The explosion of cannabis-infused products is enough to convince anyone that now is the age of innovation when it comes to marijuana. Long-recognized as a powerful and non-addictive alternative to prescription painkillers, the anesthetic and anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis make it an effective pain-relief medicine. And companies are trying to tap into that market by creating products that even people who don’t want to smoke or ingest cannabis can benefit from. A number of topical cannabis-infused sprays, creams, and oils are now vying to become the plant-based pain reliever of choice for athletes and workout junkies. No previous marijuana experience required.
“It’s not like an opioid, where you’re just blocking the pain,” explains James Kennedy, founder of Apothecanna, the Colorado-based plant medicine line that infuses cannabis into everything from pain sprays to essential oils—many of which also include favorites like arnica and peppermint.
As the laws that regulate the production, sale, and use of marijuana are expanding around the country, the role that cannabis can play in pain relief is also expected to expand. Topical ointments containing CBD can actually alleviate soreness in muscles after workouts. That’s why the word is spreading throughout the fitness community about cannabis-infused creams and other topical applications.
None of the products will get you high, Kennedy says, but they do offer significant localized relief if you’ve got, say, a sore back or shoulder. “[Topicals] are doing a mixture of several things,” Kennedy explains. “They’re signaling some of the inflammation response to tone down. They’re relaxing the area. It’s tough to describe how your ankle is going to feel ‘high,’ but it feels like it’s relaxed like there’s an enhanced sense of mobility.”
The discovery that made products like topical cannabis pain relievers possible is only about 20 years old. Back then, researchers discovered a system of nerve receptors called the “endocannabinoid system,” which regulates things like mood, stress, and appetite.
Cannabinoids like THC and CBD are infused in the topicals, and they control pain and reduce inflammation in the target area on the body.
“We’ve done a big push into the sports world, and young, fit people see the benefits of cannabis as an alternative to taking Advil,” says Graham Sorkin, director of business development for Mary’s Medicinals. Although the science behind using marijuana to relieve your aches and pains may be new, the medicine itself is ancient.