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Arthritis affects millions of Americans, and that may be why so many people are looking to CBD-based topicals as an alternative method of pain relief. If you could apply a plant-based lotion to feel less pain, why not give it a try?
But the truth is, there are a lot—thousands—of CBD products on the market, which can make it tough to find the right option. To help you out, this article will look at the science behind the CBD-arthritis connection, plus identify where to find the best CBD products online. Consider this your smart, simple guide to buying CBD creams for arthritis pain relief.
First, a heads up: CBD products are not regulated by the FDA, so you need to be skeptical. There’s always a chance products can contain extra additives, or less or more CBD than the label says. However, all the CBD topical products included in this article have been vetted for safety and come from trusted brands in the CBD market. Each option is derived from industrial hemp grown in the U.S, includes less than 0.3 percent THC (as required by law), and has been tested by a third-party lab to ensure quality.
The 5 Best CBD Cream for Arthritis Pain
These are the top five hemp topicals—including creams, rubs, and roll-ons—to help arthritis pain, so you can feel a little better and focus on living your best life.
Before identifying the particulars of these products below, here’s some background on arthritis and CBD—and why a topical might help.
CBD and Arthritis Pain
As a refresher, arthritis is inflammation of joints or tissue around the joints, which often causes pain and stiffness, according to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC). Each of the more than 100 types of arthritis affects the body in a different way. Arthritis symptoms include aching joints, stiffness, swelling, difficulty moving, and reduced flexibility—but the most common symptom is chronic pain.
Plus, it’s more common than you may think. A whopping one in four Americans—that’s roughly 54 million people—suffer from arthritis, according to the Arthritis Foundation. Considering the high prevalence of this disease, it’s not surprising that arthritis is the top cause of long term disability in the US.
So where does CBD come into play?
Cannabidiol, more commonly referred to as CBD, is one of hundreds of constituents found in the cannabis plant. These chemicals are collectively known as cannabinoids or phytocannabinoids. THC (found abundantly in marijuana) is also among those. THC and CBD differ in that CBD cannot get you high, but they’re similar in that CBD has potential therapeutic and pain relief benefits—which is why it’s being incorporated into a variety of products, particularly for people with arthritis.
While clinical evidence specific to CBD topicals and arthritic pain are lacking, a number of studies do support the role of CBD in pain modulation.
First, CBD has been shown to absorb into skin, making it ideal for topical therapy. Next, in a 2020 survey, 21 percent of patients who used CBD said they felt it helped with their illness, including pain reduction. In another self-reported study, the overwhelming majority of users of CBD found that it shared similar efficacy, but with fewer side effects, compared to opioid-based pain medications for chronic pain.
What to Look for In a CBD Cream
It can be overwhelming to wade through the options, especially when all you want is relief. So to make it easier, consider the following criteria in your search for the best CBD creams for arthritis pain.
- Quality: No surprise here—quality is first and foremost. To ensure you’re getting a high-quality CBD product, check out the certificate of analysis (CoA). This is a record of independent, third-party lab test results for each batch of product made. If a brand doesn’t readily publish CoAs, shop elsewhere.
- Source of hemp: Industrial hemp grown in the U.S. is regulated by domestic laws and is your best bet.
- Extraction method: There is ongoing debate regarding the best extraction method for CBD, but the main thing here is transparency. Make sure the brand you’re buying is clear about how they make their product.
- Brand reputation: A brand with plenty of reviews, a helpful customer support team, and an informative website are good boxes to check.
- Potency: For topicals, potency will be determined by the total cannabinoids or CBD milligrams listed on the label, typically listed for the total ounces of the hemp topical. Make sure the potency matches the CoA.
- Product type: When choosing a product, you’ll need to decide which type of CBD is right for you.
- CBD isolate is pure CBD, meaning the CBD has been extracted from the plant, while all other plant constituents (like THC) have been removed.
- Full spectrum means it contains whole plant extract, cannabinoids (including up to 0.3 percent THC), terpenes, flavonoids, and essential fatty acids.
- Broad spectrum is full-spectrum, minus THC.
- Bonus features: Organic hemp and a clean label (more natural ingredients) are other features you may want to consider.
- Price and budget: Hemp topicals can be pricey, so you’ll want to find products that fit into your budget. Just be sure that a cheaper price doesn’t mean you’re losing quality or efficacy.
How to Use CBD Creams
CBD lotions, creams, salves, rubs, and roll-ons are common among hemp topicals and are designed to be absorbed into the skin. All you have to do is massage a small amount into the affected areas, and keep in mind, a little goes a long way.
A quick note about safety: If you’re using moderate doses of a quality CBD cream, like the products listed here, there are no serious safety concerns. Because it’s topical rather than oral CBD, and there are only trace amounts of THC (less than 0.3 percent), adverse reactions are extremely uncommon. However, you should always consult with your doctor before incorporating CBD (or any non-regulated supplement) into your routine, or before increasing the dose or frequency of application.
