanks to the included menthol. But it’s a unique product in that it contains several anti-inflammatory ingredients like caffeine and white willow bark extract that provide an extra boost of pain relief.
CBDfx creates its products from CBD extracted without the use of solvents, and the company offers a 30-day money-back guarantee. COAs are available through a link on each product page.
CBD might help you get some pain relief, but unfortunately, there are a lot of bad products out there to sift through. Here’s what to look for when shopping for a CBD topical.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t guarantee the safety, quality, or efficacy of any CBD product — at least for now. They can still take action against companies committing fraud or peddling false health claims, but it’s important for you to carefully read labels before buying.
Look for a product with a COA that’s up-to-date and comes from a reputable third-party lab. Check that what’s listed on the COA matches up with the company’s product description, and that the lab has performed contaminant testing.
We recommend looking for results for heavy metals, molds, and pesticides. If the company uses a solvent-based extraction method, it’s also a good idea to check for residual solvent testing results.
There are a few different types of CBD: isolate, full-spectrum, and broad-spectrum. Isolates are ideal if you’re looking to avoid THC and other cannabinoids. Broad-spectrum CBD contains most cannabis plant cannabinoids but is free of THC.
Full-spectrum CBD products preserve all the terpenes, flavonoids, and cannabinoids from the plant. You may prefer a full-spectrum product since there’s evidence that CBD and THC work better together than solo. This interaction is called the entourage effect. Full-spectrum CBD products do have traces of THC, but no more than 0.3 percent.
Choose CBD creams made from all-natural, U.S.-grown hemp. Since you’ll be applying the cream to your skin, check the ingredient label for any irritants or things you’re allergic to.
If you’re looking for a CBD topical specifically for pain relief, you may also want to look for products with additional pain-relieving ingredients. Warming and cooling creams, which often contain menthol or arnica, provide an added pain relief component for aches and pain.
Most topical CBD products contain around 3 to 8 milligrams (mg) of CBD per recommended application. If you have chronic pain, you may want to opt for a higher potency product. But if you’re new to CBD, it’s best to start with a lower potency product.
CBD creams are meant to be applied topically and massaged into the skin wherever you’re experiencing pain. Have arthritis in your hands? Rub the cream onto your hands, focusing on the painful joints.
If a product contains ingredients specific for pain relief, like menthol or arnica, you might feel cooling or warming sensations. Start with a small application in case those sensations bother you.
Patch test the product by applying a little to the inside of your wrist and waiting to see if you experience any irritation. Even the most natural products can cause irritation in people with very sensitive skin.
For more information on how to approach CBD dosage-wise, check out our CBD dosage guide.
Research shows that CBD is generally safe to use and reapply as needed.
Most topicals are for external use only, so you shouldn’t ingest them unless the packaging says it’s safe to do so.
If you have any sores or open wounds, wait to apply CBD cream. Many products shouldn’t be used on broken skin.
While small amounts of low-dose CBD products shouldn’t make you feel “high,” some people occasionally experience side effects like:
- changes in weight or appetite
However, topicals are unlikely to absorb into your bloodstream and cause full-body effects.
Talk to your doctor before using CBD since it can interact with certain medications.
The jury is still out on whether CBD topicals offer up definitive pain relief, but many people report having success with creams, lotions, and salves for all kinds of ailments.
For the best results possible, pick a potent, full-spectrum CBD cream from a reputable company that sources quality, organic ingredients. Talk with your doctor before trying CBD.
Is CBD Legal? Hemp-derived CBD products (with less than 0.3 percent THC) are legal on the federal level, but are still illegal under some state laws. Marijuana-derived CBD products are illegal on the federal level, but are legal under some state laws. Check your state’s laws and those of anywhere you travel. Keep in mind that nonprescription CBD products are not FDA-approved, and may be inaccurately labeled.
Steph Coelho is a freelance writer with chronic migraine who has a particular interest in health and wellness. When she’s not click-clacking away on her keyboard, she’s probably nose-deep in a good book.
