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.

If you’re looking for a cannabidiol (CBD) product to soothe your aches and pains, you have a ton of choices. From gummies to pills to oils, CBD products abound, and they all have the potential to help alleviate discomfort. But for muscle or joint troubles, topical CBD — like 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?

Our editor has tested all the creams in this article and provided feedback to help make shopping a little easier for you.

CBD is a compound contained in the cannabis plant. There are several forms of CBD:

  • Broad-spectrum CBD: Broad-spectrum products contain no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), but 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 won’t experience any intoxicating effects when taking full-spectrum products. One theory suggests that when CBD and THC are present together, they may provide a greater benefit compared to 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 study found 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 study looked 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.

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:

You might also notice that some of our picks include extra ingredients that may help specifically with pain, including arnica, camphor, and menthol.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $30
  • $$ = $30–$50
  • $$$ = over $50

Best anti-inflammatory CBD cream

CBDfx Muscle & Joint CBD Hemp Cream

  • Price: $–$$
  • CBD type: broad-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 1,000 mg or 3,000 mg per 1.7-ounce (oz.) container
  • Best for: inflammation
  • Dosage: apply dime-size to a quarter-size amount 3–4 times daily
  • Third-party tested: yes
  • Organic: organic broad-spectrum CBD
  • Key ingredients: white willow bark, caffeine, menthol
  • COA: available on product page

This CBD cream has cooling capabilities, thanks to the included menthol. It also includes several anti-inflammatory ingredients like caffeine and white willow bark extract that provide an extra boost of pain relief.

CBDfx creates its products from CBD extracted without the use of solvents, and the company offers a 30-day money-back guarantee. COAs are available through a link on each product page.

I’m a fan of the lotion pump that comes on the bottle of CBDfx’s cream, making for easy and clean application. The cooling effect of this cream is immediate but doesn’t last long. The pain relief does last, as does the minty scent. I like this cream for its light texture and pain-reducing potency.

Pros

  • vegan
  • cruelty-free
  • water-based, nongreasy

Cons

  • the brand’s product line doesn’t seem to be certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
  • this item contains caffeine, which may cause sensitivity in some people

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Best organic CBD cream

Cornbread Hemp CBD Lotion, Menthol Formula

  • Price: $$
  • CBD type: full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 500 mg per 2-oz. container
  • Best for: added THC and organic CBD
  • Dosage: 8 mg per serving, brand suggests daily use for at least 2–4 weeks
  • Third-party tested: yes
  • Organic: certified USDA organic
  • Key ingredients: organic jojoba oil, organic glycerin, organic beeswax
  • COA: available on product page

If you’re concerned about skin reactions, you may prefer to go with a cream that’s free of harsh synthetic ingredients. Cornbread Hemp‘s CBD lotion contains a host of naturally-derived organic ingredients, with menthol as an added pain reliever.

This cream contains 20 mg THC per jar, which is a plus if you’re looking for benefits from the entourage effect (one theory that suggests extra benefits are up for grabs when THC and CBD are combined). This may be a drawback if you want to avoid THC. Cornbread Hemp uses U.S.-grown hemp from the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s Hemp Program and produces its products in a facility that’s been certified to follow the FDA’s current good manufacturing practices (cGMPs).

This lotion has a lemongrass scent, which I found to be pleasant and unique among the other products that I tried. The cooling sensation is nice, and the entourage effect of 8 mg CBD + 0.3% THC seemed to reduce my pain for a longer duration. This lotion’s consistency is looser than a salve or cream, making application easy and light.

Pros

  • certified USDA organic
  • contains 20 mg THC per jar (possibly helpful for those looking for added relief or other benefits)
  • the brand uses hemp flowers only (no use of stems, seeds, stalks, or leaves)

Cons

  • contains 20 mg THC per jar (a possible drawback for those who only want CBD)
  • contains soy (an allergen for some people)

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Best high potency CBD cream

Aspen Green Muscle Relief Cooling Cream

  • Price: $$$
  • CBD type: full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 1,000 mg per 60-mL container
  • Best for: applying high potency
  • Dosage: company suggests applying as needed to non-sensitive areas
  • Third-party tested: yes
  • Organic: organic full-spectrum hemp extract and organic menthol
  • Key ingredients: arnica extract, organic menthol
  • COA: available on product page

This cooling cream is made with arnica extract and organic menthol, which, along with full-spectrum CBD, help provide pain relief.

