Cannabidiol (CBD) is being pumped into tons of different types of products these days.
In case you’re late to the party, CBD is one of many active compounds found in the cannabis plant.
While research around it is still underway — there’s much we still have to learn about CBD — so far, the studies we do have suggest that CBD boasts these benefits:
- may help improve sleep
- may help with pain and anxiety
- contains anti-inflammatory properties
- can help reduce seizures in people with epilepsy — Epidiolex for seizures is the only prescription CBD product approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
While you can take CBD through edible products like pills, capsules, or gummies, you might also want to try a topical product like a balm. Topicals can be applied directly to a localized point of soreness or pain. They can even be a relaxing part of a bedtime routine.
Keep reading to learn more about CBD balms, how they work, and how to shop for them.
CBD balms are often thick, almost solid, and waxy. They’re different from CBD salves, which tend to be a bit softer than balms.
Both salves and balms tend to use fatty oils and waxes as base ingredients, while creams and lotions typically use water. Balms are a concentrated product, making them a great go-to choice for pain relief.
CBD balms, like other CBD topicals, are intended to be used directly on your skin. They’re meant to apply relief to a specific area.
Studies on topicals suggest that skin absorbency is pretty weak compared with other mucous membranes. That means when applying a topical product, it’s best to select one with a high level of CBD and apply it liberally.
You can try CBD balms for a variety of uses.
In addition to helping with physical pain, CBD balms may be beneficial for certain skin conditions.
There’s mounting evidence that suggests topical CBD products, like balms, can help with a range of pain issues like:
- Arthritis-related pain. A 2015 study performed on rats discovered that CBD gel applied to the skin significantly lowered joint swelling.
- Nerve pain. A small 2020 study examined topical CBD oil’s impact on pain. In the study, people with nerve damage all reported lower levels of pain, noticing a drop in sharp, severe, cold, and itchy feelings of pain.
- Jaw pain. A 2019 study explored how topical CBD may help with a certain type of facial pain that largely involves the jaw. Researchers discovered that those who used topical CBD around twice daily experienced reduced pain after 2 weeks.
It’s important to keep in mind that research is limited. More research needs to be done on CBD before we can say for sure that it can help with any of these conditions.
We chose these products based on criteria we think are good indicators of safety, quality, and transparency. Each product 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 testing for pesticides, heavy metals, and molds, according to the COA
We also considered:
- company certifications and manufacturing processes
- product potency
- overall ingredients
- indicators of user trust and brand reputation, such as:
- $ = under $40
- $$ = over $40
- CBD type: Full-spectrum
- CBD potency: 400 mg per 0.67-oz. container or 1,200 mg per 2-oz. container
These Lazarus Naturals balms are non-GMO and formulated with mango butter and beeswax — specifically for topical use.
Reviewers love that it’s both cooling — thanks to the wintergreen oil — and warming, thanks to the capsaicin extract. They also rave about the mint scent, saying it’s soothing without being overpowering.
Lazarus Naturals has an assistance program offering 60 percent off to veterans, people with long-term disabilities, and people with low incomes.
Access batch-specific COAs via a link on the product page.
- CBD type: Broad-spectrum
- CBD potency: 200 mg per 1.4-oz. jar
It’s made using broad-spectrum CBD, a type of CBD that includes every compound found in the cannabis plant except THC.
Reviewers say this thick, high-end balm is ideal for dry skin and is a treat to put on before bedtime. This balm can be used as a head-to-toe-moisturizer and is intended to create a sense of calm.
Batch-specific COAs are posted here. However, you have to have a batch number in order to view the COAs. If you want to take a look before you make a purchase, you’ll have to email Lord Jones.
- CBD type: Full-spectrum
- CBD potency: 180 mg per 15-mL jar or 600 mg per 50-mL jar
Made from all-natural ingredients, this CBD balm is formulated with beeswax, a slew of essential oils, as well as extracts from eucalyptus, tea tree, lavender, and peppermint plants. After applying it, you’ll notice a warmth followed by a cooling sensation.
- CBD type: Full-spectrum
- CBD potency: 50 mg or 100 mg per 1.3-oz. jar
PlusCBD promises a balm that softens and smooths the skin. Reviewers love how well it soothes dry hands and how quickly it provides relief.
Batch-specific COAs are linked from the product page.
- CBD type: Broad-spectrum
- CBD potency: 750 mg
This balm is formulated with a blend of aromatic wintergreen oil, peppermint oil, and camphor oil. As the name suggests, it’s intended for sore muscles, but it can also be used for general relaxation.
The balm offers alternating warming and cooling sensations.
Reviewers may not be obsessed with its strong scent but, they seem to be very happy with how quickly it provides relief.
CBDfx products are cruelty-free. You can access COAs here.
When it comes to CBD, not all products are created equal. Since the FDA hasn’t approved any over-the-counter CBD products, it’s very important to look into what you’re buying before you make a purchase. Here’s what to look for:
- Testing. It’s best to look for a product that comes with an up-to-date, comprehensive COA from a reputable third-party lab. The COA will verify how much CBD and THC are in the product. It’ll also tell you whether the product has been tested for contaminants like mold, pesticides, and heavy metals.
- Transparency. The best brands will be transparent about where they grow their hemp and how they make their products.
- Ingredients. Check ingredients before you make a purchase. Look for anything you may be allergic to. You can also scope out products with added pain-relieving ingredients.
- Reputation. Some CBD brands have pending lawsuits or have received warning letters from the FDA. Research each potential brand before you buy their product.
Balms are intended to be applied as you would a normal moisturizer — gently massage it into the area you’re treating and add more as needed.
You can find CBD balms in a variety of strengths. Topicals like balms can be a little hard to dose since they’re not as straightforward as, say, a CBD gummy.
But in general, dosage depends on a number of factors, including your experience with CBD products, your body weight, the potency of the product, and the condition you’re treating.
If you’re new to CBD, it’s best to start with the lowest possible dose and see how your body responds. You can up the dose from there if necessary.
Though the World Health Organization says CBD is largely believed to be safe, some people may experience side effects, including:
- changes in appetite
- changes in weight
It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor before trying CBD, especially if you’re taking any medications, as CBD may interact with some medications.
It’s also important to be careful with any new-to-you topical products. Topical CBD products are unlikely to cause any of the side effects mentioned above, but it’s best to check the ingredients first to make sure you don’t have any allergies to them.
Don’t use topicals on broken skin. Perform a patch test to make sure you don’t have any allergic reactions before using the product on larger areas of your skin.
To do a patch test, you’ll simply place a little bit of the balm on the inside of your wrist. Wait 24 hours to see how your skin responds. If you notice any signs of irritation, such as redness or itchiness, discontinue use of the product.
Research on CBD is still in its infancy. However, growing evidence and consumer reports suggest that using CBD topicals, like balms, helps with a number of ailments, including pain and skin conditions like acne and eczema.
Always be careful when using a new-to-you product. Talk with your doctor first about any potential interactions with your current medications, and perform a small patch test on your skin before applying it to a larger area.
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.
Breanna Mona is a writer based in Cleveland, OH. She holds a master’s degree in media and journalism and writes about health, lifestyle, and entertainment.