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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 percent THC federally legal. However, CBD products containing more than 0.3 percent 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.

CBD topicals offer a wide range of benefits, from pain management to skin health. Effectiveness varies according to their potency, overall quality of ingredients, and cannabinoid profile.

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Many CBD products are now available online, including topicals, such as body oils, balms, and salves.

This article looks at five of the top CBD topicals for consideration.

For more information on CBD and how to shop for it, read our complete buyer’s guide to CBD here.

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a compound of the Cannabis sativa plant. According to a 2017 report by the World Health Organization (WHO), CBD causes no dependency effects in humans.

Individuals may choose to try CBD for various conditions, such as acne, depression, or muscular pain.

The following table contains some useful terms relating to CBD.

TermMeaning
CBDA compound within the C. sativa plant that does not create the high sensation individuals commonly associate with cannabis use.
THCA compound in the C. sativa plant. It is the psychoactive compound that creates the high sensation from cannabis use. Its full name is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol.
Full-spectrumA full-spectrum product will contain all of the natural compounds in the cannabis plant, including THC. However, THC levels must be no more than 0.3% to comply with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations on full-spectrum CBD products.
Broad-spectrumBroad-spectrum products contain natural compounds of the cannabis plant. However, while manufacturers remove all or most of the THC in broad-spectrum CBD, it may still be present in trace amounts.
CBD isolateThis is the purest form of CBD and should contain 0% THC.
CannabinoidsThe compounds within the cannabis plant, of which there are over 120. CBD is the second richest compound in the plant after THC.
TerpenesAnother compound of the C. sativa plant, terpenes typically give plants their specific aromas. Some terpenes, such as limonene, may have specific health benefits.
Certificate of analysis (COA)Reputable manufacturers of CBD products should ensure a COA is available for inspection. A COA provides information on the third-party testing that independent labs conduct on a particular product. Sometimes, products will have a scannable smartphone code that directs people to the COA online.

To avoid unwanted drug interactions or side effects, a person should consult a doctor or healthcare professional before using CBD products.

Humans have a high concentration of cannabinoid receptors in their skin. These receptors are part of the endocannabinoid system, which helps regulate several bodily functions. When a person applies CBD topically, it binds to cannabinoid receptors in the epidermal and dermal skin, where it acts as an anti-inflammatory and helps relieve pain.

A 2015 study of rats with arthritis showed that CBD gel greatly reduced joint swelling and did not cause any behavioral changes.

However, there are limited studies on the use of topical cannabinoids.

Medical News Today chooses products that meet the following criteria:

  • Ingredients: MNT chooses products containing safe and high quality ingredients that are clearly labeled. They should also confirm they are free from pesticides, heavy metals, and mold.
  • Dosage: MNT chooses products that must clearly state the CBD dosage.
  • Serving size: MNT selects products in which manufacturers recommend a dosage.
  • Third-party labs: MNT chooses products that undergo third-party testing for contaminants by an ISO 17025-compliant laboratory.
  • Available certificate of analysis:MNT chooses companies that demonstrate transparency and share a product’s certificate of analysis (COA) following receipt of its third-party lab results.

Below, we look at some of the best CBD topicals for a person to consider.

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.

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

Best menthol: RE: Botanicals Menthol Muscle Rub with CBD

Costaround $35
Size3 fluid ounces (fl oz)
CBD (per bottle)600 milligrams (mg)
Key ingredientsmenthol USP 4%, hemp extract, water
Prorelieves muscle pain
Conmay not suit for those with menthol allergies

This product contains full-spectrum hemp extract and comes in a roll-on applicator bottle. The manufacturer advises that the product should target pain and offer anti-inflammatory support.

The company is verified with Trustpilot, which gives them a 4.7-star rating out of a possible 5, based on 109 reviews.

RE: Botanicals claims that its plants are sun-grown in the USA and tested for purity by third-party labs.

Best hypoallergenic: Peak Extracts Rescue Rub

Costaround $40
Size2 ounces (oz)
CBD (per bottle)250 mg
Key ingredientscoconut oil, shea butter, hemp extract, and essential oils
Proprovides relief for a person with muscle pain, arthritis, and inflammatory conditions
Connot available to all areas of the U.S.

According to the Peak Extracts website, Rescue Rub was initially a treatment for blunt trauma. This product contains CBD and 12 terpene-rich herbs. Peak Extracts offers THC-free, full-spectrum, and CBDa formulas.

The rub is hypoallergenic and is coconut, shea, and jojoba oil-based.

Currently, Peak Extracts does not have any reviews or ratings from trusted sources.