Keep in mind that full-spectrum CBD contains a small amount of THC. This can be helpful due to the entourage effect, which theorizes that CBD and THC work better together than they do alone.

Aspen Green’s muscle relief cooling cream is my favorite product on this list. The cooling sensation lasts a while, and it has helped me continue to go about my day during a sciatica flare-up. The cream comes in a compact container that packs a punch: the high potency has made a big difference in reducing my pain.

Pros

  • cruelty-free, gluten-free
  • water-based for easy application
  • brand is certified with the USDA
  • does not contain plasticizers, synthetic ingredients, or artificial preservatives
  • 60-day return policy

Cons

  • not for those who want to avoid THC
  • pricey compared to other brands

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Best scented CBD cream

FAB CBD Topical CBD Cream

  • Price: $$
  • CBD type: full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 600 mg per 2-oz. container
  • Best for: unique (non-minty) scent
  • Dosage: fingertip-sized amount, adding more as desired
  • Third-party tested: yes
  • Organic: organically grown Colorado hemp
  • Key ingredients: aloe vera, cocoa butter, coconut oil, olive oil
  • COA: available online

This nongreasy cream by FAB CBD promises smooth application and a relaxing experience. The non-GMO formula uses full-spectrum CBD from hemp grown organically in Colorado, according to the brand. The cream also contains moisturizing aloe vera and cocoa butter for rich hydration. The lightweight cream has a citrus scent (“blood orange”) that is enjoyable but not overpowering. Reviewers seem to be repeat buyers, and it’s tough to find a single complaint.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that, for some people, even mild fragrances may bring out sensitivities or allergic reactions.

The citrus scent of this cream is distinctive in a group of mostly menthol/minty-smelling topicals. I’d say the blood orange fragrance is truly subtle; you won’t walk around smelling like an orange after application.

The texture of the lotion is dreamy: It has a mousse-like consistency and goes on smoothly. When using this cream, I noticed that my pain was minimized, and I was able to forget about it for a while.

Pros

  • non-GMO
  • lightweight and nongreasy
  • “blood orange” scent may be a perk for those who enjoy fragrance

Cons

  • not for those who may want to avoid THC
  • scent might not work for those who are sensitive to fragrance

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Best splurge CBD cream

Extract Labs Muscle Cream

  • Price: $$$
  • CBD type: full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 1,500 mg per 2.95-oz. tin
  • Best for: beeswax-based cream, high potency
  • Dosage: as needed to desired areas
  • Third-party tested: yes
  • Organic: certified organic ingredients, including shea butter, jojoba, menthol, beeswax, arnica, and rosemary
  • Key ingredients: menthol, arnica
  • COA: available on product page

Along with pain-easing menthol and arnica, this full-spectrum CBD cream contains these other nourishing ingredients that the brand says are certified organic: shea butter, jojoba, beeswax, and rosemary. Reviewers point out how well this topical works for muscle pain, and they seem pleased with the scent.

Although the price is higher than some of its competitors, Extract Labs offers a 50% discount through its discount programs for veterans and active military, teachers, first responders, healthcare workers, low-income households, and people on disability.

I used this muscle cream after a few tough workouts and noticed that it seemed to help lessen the pain and tightness I was feeling in my back. It has a strong menthol (minty) flavor and is potent: 1,500 mg of CBD is in this easy-to-carry-along tin. The cream has a denser texture, so it’s best to warm up your hands before applying.

