Throw Some Cannabis Pain Salve in Your First Aid Kit

Matt Weeks September 9, 2020 0 comments

Cannabis pain salve may help with sore muscles and headaches.

Anecdotal evidence and historical sources show that cannabis salves have long been used for pain relief with many continuing the practice today.

While the scientific community remains undecided about cannabis due to a lack of research, the clinical trials that have occurred have shown promising results.

And though there has yet to be solid research on whether or not cannabis pain salves work for headaches, there is plenty of evidence that a little weed cream could take some of the pain away.

How a Cannabis Pain Salve May Help

A cannabis pain salve is a topical medication, usually a cream or balm. Its active ingredients are cannabinoids, usually THC and/or CBD. Cannabinoids are absorbed directly through the skin. This brings fast, local relief.

By seeping through the epidermis, a cannabis pain salve can offer relief for skin conditions, headaches, cramps, and inflammation. They do so by connecting their active ingredients (CBD and/or THC) with the CB1 and CB2 receptors nestled inside skin and some sub-dermal cells.

Since dermally applied products do not usually penetrate the body’s blood barrier, cannabis topicals do not get consumers high. However, be careful when buying a cannabis skin product because cannabis transdermal patches do deliver cannabinoids into the bloodstream and can get the consumer intoxicated.

A cannabis pain salve is often used to spot-target specific problems, such as eczema or muscle soreness. Its dermal application allows it to be used for local relief without subjecting the entire body to cannabinoids. This can be important for people who desire THC for pain relief but do not wish to feel high.

cannabis pain salve with cannabis leaf and seeds

A History of Cannabis and Headaches

Headaches are still something of a mystery to science, making them hard to treat. While some headaches have known causes, while others seem to appear out of thin air.

For as long as people have been around, they’ve been trying to understand, treat, and prevent headaches. And for many centuries people have turned to cannabis as a treatment.

Ancient Greek cultures incorporated cannabis into headache treatments, as did ninth-century Arabs, and even physicians in the Middle Ages. It was used both to treat occurring headaches and as a preventative measure, to ensure fewer headaches would be suffered.

In America, people consumed cannabis for a full century before it was outlawed in 1937.  That marks the decline of cannabis-themed headache treatment and is largely responsible for the lack of research about the subject today.

Now, many patients report self-medicating with cannabis to treat migraine, according to research published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs (2015). 1)Osborn, L. et al. (2015). Self-Medication of Somatic and Psychiatric Conditions Using Botanical Marijuana. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. 2015 Nov-Dec;47(5):345-50. doi: 10.1080/02791072.2015.1096433.

And a thorough retrospective published in the journal Headache (2009) 2)Robbins, M. et al. (2009). Cluster Attacks Responsive to Recreational Cannabis and Dronabinol. Headache. 49(6):914-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4610.2009.01344.has shown that both recreational cannabis consumption and a synthetic cannabinoid drug called dronabinol can effectively treat cluster headaches.

So far, scientists cannot pinpoint the exact mechanism by which cannabis helps cluster headaches. However, the research authors point to is the high concentration of cannabinoid receptors in brain’s hypothalamus region as an area ripe for more research. The hypothalamus is the part of the brain that lights up when patients undergoing neuroimaging tests experience a cluster headache.

Treating Other Kinds of Headaches

Headaches come in several flavors, and cannabis treats nearly all of them in some form or fashion. And much like cannabis, headaches are something scientists don’t fully understand yet.

Tension headaches, the kind that feel like a tight strap around the head, are probably most often triggered by stress, according to research published in Annals of Neurology (1990). 3)Goadsby, PJ. (1990). Vasoactive peptide release in the extracerebral circulation of humans during migraine headache. Annals of Neurology. doi:10.1002/ana.410280213

That’s good news because cannabis helps manage symptoms of stress.

Still, topical cannabis medications may not be the best way to beat stress. It is better to try oils, tinctures, or flower, and host of other methods. Rubbing a balm onto your temples may not be the best most conducive way to treat a headache with cannabis.

Tension headaches also tend to cause physiological stress, such as tensions in the upper-back and neck muscles. Applying a cannabis pain salve to that area, instead of the temples or forehead, could bring relief.

cannabis pain salve

Cannabis Pain Salve for Other Purposes

If a cannabis pain salve works for some headaches, can it work for other body ailments? Absolutely. They are most commonly used as anti-inflammatory creams for psoriasis, eczema, and other skin irritants, but cannabis pain salves can have a variety of other uses as well.

Some people use cannabis-based balms and rubs to treat aching backs and sore feet. A cool dose of inflammatory-fighting cannabis can do wonders for strained, pulled, and overworked muscles anywhere on the body. And, since the majority of salves don’t lead to intoxication, they’re safe to use before going to work. So, whether it’s for head pain or body pain, a cannabis salve could work wonders for your suffering.

References   [ + ]

1.Osborn, L. et al. (2015). Self-Medication of Somatic and Psychiatric Conditions Using Botanical Marijuana. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. 2015 Nov-Dec;47(5):345-50. doi: 10.1080/02791072.2015.1096433.
2.Robbins, M. et al. (2009). Cluster Attacks Responsive to Recreational Cannabis and Dronabinol. Headache. 49(6):914-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4610.2009.01344.
3.Goadsby, PJ. (1990). Vasoactive peptide release in the extracerebral circulation of humans during migraine headache. Annals of Neurology. doi:10.1002/ana.410280213
Author avatar

Matt Weeks

A writer living and working in Athens, GA, Matt's work has appeared in various newspapers, books, magazines and online publications over the last 15 years. When he's not writing, he hosts bar trivia, plays in local bands, and makes a mean guacamole. He holds an undergraduate degree in journalism and a master's degree in organizational theory. His favorite movie is "Fletch."

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