Last medically reviewed on October 14, 2020
CBD cream can be a great way to get targeted CBD benefits wherever you’re feeling achy. These five picks are some of the best CBD creams for pain.
The 5 Best CBD Topicals For Pain Relief (Plus 2 Highly-Effective THC Balms)
From left: Populum, Onyx + Rose, Lord Jones, Baskin Glow, Dixie Synergy, Wildflower Cool Stick
I am, by no means, “athletic.” But like most New Yorkers, I try. (After all, this is a city of strivers and fitness-obsessed type-A individuals who like to rock Alo Yoga and Outdoor Voices gear.)
But I don’t engage in physical activity solely because of my woefully wobbly midsection. My sanity depends on it. Truly. In the immortal words of Elle Woods: Endorphins make you happy!
In my early thirties I dabbled in SoulCycle, swimming at the 14th Street Y, and three disastrous attempts at SLT. These days it’s running loops in Central Park, Y7 yoga, and contact combat. And let me tell you, hitting a weekly fitness goal isn’t always easy—especially when you’re rapidly approaching your 40s with a few minor injuries under your belt.
I’m no spring chicken and the occasional bout of soreness is now a fact of life.
So recovery is a big deal. And personally, I’m all about CBD (a.k.a cannabidiol)—the non-psychoactive compound in cannabis. It’s been having a moment these past few years, making appearances in all sorts of wellness and beauty products—from CBD edibles, to capsules, to transdermal patches, and beyond. But make no mistake. It’s not the passing health trend that activated charcoal and golden milk used to be.
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“CBD is extremely anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective. A normal person may use it to prevent conditions such as arthritis or even topically to prevent acne breakouts,” Dr. Shivani Amin, a physician and cannabis expert who is a member of the AMMPA (American Medical Marijuana Physicians Association), says. “I think CBD shows great promise for the future. It all boils down to educating the public about the correct usage and understanding the plant better.”
I’ve long been a fan of edibles and tinctures, but for those who are skeptical of ingesting it, I’m also a big believer in topicals. From lotions and creams to balms and bath bombs, I have experimented with many different kinds—and I’ve come to rely on them for localized pain and reducing inflammation.
But as with any CBD product, there’s no skeleton key that unlocks relief for everyone—you have to find what works for your body. And you certainly have to experiment with different products, brands, and dosages—it’s the only way for you to see which ones really work.
Just know that topicals, unlike edibles, serve a different purpose: They’re primarily for targeted surface areas to address tension, spasms, and muscle pain because CBD applied to the skin doesn’t reach your bloodstream. Think of it as spot treating problematic areas. For instance, if your lower back is shot, apply your preferred product to that area only.
One thing to note, though: Only buy from established brands from licensed dispensaries—not random bodegas, sketchy websites, so-called health food stores, or even Amazon. Always ask for COAs (Certificates of Analysis) to ensure that the topical actually contains the cannabinoids it claims to have. And have an open mind about using CBD topicals incorporated with THC—because those two cannabinoids combined are more effective when addressing inflammation, which is the primary cause of soreness and pain.
“I have treated many patients with chronic conditions with full spectrum CBD and attained great results,” Dr. Amin says. “I also believe the public needs to understand that CBD works in conjunction with THC. Usually this requires at least 3–5% THC to work for serious forms of pain and more chronic medical conditions. I have patients come in with chronic and severe pain expecting to have their pain alleviated with just CBD. Although CBD works well for pain, in many situations patients with severe pain need to have some THC. [The cannabinoids] work synergistically to help ease severe pain.”
Here’s what I have found most effective over the years.
WILDFLOWER CBD COOL STICK (300MG; $60)
Wildflower was my inaugural topical. At the time, I had just started learning Krav Maga—a rather intense Israeli contact combat sport where there are no real rules. (Except to survive.) And my body was sore all the time those first few months. It didn’t help that I’ve got this existing and highly-bothersome back condition. I was also running a few times a week. But Wildflower’s CBD Cool Stick, which conveniently comes packaged as a roll-on, helped me tremendously. The trick is to apply the cooling stick before your workout or any other physically strenuous activity—not after. Why? Because in my experience, sweat reactivates the cooling components of the Wildflower’s formula. A six–mile run is infinitely more pleasant when you feel the the cream working even when you’ve got a ways to go. Also note that the brand also carries a Healing Stick (500mg) for $75. But it’s got arnica and I’m not exactly fond of the odor it emits through my clothes. However, if you do like arnica-scented everything, go for it.