Pros

  • high potency
  • contains added organic ingredients, like shea butter and jojoba oil
  • high ratings
  • pleasant scent
  • 50% off discount for qualifying customers

Cons

  • high cost
  • contains trace amounts of THC

Best fragrance-free CBD cream

PlusCBD Pain Relief Muscle Cream

  • Price: $$
  • CBD type: full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 500 mg per 4-oz. bottle
  • Best for: warming and cooling sensation
  • Dosage: massage a thin layer to desired areas as needed
  • Third-party tested: yes
  • Organic: no
  • Key ingredients: menthol, camphor
  • COA: available on product page

This PlusCBD muscle cream is made with stiff, sore muscles in mind.

Along with full-spectrum CBD, it contains camphor, a tree extract that provides a warming sensation, and menthol for minty cooling. These ingredients can help with pain relief and add a soothing touch to achy muscles or minor injuries.

Keep in mind that relief from this cream is temporary, and your healthcare professional should address any injuries.

It’s also fragrance-free, a nice perk for people with skin sensitivities. Although the product isn’t vegan, the brand does say it’s non-GMO and free of dyes, sulfates, phthalates, and parabens. PlusCBD doesn’t offer an assistance program at this time, but they do have a loyalty program for future savings.

I used this cream on my shoulders and neck, which is where I tend to hold tension and stress. It didn’t offer as much relief as some of the other creams I tried, but I absolutely love the fragrance-free aspect of this cream. Most (if not all!) of the creams on this list leave you smelling strongly of menthol, so it was nice to be able to use this cream at the office and not worry about stinking up the place or irritating anyone.

Pros

  • contains menthol and camphor for cooling and warming
  • non-GMO
  • fragrance-free
  • no dyes, sulfates, phthalates, or parabens
  • large bottle compared with similar products

Cons

  • contains isopropyl alcohol, which is a drying agent
  • not organic or vegan
  • brand doesn’t offer assistance program for discounts

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).

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 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 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.

PriceTypePotencyBest forProsCon
CBDfx Muscle & Joint CBD Hemp Cream$–$$broad-spectrum1,000 mg or 3,000 mginflammation • vegan
• nongreasy
contains caffeine
Cornbread Hemp CBD Lotion, Menthol Formula$$full-spectrum500 mgorganic CBD• uses hemp flower only (no stems, stalks, etc.)
• certified USDA organic
contains soy
Aspen Green Muscle Relief Cooling Cream$$$full-spectrum1,000 mghigh potency• cruelty-free
• gluten-free
expensive
FAB CBD Topical CBD Cream$$full-spectrum600 mgblood orange scent• lightweight
• nongreasy
• non-GMO
strong scent
Extract Labs Muscle Cream$$$full-spectrum1,500 mgsplurge high potency CBD• contains added organic ingredients
• generous discount program
• highly rated
expensive
PlusCBD Pain Relief Muscle Cream$$full-spectrum500 mgwarming and cooling sensation• contains menthol and camphor for cooling and warming
• fragrance-free
• vegan
• contains isopropyl alcohol
• not organic

Interested in other CBD products?

Our evidence-driven reviews and comparisons break down the top CBD oils, gummies, creams, and more so you can feel confident choosing what’s right for you.

Pros

  • Helpful for targeting pain in specific areas: While edibles provide full-body effects, you can apply topicals like creams directly to areas causing you trouble.
  • 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.

Cons

  • Less potent than edibles: You may feel the effects of topicals sooner than edibles, but most creams and lotions tend to be less potent.
  • Difficult to dose: Oils and edibles 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.

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 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.

Third-party testing

The FDA doesn’t guarantee the safety, quality, or efficacy of any CBD product — at least for now. They 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.

CBD type

Isolates are typically ideal 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.

Ingredients

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 irritants or things you’re allergic to.

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.

Potency

Most topical CBD products contain around 3 to 8 milligrams (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 mucus membranes and broken skin.

A 2017 research review showed that CBD is generally safe to use.

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:

  • sleepiness
  • diarrhea
  • changes in weight or appetite

However, topicals are unlikely to absorb into your bloodstream and cause full-body effects.

Talk with your doctor 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:

  • sleepiness
  • diarrhea
  • 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 there are any ingredients in the topical that 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 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 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.