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.
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:
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
Best CBD cooling creams for pain
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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.
Also, Check out our Top 50 CBD E Juices in 2020