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Cannabidiol (CBD) is being pumped into tons of different types of products these days.

In case you’re late to the party, CBD is one of many active compounds found in the cannabis plant.

Research around it is still underway — there’s much we still have to learn about CBD. But so far, studies of its potential benefits suggest that CBD:

  • may help improve sleep
  • may help with pain and anxiety
  • contains anti-inflammatory properties
  • can help reduce seizures in people with epilepsy — Epidiolex for seizures is the only prescription CBD product approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

While you can take CBD through edible products like oils, capsules, or gummies, you might also want to try a topical product like a balm. You can apply topicals directly to a localized point of soreness or pain. They can even be a relaxing part of a bedtime routine.

Keep reading to learn more about CBD balms, how they work, and how to shop for them.

CBD balms are often thick, almost solid, and waxy. They’re different from CBD salves, which tend to be a bit softer than balms.

Both salves and balms tend to use fatty oils and waxes as base ingredients, while creams and lotions typically use water. Balms are a concentrated product, making them a great go-to choice for pain relief.

CBD balms, like other CBD topicals, are intended to be used directly on your skin. They’re meant to apply relief to a specific area.

One thing to keep in mind is that skin absorbency is pretty weak compared with other mucous membranes. That means when applying a topical product, it’s best to select one with a high level of CBD and apply it liberally.

You can try CBD balms for a variety of uses.

Pain relief

Applying CBD products that offer extra pain-relieving ingredients like menthol, camphor, and capsaicin may deliver even more therapeutic effects to the applied areas.

Skin conditions

In addition to helping with physical pain, CBD balms may be beneficial for certain skin conditions.

In fact, the American Academy of Dermatology mentions that topical CBD products show potential for lowering inflammation that can contribute to acne, eczema, and psoriasis.

Other uses

There’s mounting evidence that suggests topical CBD products, like balms, can help with a range of pain issues like:

  • Arthritis-related pain. A 2015 study performed on rats discovered that CBD gel applied to the skin significantly lowered joint swelling.
  • Nerve pain. A small 2020 study examined topical CBD oil’s impact on pain. In the study, people with nerve damage all reported lower levels of pain, noticing a drop in sharp, severe, cold, and itchy feelings of pain.
  • Jaw pain. A 2019 study explored how topical CBD may help with a certain type of facial pain that largely involves the jaw. Researchers discovered that those who used topical CBD around twice daily experienced reduced pain after 2 weeks.

It’s important to keep in mind that research is limited. More research needs to be done on CBD before we can say for sure that it can help with any of these conditions.

We chose these products based on criteria we think are good indicators of safety, quality, and transparency. Each product in this article:

  • 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% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), according to the certificate of analysis (COA)
  • passes testing for pesticides, heavy metals, and molds, according to the COA

We also considered:

  • company 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 an FDA warning letter
    • whether the company makes any unsupported health claims

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $40
  • $$ = over $40

Best moisturizing

PlusCBD Full Spectrum Hemp Extract Balm

  • Price: $
  • CBD type: full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 100 milligrams (mg) per 1.3-ounce (oz) jar
  • COA: available on product page

This balm is non-GMO, gluten-free, and made with a base of beeswax and almond oil, plus vitamin E to support skin health. Thanks to the peppermint extract, it has a minty scent.

PlusCBD promises a balm that softens and smooths the skin. Reviewers love how well it soothes dry hands and how quickly it provides relief.

Batch-specific COAs are linked from the product page.


  • non-GMO, gluten-free
  • formulated without fragrance, parabens, or sulfates
  • contains moisturizing vitamin E and almond oil


  • minty scent might not be ideal for all users
  • PlusCBD has a loyalty program but doesn’t seem to offer assistance programs
  • mostly positive reviews but some mention not noticing a difference
  • beeswax is an allergen for some

Use code “healthline25” for 25% off.

Best for runners

TheraOne by Theragun Revive CBD Body Balm

  • Price: $$
  • CBD type: full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 500 mg per 1-oz jar
  • COA: available online

This CBD balm is said to help alleviate soreness, stiffness, and discomfort, making it a nice choice for runners looking to ease those common symptoms.

The formula uses organic turmeric oil to offer a warming sensation, while organic menthol is added for a soothing, cooling effect.

This balm is said to help with hydration too, using refined shea butter, which the brand says is to help skin retain moisture.

Plus, this balm is U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) certified organic and cruelty-free.

Therabody offers 20% off certain regularly priced Therabody products to military members, veterans, medical professionals, and first responders. You can check to see if you qualify for those benefits here.


  • USDA certified organic and cruelty-free
  • both cooling and warming
  • contains hydrating shea butter


  • pricey compared with similar balms
  • discounts for qualifying shoppers are a bit lower compared with other brand offers (20% off)
  • product reviews are tricky to find on brand’s website

Best for sensitive skin

NuLeaf Naturals CBD Hemp Balm

For those with sensitive skin, this unscented CBD balm may be a good choice. It’s made using only two ingredients: organic shea butter and full-spectrum hemp extract.

NuLeaf Naturals says this balm absorbs quickly to help lessen discomfort.

Reviews for the product on the company site are very positive, with remarks about it working well on pain. One reviewer says they keep it in their purse for fast relief on the go.

For those looking for higher potency and larger sizes, this is also available in a 1.5-oz jar with 900 mg.

This company also offers assistance programs for a range of qualifying customers.


  • unscented, which is a perk for sensitive skin types
  • formulated with only two ingredients
  • many positive reviews


  • assistance program information on brand website doesn’t specify the discount offer

Best with botanical extracts

Aspen Green Pain Relief Body Balm

  • Price: $$
  • CBD type: full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 1,000 mg per 2-oz container
  • COA: available online

Although it’s on the pricier side, this full-spectrum CBD balm is made from food-grade ingredients, including botanical extracts, beeswax, mango, and jojoba seed oil.

