We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission Here’s our process.
Healthline only shows you brands and products that we stand behind.Our team thoroughly researches and evaluates the recommendations we make on our site. To establish that the product manufacturers addressed safety and efficacy standards, we:
- Evaluate ingredients and composition: Do they have the potential to cause harm?
- Fact-check all health claims: Do they align with the current body of scientific evidence?
- Assess the brand: Does it operate with integrity and adhere to industry best practices?
Our editor tested a wide range of CBD creams for pain relief, looking at potency, ingredients, and brand integrity. Find out why CBDfx, Aspen Green, Cornbread Hemp, and four others made our list.
Healthline has sole editorial control over this article. Potential uses for the products listed here are not health claims made by the manufacturers. The information in this article is intended to be general in nature. It’s not intended to be a substitute for medical advice from a healthcare professional. Healthline encourages you to make any treatment decisions with your healthcare professional.
- Best anti-inflammatory: CBDfx Muscle & Joint Cream, Cooling Formula | Skip to review
- Best organic: Cornbread Hemp CBD Lotion, Menthol Formula | Skip to review
- Best high potency: Aspen Green Relief Cooling Cream | Skip to review
- Best splurge: Extract Labs CBD Muscle Cream | Skip to review
- Best scented: FAB CBD Topical CBD Cream | Skip to review
- Best fragrance-free: PlusCBD Pain Relief Muscle Cream | Skip to review
- Best isolate: Medterra Rapid Recovery CBD Cream, 500 mg CBD | Skip to review
If you’re looking for a cannabidiol (CBD) product to soothe your aches and pains, you have a ton of choices. With gummy, pill, and oil options available, CBD products abound, and they have the potential to help alleviate discomfort. But for muscle or joint pain, topical CBD — such as a CBD cream — may be particularly useful.
But it can be a bit tough to sift through the many CBD products on the market. How can you tell which CBD creams are the real deal?
Read on for my experience testing all of the creams hands-on; I provide honest feedback on what worked for me – and what didn’t!
All the products listed below meet our rigorous criteria for quality. Each CBD cream in this article:
- has been hands-on tested and reviewed by an editor, who received the products for free; all opinions are our own
- is made by a company that provides proof of third-party testing by an ISO 17025-compliant lab
- is made by a company that discloses the source of their hemp
- contains no more than 0.3% THC, according to the certificate of analysis (COA)
- passes tests for pesticides, heavy metals, and molds, according to the COA
We also considered:
- the company’s certifications and manufacturing processes
- product potency
- overall ingredients
- indicators of user trust and brand reputation, such as:
- customer reviews
- whether the company has been subject to a
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warning letter
- whether the company makes any unsupported health claims
You might also notice that some of our picks include extra ingredients that may help with pain relief, including arnica, camphor, and menthol.
I was diagnosed with sciatica in January 2022 and went to physical therapy until I was deemed OK to return to the gym. After I was feeling better, I switched my workout style from lifting (think heavy kettlebells, pushing a sled, and more) to swimming laps (my one true fitness love), yoga, and walking.
I still have sciatica flare-ups from time to time, and pain relief CBD creams have been life-saving when my physical therapy exercises aren’t quite doing the trick. CBD cream is nice to have when your pain is unpredictable. All the creams that I tried are easy to transport and pack in a backpack, gym bag, or suitcase.
Just knowing that I have my trusty CBD cream in my bag helps me push myself on hikes, bike rides, and long walks.
|CBDfx Muscle & Joint Cream, Cooling Formula||broad-spectrum||1,000 mg or 3,000 mg||inflammation|
|Cornbread Hemp CBD Lotion, Menthol Formula||full-spectrum||500 mg||organic CBD|
|Aspen Green Relief Cooling Cream||full-spectrum||1,000 mg||high potency|
|Extract Labs CBD Muscle Cream||full-spectrum||1,500 mg||high potency splurge|
|FAB CBD Topical CBD Cream||full-spectrum||600 mg||Blood Orange scent|
|PlusCBD Pain Relief Muscle Cream||full-spectrum||500 mg||warming and cooling sensation|
|Medterra Rapid Recovery CBD Cream, 500 mg CBD||isolate||500 mg||pure CBD (no THC)|
What are the types of CBD?
CBD is a compound found in the cannabis plant. There are several forms of CBD:
- Broad-spectrum CBD: Broad-spectrum products contain no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), but they do contain other cannabis plant compounds such as terpenes and flavonoids.
- Full-spectrum CBD: This type of CBD contains very small amounts of THC (less than 0.3%), so you’re unlikely to experience any intoxicating effects when taking full-spectrum products, but it is possible to experience impairment with high potency products. One theory suggests that when CBD and THC are both present, they may provide a greater benefit than THC or CBD alone. This is called the entourage effect.
- CBD isolate: This is pure CBD. Unlike full- and broad-spectrum CBD, isolate doesn’t contain any additional compounds from the cannabis plant, meaning it contains no THC.
Research into CBD’s pain-relieving abilities is still in the early stages. However, so far, there’s some evidence that topical CBD products, like creams, may help with a variety of pain sensations, including:
- Arthritis-related pain: A
2016 animal studyfound that applying topical CBD may help with arthritis-related pain and swelling.
- Nerve pain: A small 2020 study looked at the effects of topical CBD oil on pain. Many people in the study, all with nerve damage, reported having reduced pain levels. They described feeling a dip in sharp, intense, and cold and itchy pain sensations.
- Jaw pain: A
small 2019 studylooked into how topical CBD may provide relief from a specific kind of facial pain that mainly affects the jaw. The study found that people who applied topical CBD about two times a day experienced a lot less pain after 2 weeks.
