There’s been a buzz around CBD—but not for the reasons you might think. Cannabidiol (CBD) has proven to be a very viable complement to just about any massage modality.

Many clients are already using various forms of CBD for self-care, and they are open to having a massage with this nonpsychoactive enhancement. And guess what? They are happy to pay for it.

What is CBD?

Cannabis is a genus of the family of plants that evolved over 32 million years ago. It has been revered and safely utilized for medical purposes by indigenous healers in ancient India, China and Tibet for over 5,000 years. It was introduced into Western medicine in 1839 by a surgeon who learned of its healing abilities in India.

CBD is one of over 85 compounds produced in cannabis plants known collectively as phytocannabinoids. The two most abundant phytocannabinoids possessing therapeutic properties are CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). While other plants such as black pepper, rosemary, echinacea and cacao also produce phytocannabinoids, only cannabis produces CBD and THC.

The two varieties of cannabis that contain these phyto cannabinoids are hemp and marijuana. They differ greatly in their physical distinctions and in their uses.

Hemp, classified as cannabis sativa (also referred to as industrial hemp), has been used for paper, fabric and clothing, construction materials, food and drink, and body care products. The parts of the plant traditionally utilized are its stalks, stems and seeds. It contains a large amount of CBD and a very small amount of THC. The 2018 Farm Bill legalized the cultivation of hemp and the transfer of hemp-derived CBD products across state lines.

Marijuana is classified as two strains, cannabis sativa and cannabis indica. Marijuana sativa has the highest levels of THC (50-60%), but both strains contain significantly more THC than hemp sativa. The parts of the plant utilized are its leaves and flowers. While marijuana also has medical and therapeutic benefits to offer, it has been used chiefly for recreational purposes and this is not the focus for topical applications of CBD in massage therapy.

Legal Awareness

Hemp cultivation and the transfer of hemp-derived CBD products across state lines was legalized December 2018, although laws in individual states must still be acknowledged.

Whether it’s legal depends on the source (hemp vs. marijuana), what’s in the final product and where you’re located. It is up to you to explore and understand the laws in your own state. Check your local and state laws to ensure using CBD topics is within your legal scope of practice.

How CBD Works

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) evolved in primitive animals over 600 million years ago. It is shared by all vertebrate species including humans and is essential to health and well-being. Its goal is to promote homeostasis and balance in the body as changes happen in external and internal environments and to control communication between cells. It regulates appetite, pain sensation, stress response, and mood and memory. It also serves as a bridge between body and mind through actions in our immune system, nervous system and all the body’s organs.

Endocannabinoids are neurotransmitters the body produces that are recognized by CB1 and CB2 receptors. These receptors also recognize plant based phytocannabioids. Endocannabinoids or phytocannabinoids plug into CB1 and CB2 receptors activating and supplementing the ECS.

Because the chemical makeup of the cannabis-produced phytocannabinoids closely resembles that of our naturally produced endocannabinoids, phytocannabinoids are also recognized by the numerous cannabinoid receptors and their therapeutic benefits are made available to our bodies.

Stressful lifestyles and unhealthy diet are some factors that can negatively impact ECS functioning and lower its endocannabinoid production, resulting in a cannabinoid deficiency.

If the amount of endocannabinoids produced is lower than considered essential to health and well-being, many important bodily functions are thrown out of balance. Scientists believe this may be a cause factor in many conditions such as fibromyalgia, anorexia, depression, IBS, MS, migraines, PTSD, Parkinson’s and autism.

Using Topical CBD Products in Massage

Using topical CBD products in your practice can enhance the therapeutic benefits of the massage , and many therapists feel that it is a great benefit for themselves as well.

It makes your work easier. CBD-infused products not only amp up treatment benefits for your clients, but also make your job easier. As the CBD topical begins loosening muscles and relieving stress, clients are able to sink into a deeper state of relaxation. This lets you work deeper with less effort, which is particularly helpful when performing deep tissue massage. It’s also been reported that clients experience less soreness and recover more quickly after treatments using CBD products.

It eases your own aches and pains. CBD also benefits you as a therapist who is providing physically demanding services. A cannabis product company visited a local spa that had been offering CBD-enhanced massage for two years. They spoke with one of its therapists, who reported that “giving a cannabis massage was less stressful on her muscles than a traditional one.”

In an interview with American Spa Magazine, Jordan Person, founder of Primal Therapeutics in Colorado, said, “I was at a point that I had been doing massage for many years, and my wrists were starting to give out on me. I began applying cannabis-infused lotions and oils to my patients and in a few weeks, I realized I had no wrist pain.”

It’s safe for the body. As reported in Forbes Magazine in 2018, the World Health Organization reports that “[N]aturally occurring CBD is safe and well-tolerated in human and animals, and is not associated with any negative public health effects.” It further states that “CBD, a non-psychoactive chemical found in cannabis, does not induce physical dependence and is not associated with abuse potential. Unlike THC, people aren’t getting high off of CBD.”

CBD extracted from hemp contains less than .3% (.003) THC. You should not feel high or experience any negative change in your mind or mental process with this level of THC.

What to Look for When Selecting CBD Massage Products

One of the most popular uses of CBD in massage is to use massage oil infused with CBD. There are many variances in dosage. If you look at different brands you will notice different milligrams of CBD in their products.

Always calculate the number of milligrams (mg) per ounce; that way you are comparing apples to apples. It is very deceiving if you see on the label 2,400 milligrams, but it doesn’t list how many milligrams per ounce- when you divide that by 32 oz. or a gallon (128 oz.) you get the true information of the level of concentration of the CBD.

An average massage uses less than an ounce of massage oil. so consider how much oil will be used in the treatment to get a good dosage. Fifty milligrams per ounce is a very good target. Other topical products such as balms and creams may have higher concentration of CBD and are used for targeted application to focused areas that need special treatment.

Look for organic CBD for a pure form, which means organically farmed and cultivated. Extraction method is also important. Avoid glycol extractions and look for C02 extraction method which is one of the best. Third-party testing of CBD oil shows that the supplier has tested by an impartial and accredited third-party laboratory to ensure purity and concentration levels and that there are no solvents, pesticides, microbials or metals.

Enhance the Therapy of Your Massage

CBD certainly does not replace your skilled techniques or healing hands, but it can enhance the therapeutic benefits of the massage by layering its own benefits. Clients who receive CBD massage comment that they feel more relaxed, some find chronic pain has dissipated, some find relief for their recurring headaches.

CBD can help with inflammation. and that is especially beneficial when working with stress and strained muscle tissues. The great news is that at proper dosage it is safe and will do no harm, so try incorporating it into your massage practice and share your results with our massage community.

Donna Grodjesk, VP Earthlite Spa and Wellness Products, Founder of Tara Spa Therapy and Visionary of the Year award winner for Women in Wellness, has devoted her 30 years of experience in wellness to refining bodywork techniques, creating innovative body treatments and offering a careful selection of holistic therapeutic products for the wellness market today. Tara is a certified holistic health educator, massage therapist, Ayurvedic practitioner and aomatherapist. She is co-founder of Green Spa Network and The Northern California Spa Alliance. For 30 years Tara has been training massage therapists internationally and developing treatment programs for world class hotel resorts, destination and day spas.

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