A 2015 study suggests that plant extracts, when used in skin care products, have some benefits, including antioxidant and antimicrobial activities.

This balm’s oil and CBD are organic, free from artificial preservatives, plasticizers, and synthetic ingredients.

Reviewers point out that this balm is not budget-friendly, but it is helpful and effective for easing their ailments.


  • organic, non-GMO, and gluten-free
  • includes botanical ingredients for potentially therapeutic effects
  • formula uses food-grade ingredients


  • contains beeswax, an allergen for some people
  • pricey, compared with other CBD balms on our list

Best for inflammation

Lazarus Naturals Relief + Recovery Full Spectrum CBD Balm

  • Price: $–$$
  • CBD type: full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 1,000 mg per 0.7-oz container; 3,000 mg per 2.1-oz container
  • COA: available on product page

This Lazarus Naturals balm is non-GMO and formulated with a beeswax base. It includes full-spectrum CBD, a type of CBD that contains all of the plant’s cannabinoids, including a small amount of THC.

Reviewers love that it’s both cooling — thanks to the wintergreen oil — and warming, thanks to the capsaicin extract. They also rave about the mint scent, saying it’s soothing without being overpowering.

Lazarus Naturals has an assistance program offering 60% off to veterans, people with long-term disabilities, and people from low-income households.


  • non-GMO, USDA certified organic
  • offers both cooling and warming sensation
  • brand offers a generous assistance program for qualifying customers


  • produced in a facility that handles tree nuts
  • product only has a small number of reviews right now
  • beeswax is an allergen for some

Use code “Healthline10” for 10% off your first order. One-time use only.

When it comes to CBD, not all products are created equal. Since the FDA hasn’t approved any over-the-counter CBD products, it’s very important to look into what you’re buying before you make a purchase. Here’s what to look for:

  • Testing: It’s best to look for a product that comes with an up-to-date, comprehensive COA from a reputable third-party lab. The COA will verify how much CBD and THC are in the product. It’ll also tell you whether the product has been tested for contaminants like mold, pesticides, and heavy metals.
  • Transparency: The best brands will be transparent about where they grow their hemp and how they make their products.
  • Ingredients: Check ingredients before you make a purchase. Look for anything you may be allergic to. You can also scope out products with added pain-relieving ingredients, if needed.
  • Reputation: Some CBD brands have pending lawsuits or have received warning letters from the FDA. Research each potential brand before you buy their product.

Balms are usually intended to be applied as you would a typical moisturizer — by gently massaging it into the area you’re treating and adding more as needed. However, be sure to read the label for specifics before you apply a balm.

You can find CBD balms in a variety of strengths. Topicals like balms can be a little hard to dose since they’re not as straightforward as, say, a CBD gummy.

But in general, dosage depends on a number of factors, including:

  • your experience with CBD products
  • your body weight
  • the potency of the product
  • the condition you’re treating

If you’re new to CBD, it’s best to start with the lowest possible dose and see how your body responds. You can up the dose from there if necessary.

Though the World Health Organization says CBD is largely believed to be safe, some people may experience side effects, including:

  • fatigue
  • diarrhea
  • changes in appetite
  • changes in weight

It’s a good idea to talk with a healthcare professional before trying CBD, especially if you’re taking any medications. CBD may interact with some medications, including those that carry a grapefruit warning.

It’s also important to be careful with any new-to-you topical products. Topical CBD products are unlikely to cause any of the side effects mentioned above, but it’s best to check the ingredients first to make sure you don’t have any allergies to them.

Don’t use topicals on broken skin. Perform a patch test to make sure you don’t have any allergic reactions before using the product on larger areas of your skin.

To do a patch test, you’ll simply place a little bit of the balm on the inside of your wrist. Wait 24 hours to see how your skin responds. If you notice any signs of irritation, such as redness or itchiness, discontinue use of the product.

What can I use CBD balm for?

You can apply CBD balm directly to the area you want to treat, like a sore, stiff muscle or joint.

For topically treating a skin condition like acne, eczema, or psoriasis, consider other types of CBD topicals like lotions or creams. Balms have a thick, heavy consistency that may not work as well for skin conditions.

Will using CBD balm result in a positive drug test?

Although CBD should not appear on a drug test, many CBD products do contain trace amounts of THC. Some may also be mislabeled.

If the product contains enough THC, it can result in a positive test result. For the best chance at avoiding THC altogether, buy CBD isolate from a reputable brand.

What’s the difference between full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD balm?

Full-spectrum CBD has all the beneficial compounds from the cannabis plant including cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. This means it can include up to 0.3% THC. Broad-spectrum CBD contains all the same compounds as full-spectrum CBD except for THC.

How long does it take for CBD balm to start working?

This will vary depending on the type of CBD you are using, your body composition, and your dosage.

It may take as long as 1 to 2 hours to notice results from applying CBD topically.

Effects from topical CBD products like CBD balm can take longer to notice compared with using CBD orally (by placing CBD oil under your tongue, for example).

Research on CBD is still in its infancy. However, growing evidence and consumer reports suggest that CBD topicals may help with a number of ailments, including pain and skin conditions like acne and eczema.

Always be careful when using a new-to-you product. Talk with your doctor first about any potential interactions with your current medications and perform a small patch test on your skin before applying it to a larger area.

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.

Breanna Mona is a writer based in Cleveland, OH. She holds a master’s degree in media and journalism and writes about health, lifestyle, and entertainment.