Another 2020 study found that some people in palliative care use THC or CBD regularly and that topical products, in particular, help reduce pain.
- Helpful for targeting pain in specific areas: While edibles provide full-body effects, you can apply topicals like creams directly to trouble areas.
- Works quickly: Because topicals don’t pass through your stomach, they don’t get broken down like edibles. This means they tend to work faster than gummies or capsules.
- Additional ingredients may add pain relief: Many creams have added ingredients like menthol or arnica, which provide enhanced pain relief.
- Improved skin health: CBD creams may help with pain and moisturize and hydrate the skin.
- Less potent than ingestibles: You may feel the effects of topicals sooner than ingestibles, but most creams and lotions tend to be less potent.
- Difficult to dose: Oils and ingestibles such as gummies or capsules are carefully formulated to ensure you’re getting a specific dose with each dropper or serving. However, when applying creams, it can be difficult to figure out exact dosing.
- Potential for skin irritation: Anytime you put something on your skin, there’s potential for a reaction to occur.
- May not be (entirely) effective: CBD cream may not be effective for some pain conditions because it is not absorbed into the bloodstream
If you’re interested in trying an alternative treatment for your pain, you might want to give CBD a shot. However, keep in mind that CBD isn’t a replacement for doctor-prescribed treatments. It can also interact with some medications, including those with a grapefruit warning. If you take any of these medications, CBD may not be a good fit for you.
If your doctor or healthcare professional gives you the OK, though, and you’re looking to target specific pain areas — like arthritis in your fingers, for example — a topical may provide some relief.
CBD might help you get some pain relief, but there are a lot of products out there to sift through. Here’s what to look for when shopping for a CBD topical.
The FDA doesn’t guarantee the safety, quality, or efficacy of any CBD product — at least for now. It can still take action against companies committing fraud or peddling false health claims, but it’s important for you to carefully read labels before buying.
Look for a product with a COA that’s up to date and comes from a reputable third-party lab. Check that what’s listed on the COA matches up with the company’s product description and that the lab has performed contaminant testing.
We recommend looking for results for heavy metals, molds, and pesticides. If the company uses a solvent-based extraction method, it’s also a good idea to check for residual solvent testing results.
Isolates are typically a good option if you’re looking to avoid THC and other cannabinoids, but broad- and full-spectrum may offer more benefits than isolates.
Keep in mind that while any CBD product can have trace levels of THC, full-spectrum CBD will intentionally contain a low level of THC — up to 0.3% in federally legal products.
Choose CBD creams made from all-natural, U.S.-grown hemp. Since you’ll be applying the cream to your skin, check the ingredient label for any known irritants or allergens.
If you’re looking for a CBD topical specifically for pain relief, you may also want to look for products with additional pain-relieving ingredients. Warming and cooling creams, which often contain menthol or arnica, provide an added pain relief component for aches and pain.
Most topical CBD products contain around 3 to 8 mg of CBD per recommended application. If you have chronic pain, you may want to opt for a higher potency product. But if you’re new to CBD, it’s best to start with a lower potency product.
For more information on how to approach CBD dosage-wise, check out our CBD dosage guide.
It’s always best to read the instructions on the package before using any CBD cream. However, in general, CBD creams are meant to be applied topically and massaged into the skin wherever you’re experiencing pain. Have arthritis in your hands? Rub the cream onto your hands, focusing on the painful joints.
If a product contains ingredients specific for pain relief, like menthol or arnica, you might feel cooling or warming sensations. Start with a small application in case those sensations bother you.
Patch test the product by applying a little to the inside of your wrist and waiting to see if you experience any irritation. Even the most natural products can irritate sensitive skin.
Keep CBD cream away from mucous membranes and broken skin.
Most topicals are for external use only, so you shouldn’t ingest them unless the packaging says it’s safe to do so.
If you have any sores or open wounds, wait to apply CBD cream. Many products shouldn’t be used on broken skin.
While small amounts of low dose CBD products shouldn’t make you feel “high,” some people occasionally experience side effects like:
- changes in weight or appetite
However, topicals are unlikely to absorb into your bloodstream and cause full-body effects.
Talk with your doctor or healthcare professional before using CBD since it can interact with certain medications.
Does CBD cream work for pain?
Research is still ongoing, but some smaller studies and animal research suggests that CBD may reduce inflammation and help provide pain relief. Studies have specifically looked at CBD for arthritis, nerve, and jaw pain.
What are side effects of CBD?
Some possible side effects of CBD are:
- appetite changes
- weight changes
Whenever you’re using a product that’s new to you, it’s important to check ingredients carefully to avoid any known allergens.
Never apply CBD to broken skin, and remember to perform a patch test before using it for the first time. This can determine if any ingredients in the topical will irritate your skin.
How long does it take for CBD pain cream to work?
It depends on the person but generally between 15 to 30 minutes.
Can I rub CBD oil on my skin for pain?
Yes. CBD oils meant to be taken orally can also be rubbed into the skin. Just make sure to read the ingredient list for any irritants before you apply oils directly to the skin.
Keep in mind that you can apply some CBD oils to the skin, but don’t ingest products meant specifically for the skin.
The jury is still out on whether CBD topicals offer up definitive pain relief, but many people report having success with creams, lotions, and salves for all kinds of ailments.
For the best results possible, pick a potent, full-spectrum CBD cream from a reputable company that sources quality, organic ingredients.
Remember that the most reputable CBD brands are transparent about their products — including clear descriptions on their website about where products are grown and how they’re processed. Talk with your doctor or healthcare professional before trying CBD.
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 legal at the federal level. However, CBD products containing more than 0.3% THC still fall under the legal definition of marijuana, making them illegal at the federal level. Some states have legalized CBD, so 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.