Try These CBD Cream Picks
Spruce Full Spectrum Topical CBD Cream
Spruce produces one of the best CBD creams out there in the form of full-spectrum, lab-grade CBD from U.S.-derived hemp. Plus, this family-owned company is super transparent about farming and extraction methods. Spruce sources all of its hemp from two family farms and focuses on making small, high-quality batches. Plus, you’ll get a 15 percent discount on your order if you sign up for a monthly subscription.
Strength: The cream contains 300 mg CBD per every two-ounce tub.
Product: This full-spectrum CBD cream is designed to absorb quickly for speedy results. While CBD is the main event, all-natural plant-derived scents make the topical experience that much more pleasant.
Customer review: “Topical CBD Cream out performs any other OTC cream I have tried for arthritic pain. I would not only recommend the product, I also recommend Spruce CBD. They delivered a well packaged product on time with excellent communication along the way. 5 stars for both the product and customer service from Spruce!”
CBDMD Freeze Pain Relieving Roll-On
This cold therapy option from cbdMD is great if you prefer an easy-to-use rub-on applicator. With a strong focus on customer experience, the brand makes lab results transparent and accessible on its website. All cbdMD products are THC-free, which some customers prefer to the full-spectrum rubs.
Strength: 300, 750, and 1500-milligram options are available.
Product: This CBD-infused topical is derived from U.S. hemp and delivers a soothing, cool sensation. Compact enough to throw in your bag and bring on the go, this roll-on cream is non-greasy and ideal for muscle aches and joint pain.
Customer review: “I have been using this cbdMD product now and it’s the best stuff ever. Has helped me with swelling and pain. I highly recommend it to all athletes or anyone in pain!!”
Charlotte’s Web Hemp-Infused Balm
Charlotte’s Web is a high-quality CBD brand that was one of the first leaders in the U.S. hemp market. The brand’s history and mission of bringing hemp health to the masses means you can trust its products.
Strength: The Charlotte’s Web rub-on balm comes in a .5-ounce option with 150 milligrams of hemp extract and a 1.5-ounce tin with 450 milligrams of hemp extract.
Product: The balm is formulated with apricot kernel oil, shea butter, vitamin E, and sunflower seed oil to help moisturize skin in addition to offering pain relief.
Customer review: “I use this on my scars from a recent cosmetic surgery. It has improved the appearance of the scar and has helped with my healing!”
Vital Plan Select Joint & Muscle Rub
If you’re looking for an organic CBD topical for arthritis pain, this is your best bet. Vital Plan Select’s products are created with patients in mind by physician Bill Rawls, MD, and it’s a certified B Corporation, meaning it meets standards of social and environmental accountability. Not only is the hemp-derived CBD balm certified organic, but it also includes a slew of other natural essential oils.
Strength: You’ll get 100 milligrams of CBD per 0.75-ounce bottle
Product: In addition to full-spectrum CBD that’s sourced from USDA-certified organic green cherry hemp, this muscle rub includes a comprehensive list of additional essential oils from eucalyptus, peppermint, coconut oil, shea butter, cocoa seed butter, menthol, arnica, ginger, lavender, wintergreen, cayenne, willow, and calendula.
Customer review: “Almost immediate relief. The menthol is great also. The application is the best and the product is full of ingredients that are proven effective. I trust Dr Rawls’ and his team based on his other products I use daily. I like it so much I purchased it for my siblings! They love it and use it daily!”
Green Roads Muscle & Joint Heat Relief CBD-Infused Roll-On
Established in 2012, Green Roads is a trusted brand known for quality and transparency. What’s more, these U.S. hemp-derived products are formulated by licensed pharmacist Laura Fuentes, RPh. Green Roads topicals are broad spectrum—meaning they include a diverse array of cannabinoids and terpenes—but without THC, for those looking to avoid even trace amounts.
Strength: Green Roads offers two roll-on strengths: 250 milligrams of CBD and 500 milligrams of CBD
Product: This muscle and joint relief roll-on topical is mess-free and easy to apply any time, anywhere. In addition to broad-spectrum CBD extract from hemp, the product includes capsaicin to deliver a thermotherapy effect along with vitamin E and botanicals from avocado, rosemary, and menthol.
Customer review: “Great products, woman-owned, friendly, easy going–I’ve tried several CBD distributors and Green Roads is my favorite.”
Maggie Rossell is a certified herbalist, world traveler, and devoted writer. She loves to explore plants and the human experience–and how the two interweave both physiologically and culturally. Her mission is to spark curiosity and inspiration in readers.
Ashley Jordan Ferira, PhD, RDN is a medical advisor at Remedy Review. Dr. Ferira is a nutrition expert, writer, editor, and educator in the health and wellness sector. Her experiences span nutrition product development, medical affairs, communications, and corporate wellness. Ashley completed her bachelor’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania and PhD in Foods & Nutrition at The University of Georgia, where she researched the role of vitamin D in pediatric cardiometabolic disease. Dr. Ferira is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and has served in leadership roles across local and statewide dietetics, academic, industry, and nonprofit sectors.