Topical solutions for muscle discomfort now include many cannabis-infused options.

A cannabis muscle salve is any type of ointment, spray, or balm that can be applied to an affected area to relieve varying levels of discomfort. Cannabis muscle salves are ideal for those who exercise or experience general discomfort from day-to-day activities. There are cannabis salves with both CBD and THC on the market.

Ointments and salves and balms, oh my!

Call them what you want, but for centuries people have used these thick creams and lotions for topical relief. 

And in the years since the introduction of salves into everyday life, wellness-minded individuals have added various natural ingredients to increase their physical benefits.

Primarily used to relieve discomfort—and treat minor muscle aches and pains—salves penetrate the skin for immediate relief. 

And while essential oil ingredients have ranged from peppermint and eucalyptus to lavender and marjoram, recent years have seen a new and potentially assistive component come into play.

Cannabis Salves 

With its long reputation as a highly medicinal plant, it should be no shock that cannabis has entered the muscle salve arena. 

And when you examine the cannabis plant, it makes total sense. 

Cannabinoids are the compounds in cannabis that bring all those medicinal effects to life. The physical relief and mental euphoria are all thanks to cannabinoids like CBD and THC (and many others). 

But where consuming cannabinoids through vapes, flower, or edibles delivers one general reaction, a cannabis-powered muscle salve imparts fast, targeted relief to the affected area. 

Full of naturally extracted compounds, cannabis salves are beneficial for soothing inflamed muscles after exercise or for general soreness. Coupled with those physical advantages, cannabis salves also reduce everyday stress and anxiety.

So, whether it’s after a hard day’s work, strenuous exercise, or just the usual hassles associated with everyday life, cannabis salves can help you muscle through the discomfort. 

But what are the differences between CBD and THC salves? And what are the characteristics and benefits of each cannabinoid? Let’s apply to the affected area and find out!

woman holding her knee

What is a CBD Salve with THC?

Salve is the umbrella term for therapeutic balms or creams used topically on the skin. Most salves are made of moisturizing oils, such as the increasingly ubiquitous coconut oil and several other soothing ingredients. As the name implies, cannabis salves are ointments or balms that include cannabinoids as an active ingredient. Taken even further, CBD salves with THC have a medicinal combination of the cannabinoids CBD and THC. 

CBD and THC salves are said to have the potential to relieve pain in the muscles and joints and soothe certain skin conditions. But, above all else, these salves are credited with bringing a feeling of relaxation and tranquility.

How Does CBD Salve Work?

Cannabinoids are the compounds in cannabis that spark physical and psychoactive reactions in the patient. 

When infused in oil or salve, these compounds can be absorbed through the skin, delivering a so-called “cannabis high” to the affected area. 

However, it’s important to remember that one cannot absorb THC or CBD into the bloodstream via the skin. Muscle salves work on a peripheral basis—meaning they are not absorbed into the bloodstream and are therefore non-psychoactive. 

As for the science behind how CBD salve works, we’ll need to turn to some medical studies. 

According to research, the cannabinoid ingredients in topicals bind with the body’s CB2 (cannabinoid-2) receptors in the skin, interacting with our body’s endocannabinoid system and slowing the pain signals from the brain. Meanwhile, a recent study on the positive effect of CBD on athletes shows immense promise, concluding that the compound warrants further investigation into its physical advantages. 

Can CBD Salve Make You Sleepy?

No! CBD balm is applied to the skin and, as such, does not enter the bloodstream. As a result, cannabis-induced sleepiness or “couch-lock” is far more prevalent in products rich in THC, which is the compound that induces euphoria or makes you “feel stoned.” 

Moreover, how our bodies interact with CBD is entirely different from their reaction to THC. CBD can have energizing effects but also relax the body for a state of calmness and relaxation. 

So, no, it doesn’t make you sleepy—but in a way, it can help you sleep.

That might sound a bit confusing, but think about it this way: Indica-heavy strains of cannabis have a way of “turning the brain off.” That is, it has the potential to make you feel physically tired. On the other hand, CBD balms applied to specific areas soothe aches and discomfort, alleviating some factors that may hinder your ability to fall asleep comfortably.

LHS Muscle & Joint Balm

How Fast do CBD Salves Work?

The short answer is about 15-30 minutes or up to an hour, peaking after about 90 minutes. But, there’s a deeper conversation to have here. 

How quickly your body feels the effects of CBD salve depends on a few factors: What’s the dosage? How often do you utilize CBD salve and other cannabis products? What’s your body’s response to certain cannabis products?

When CBD salve is applied directly to the skin, the compound is absorbed slowly, interacting with your body’s localized cannabinoid receptors. Therefore, some CBD products should be used liberally to overcome the low cannabinoid absorption rate typical to the skin, which depends entirely on the type of muscle discomfort you seek to relieve.

Does CBD Salve Work For Nerve Pain?

While research into nerve pain and CBD is slightly limited, experts believe the compound provides quantifiable relief. Moreover, CBD’s mild side effects make it a generally safe and acceptable alternative to other nerve pain relievers. 

One study demonstrated the potential of CBD against nerve pain. The study, from 2020, paired two groups: a CBD group and a placebo. 

Both groups reported varying degrees of nerve pain; however, the CBD group reported a significant reduction in discomfort. The findings demonstrate that CBD has the potential to relieve and improve the overall wellness of those experiencing nerve discomfort.

What Can Cannabis Salve Be Used For? 

Just as other cannabis products boast many different uses, cannabis salves are no one-trick pony. 

The benefits of cannabis salves depend on the ratio of CBD to THC, as each compound contributes a unique set of benefits. Cannabis salves can be derived from THC-dominant strains (Type 1), a combination of CBD and THC (Type II), or CBD-dominant strains (Type III). Today, the market is rich in all types of salves—each with a long list of potential uses, including relief from:

  • Sore muscles
  • Post-exercise discomfort
  • Joint discomfort
  • Inflamed joints
  • Irritated skin
  • Dry skin
  • Sensitive skin
  • Stress and frustration
  • Occasional anxiety
  • General nervousness

Does THC Salve Have Side Effects?

Topical cannabis products such as CBD-dominant salves, THC-dominant salves, and salves that combine the two compounds are unlikely to cause side effects. 

This is mainly because the cannabinoids only bind and activate your localized endocannabinoid receptors in your skin and will not enter your bloodstream

However, any topical solution or skincare product can develop skin irritation, a minor rash, or some form of allergic reaction. If you do experience any such side effects, consult a dermatologist. 


Click here to learn more about Lighthouse Sciences premium cannabis topicals.