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Using Cannabis-Infused Topicals in Therapeutic Massage
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After decades of prohibition, cannabis has been enjoying a coming out party of sorts, with the emerging cannabusiness market redefining antiquated stereotypes about who uses marijuana – and more interestingly – how it is being used. The topical use of cannabis- infused massage oils, lotions, salves, and balms is swiftly gaining in popularity, with even day spa regulars now looking to try out this trendy new way to relax and unwind.

As many turn to natural modalities like therapuetic massage for pain relief, it is no wonder that people are now more open to the idea of using cannibis-infused topicals as part of their overall natural wellness therapy for releasing tension and reducing stress.

The Cannabis-Infused Topicals Movement: What to Know

Cannabis has not always held such a lofty reputation. The criminalization of cannabis has meant that businesses — and certainly the wellness industry — have kept their distance in the past, despite countless medical studies supporting the benefits of cannabis for the body and mind.

But fast-forward to 2015, and 23 U.S. states, including the District of Columbia, now have laws in place that have legalized marijuana in some form or another. Alaska, Oregon, Washington D.C., Colorado, and Washington have all legalized the recreational use of marijuana, and it is expected that California and a number of others states will vote on legalization in 2016.

Not only is cannabis widely accepted in today’s society – NBC News called the legalization of marijuana throughout the nation “inevitable” – it is also embraced by many as an appealing solution to stress and a clear winner over a trip to the bar or an Ambien hangover.

Often considered a “super plant,” cannabis has been used by humans for medicinal purposes for more than 8,000 years. Studies have found that there are 66 unique chemical cannabanoids within the cannabis plant, many of which have therapeutic benefits.

To THC or not to THC …

There are two cannabis-topical classifications:

  • Lotions and oils that use hemp seed oil (but contain no THC), which are available to anyone in any part of the United States
  • Cannabis-infused products that use a small amount of THC – the constituent within marijuana that causes the high

Topicals containing THC are only available where medical marijuana is legally dispensed, or in recreational markets. (Note: Most THC-infused topicals contain only about 0.3 percent THC, making it highly unlikely that the cannabinoids absorbed into the skin would be enough to produce a high.)

THC-infused cannabis is believed by many to be more beneficial than its non-THC containing counterparts. This is because the naturally occuring THC acid in combination with hemp seed oil is more effective at reducing inflammation and pain.

Because hemp seed oil is rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, it is ideal for dry skin that is prone to such conditions as eczema or psoriasis. Many of these topicals also contain dermatological gems like aloe and vitamin E, as well as arnica, an oil that works to regenerate tissue and help heal bruising.

Since THC-infused topicals can only be purchased at medical marijuana dispensaries or licensed recreational retailers – and only in the states where it is legal – it has been tricky to navigate the laws. In the past, customers have had to purchase their infused topicals from a dispensary or licensed retailer and bring it to the massage therapist for treatment.

But this is all changing as more traditional medical spas are applying for the licenses necessary to sell THC-infused topicals, with many now even hosting MDs on site that can prescribe medical marijuana. Places like the MD Medical Spa & Wellness Center in Boston provide this service, allowing clients to purchase topical THC-infused products to use with their spa services in-house.

The Wellness Industry and Cannabusiness: An Ideal Pairing

Although the American Massage Therapy Association has chosen to take no position on the use of cannabis-infused massage oils and lotions, there has been a good deal of pre-clinical data – not to mention user data – to suggest that a massage with cannabis oil or lotion has a positive effect on chronic pain, inflammation, and even burns, lesions, and wounds.

As the use of therapeutic massage continues to grow in leaps and bounds, (The US Department of Labor reports that the number of massage therapists is expected to increase by 23 percent in the next 10 years.) it is now just as well-recognized for being a relaxing spa option as it is a practical and effective way to reduce pain. Used to promote healing and reduce the swelling that causes nerve and muscle pain, massage therapy is popular among people with a range of conditions – from diabetic neuropathy and rheumatoid arthritis to fibromyalgia, cancer, multiple sclerosis, and even psychological conditions like anxiety.

With wellness centers, day spas, and specialty esthetics spas are now offering topical cannabis massage treatments among their list of services, it’s now common to find a cannabis-infused massage therapy session being performed alongside other specialty treatments like chemical peels and Botox.

In Colorado, the popularity of cannabis-infused products of all kinds – including lotions and massage oils – has even introduced a booming new niche to the wellness industry, with dedicated “canna-massage studios” popping up everywhere.

The cannabis massage therapy trend has also become a luxury experience. For example, Colorado tour companies like SPIRO and So Mile High are now offering “rest and relaxation” tours, complete with luxury accommodations, fine dining, and cannabis-infused couple’s massages.

As the fusion of cannabusiness and the personal wellness industry gives rise to the growing cannabis spa movement, some medical marijuana dispensaries have even been offering free massages alongside other types of wellness offerings like Pilates, yoga, and meditation.

Although the verdict is still out on the longevity of this trend, enthusiasts and devotees of massage therapy and non-pharmaceutical solutions to pain, inflammation, and skin disorders are praising the benefits of cannabis-infused topicals.


This article is courtesy of the dedicated skincare specialists of, who are always on the lookout for important developments in skincare therapy, health and wellness.

Rebecca Turley

Rebecca Turley