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Salve is a type of ointment, spray, or balm that promotes healing or protection of the skin. People who engage in a lot of exercise, such as athletes, may use salve to treat muscle soreness or dry skin. Some salve products on the market contain cannabidiol (CBD).

CBD comes from the Cannabis sativa plant. Producers make CBD oil by mixing CBD with a carrier oil. This process dilutes the CBD, creating a less potent product.

Some companies add CBD oil to salve. A salve is a product that a person applies directly onto the skin to protect it from damage or promote healing.

Learn about other CBD topical products here.

A very active person, such as an athlete, may use a salve for a range of minor training injuries. These may include:

  • muscle soreness
  • bruising
  • dry skin
  • blisters
  • chafing

Adding CBD oil may offer additional pain relief benefits, although research into the use of CBD salves for athletes is limited.

Few studies have explored the effects and benefits of CBD salves.

However, the authors of a 2021 study that examined the application of CBD spray onto rats’ tongues suggest that it could reduce inflammation and pain.

Research examining CBD oil in three participants with epidermolysis bullosa, a rare disorder that causes blistering skin, suggests that applying CBD oil to the skin can promote faster wound healing, reduce blistering, and ease pain.

Learn more about using CBD oil for pain relief here.

Although these initial results are promising, scientists need to carry out further research to understand the benefits of using CBD oil on skin injuries.

People apply salves topically, so there is a very low risk of CBD entering the bloodstream. This means that CBD is unlikely to cause any impairment that could adversely affect athletic performance.

Learn more about the potential benefits of CBD here.

Potential risks

If a person experiences any of the following symptoms after using CBD salve, they should cease using the product and contact a doctor:

  • a rash
  • irritation
  • swelling

Is CBD legal?The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the legal definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act. This made some hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3% THC federally legal. However, CBD products containing more than 0.3% THC still fall under the legal definition of marijuana, making them federally illegal but legal under some state laws. Be sure to check state laws, especially when traveling. Also, keep in mind that the FDA has not approved nonprescription CBD products, and some products may be inaccurately labeled.

Medical News Today chooses products that meet the following criteria:

  • Ingredients: Products contain safe and high-quality ingredients and state all ingredients clearly. They are free from pesticides, heavy metals, and molds, according to the certificate of analysis.
  • Dosage: Products contain or recommend a serving size of a safe CBD dosage. Also, manufacturers clearly state dosage.
  • Third-party laboratories: Products undergo third-party testing for contaminants by an ISO 17025-compliant laboratory.
  • Laboratory results: Products are from brands that make their testing results publicly available.

Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.

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Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

The following table compares the CBD salves in this article.

List priceCBD typeStrength
Joy Organics$54.95broad-spectrumfrom 500 mg of CBD per container
CBDistillery$60full-spectrum500 mg of CBD per container
PlusCBD$34.99full-spectrum100 mg of CBD per container
CBDMEDIC$29.99isolate600 mg of hemp extract
Aspen Green$89.99full-spectrum1,000 mg of CBD per container
Level Select$29.99broad-spectrumfrom 900 mg of CBD per bottle

A person may wish to consider the following factors when shopping for CBD salves:

  • CBD type: People should consider whether they wish to purchase a product that contains THC. For example, CBD isolate products do not have any THC.
  • Potency: Those who are new to CBD may wish to start with a salve with less CBD per dose. Then, they can gradually increase the amount of CBD until they reach the desired effects.
  • COA: People should consider only buying from companies that have an easily accessible COA for all of its products.
  • Price: People may wish to consider their budget when buying a CBD salve.

For advice on how to shop for CBD products, see this guide.

There are other ways a person can reduce muscle or joint pain associated with doing sports. Some people choose these options alongside CBD salves. The options include:

  • Massage: Sports massages may improve flexibility and reduce delayed onset muscle soreness.
  • Stretching: An older article exploring the benefits of stretching highlights that it can benefit shoulder, back, and knee pain.
  • Ice: Ice may act as a local anesthetic by numbing the sore tissue and slowing down the pain messages from the brain. When using ice, a person should never put it directly on the skin. Instead, they should always wrap it in a cloth or towel.
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs: There are certain over-the-counter medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, that can help reduce pain and inflammation. However, this is not a long-term solution.
  • Bath salts: Older research from 2005 suggests that soaking in bath salts may reduce inflammation and relieve irritation.

The following are common questions and answers about CBD salves for athletes:

Is CBD prohibited for athletes?

The World Anti-Doping Agency does not prohibit CBD. It is therefore legal for athletes to use it.

Will using CBD cause someone to fail a drug test?

People expecting to take a drug test may want to avoid using CBD products in the days preceding the test, as some CBD products may contain trace amounts of THC, which may result in a failed test.

Learn more about CBD and drug tests here.

What form of CBD is best for athletes?

Athletes may prefer to use broad-spectrum or isolate CBD products, as these contain the lowest amount of THC compared with full-spectrum CBD products.

Learn more about the different types of CBD here.

Is CBD good for muscle recovery?

CBD has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, which may aid in muscle recovery.

However, more research is necessary to fully understand the benefits of CBD for muscle recovery.

When should athletes take CBD?

An athlete may wish to apply a CBD salve when they experience muscle aches and pains.

How much CBD should athletes take?

People should always start with the lowest possible dose of CBD and gradually increase the amount until they reach their desired effect.

It is important to always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using CBD products.

Is CBD salve good for sore muscles?

Many companies stock CBD salves to help relieve sore muscles after a workout. A 2020 study suggests that that CBD oil may be effective in targeting muscle soreness.

Individuals who engage in a lot of exercise, such as athletes, may experience blisters, dry skin, muscle soreness, and chafing. Applying salve can heal and protect the skin from these injuries.

There are a variety of salves on the market that may reduce inflammation and pain. Some athletes opt for CBD salves because they offer quick relief, often taking effect within 10–15 minutes, and may last for a few hours.

A person may consider using CBD salve products in combination with massages, stretching, or ice to help address minor injuries.