POPULUM COLD THERAPY HEMP RUB (100MG; $45)
Unlike Wildflower, Populum comes in gel form. Also: It’s artic. Kind of like a more aggressive Vick’s Vaporub—so much so that you will definitely need to wash your hands after application. (The last thing you need is to accidentally rub your eyes with that stuff still on your digits.) But it’s effective—despite its relatively low dose of CBD. And a little goes a long way. Use it for minor aches and inconveniences—like when you find yourself stiff because you’ve been sitting on your far-from-ergonomic work chair most of the day. And if you find yourself really hurting, I recommend using a topical that contains both THC and CBD. (More on that below.)
LORD JONES + TAMARA MELLON HIGH-CBD FORMULA STILETTO CREAM (200MG; $70)
This is every woman’s dream come true. High heels are just not made the way they used to be—stilettos these days are narrower, higher, and pointier. Remember: Louboutin does not concern himself with the comfort of his designs. (He said so himself in the documentary and several other news outlets.) Gone are the days of the sensible heels our grandmothers wore. But alas, sky–high footwear is a necessary evil. So Lord Jones, the wildly–popular CBD company, collaborated with Tamara Mellon to help ease that discomfort. Just dab a little solution onto your feet and wait for your skin to absorb the formula before putting on your four–inch torture device.
BASKIN BODY WELLNESS CBD CREAM (400MG; $60)
Baskin has a lower–dose formula that clocks in at 150mg CBD that costs $20 less. But I say, Go big or go home. Invest in the higher dose if you want real relief all over: It’s meant to be used all over the body versus its cousin, which was specifically created for smaller targeted areas. Beyond that, you can always use the 400mg cream the way you see fit: Nobody is going to stop you if you want to use it only in specific pain points.
ONYX + ROSE BROAD SPECTRUM CBD BLISS BALM (500MG; $54)
This high–dose balm seems to be a crowd favorite, certainly in my household. The jar itself contains two ounces of product. It doesn’t seem like much—But because the consistency of the cream is particularly smooth and spreadable, it glides easily onto the skin and covers more real estate. In terms of relief, you can expect gradual relaxation of the muscles—especially if you’re prone to spasms or simply incredibly tight.
BASKIN GLOW (50MG THC + 500MG CBD; $80)
Now this is where we change course. Serious athletes and people suffering from chronic pain will benefit from this lotion. And yes, it’s in a jar but it rubs on like an incredibly light lotion—not at all like a heavy body butter. The main difference is that it contains both THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) in addition to CBD. And that’s a good thing. Both cannabinoids work synergistically together: THC will open up your receptors, enabling your body to absorb and metabolize more CBD. Beyond that, Glow is applied somewhat differently than the rest of the products on this list. Apply a minuscule amount to your pulse points, the insides of your elbows, and the backs of your knees—areas where the skin is at its thinnest. The reasoning: Because of its formula and consistency, your body will absorb the product so that it reaches your bloodstream—unlike many other topicals.
DIXIE SYNERGY RELIEF CBD AND THC BALM (50MG CBD + 50MG THC; $45)
I’m a huge fan of Dixie’s edibles, particularly its Birthday Cake White Chocolate and root beer elixir. But the cannabis company also does a damn fine job with its Synergy CBD and THC combo balm. It’s what I reach for whenever I’m too achy and cannabidiol alone just won’t cut it. It all boils down to the fact that the presence of THC opens up receptors in our bodies to allow for greater CBD absorption.
CBD (a.k.a cannabidiol) is the non-psychoactive compound in cannabis. And it’s been having a moment these past few years, making appearances in all sorts of wellness products. But make no mistake. It’s not the passing health trend that activated charcoal and golden milk used to be. This is legit.