Best organic: Joy Organics CBD salve

Costaround $55
Size2 oz
CBD (per bottle)1,000 mg
Active ingredientsCBD oil, beeswax, lavender essential oil, eucalyptus essential oil
Proorganic and cruelty-free
Conmost expensive

Manufacturers designed this broad-spectrum, THC-free, phytocannabinoid-rich CBD salve to promote skin health and relieve muscle pain.

This lab-tested CBD salve contains an estimated 80.7% CBD. Joy Organics provides publicly accessible lab reports on all its products.

Joy Organics has a 3.2-star rating out of a possible 5 on Trustpilot, based on two customer reviews.

The company is accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and has an A+ rating.

Best naturally farmed: CBDistillery topical salve

Costaround $50
Size1 oz
CBD (per container)500 mg
Key ingredientstea tree oil, lavender oil, peppermint oil, green tea extract, beeswax
ProGMO-free
Conunsuitable for those with specific allergies

This hemp-derived CBD salve may help relieve localized muscle pain. Each jar of CBDol salve contains 500 mg of full-spectrum CBD extract.

According to its website, CBDistillery sources its non-GMO hemp through natural farming practices.

CBDistillary has a 3.9-star rating out of a possible 5 with Trustpilot and an A+ rating with the BBB.

Best oil: Papa and Barkley Releaf CBD Body Oil

Costaround $40
Size60 ml
CBD (per bottle)400 mg
Key ingredientsvitamin E, blended essential oils
Pronever made with chemical solvents
Conunsuitable for those with specific allergies or sensitivities

Papa and Barkley claims this full-spectrum CBD product can help relieve soreness, inflammation, and chronic pain.

The company has a 4.6-star rating out of a possible 5 with Trustpilot based on more than 2,000 reviews. It is not BBB-accredited, but it holds an A- rating with them.

CBD is only one of the 120 cannabinoids identified in cannabis. It does not produce the ‘high’ effects associated with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and recreational cannabis consumption. However, CBD and other cannabinoids may help treat epilepsy, chronic pain, and multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms.

Learn more about the potential benefits of CBD here.

CBD possesses potent antioxidant properties, which may help prevent skin inflammation or damage due to ultraviolet (UV) rays and environmental pollutants.

Topical CBD offers a more targeted form of treatment that may address musculoskeletal and joint pain, as well as chronic skin conditions. According to the Arthritis Foundation, CBD can also effectively treat arthritic pain.

The authors of one 2017 review found evidence suggesting that CBD may have more powerful anti-acne and neuroprotective effects than vitamin C and E.

In a small 2019 study, researchers from Italy asked 20 patients living with chronic skin diseases to administer an ointment containing CBD twice a day for 3 months. At the end of the study period, all the participants showed significant improvements in skin hydration and elasticity.

In one 2016 animal study, researchers examined the effects of topical CBD gel in rats with arthritis symptoms. The researchers found that CBD concentrations of 6.2 and 62 mg effectively reduced inflammation and pain scores.

Scientific research into the effects and health benefits of CBD topicals is still at a relatively early stage. However, there is increasing evidence that it may have numerous medicinal properties. That said, people should not use CBD as an alternative to other treatment options without discussing it with a doctor or healthcare professional first.

For more information and resources on CBD and CBD products, please visit our dedicated hub.

A person should contact a doctor before using any CBD products, particularly if they have known preexisting medical conditions or are taking prescribed medications.

Individuals may also consider contacting a doctor or healthcare professional if they experience side effects from a CBD product. Though often well tolerated, side effects can include:

If side effects occur, a person should discontinue using the product immediately.

Below are some common questions relating to topical CBD.

Is CBD effective topically?

Although scientific studies are scarce, anecdotal evidence generally suggests the topical use of CBD is effective.

What is the most potent CBD salve?

Within this article, the Joy Organics Salve contains the most CBD.

Can CBD be absorbed through the skin?

Yes. CBD absorbs into the skin through receptors and penetrates through the epidermal and dermal levels.

How do I choose a CBD topical?

CBD topicals come in a variety of fragrances, ingredients, and doses.

People can look for additional ingredients they enjoy using, such as lavender oil. They should also look out for ingredients to which they may have an allergy or sensitivity.

Individuals may also consider whether the product contains THC and how much CBD is in it.

A person should also choose a topical that is within their budget.

CBD topicals may help alleviate muscle soreness, joint inflammation, and chronic skin conditions.

CBD products can contain other cannabinoids and trace amounts of THC, depending on the extraction process.

High quality CBD products undergo third-party laboratory testing that checks for CBD concentration, product quality, and contaminants.