Life is pain. Especially if you’re myself or co-author Suzette Smith, who greet each new day with a crick in our necks, achey feet, and/or endlessly complaining lower backs. And we’re pretty fit individuals, too! So even though we both exercise on a regular basis, how do our bodies thank us? By plaguing us with various muscular maladies that travel from our heads to our toes with little rhyme or reason. Until recently we both treated our infirmities with such over-the-counter medicinals as Tiger Balm, Icy Hot, and—of course—booze, but now we have a new weapon to use in our war against aches and pains: THC enhanced muscle rubs. But do they work, or are they bunk? Suzette and I experimented with five different brands of cannabis salves (all available locally) to see if they were any match for our decrepit, rapidly failing bodies. GOOD LUCK, WEED! You’ll need it.
High Desert Pure's Relief Stick
THC 2.5%, CBD 2.6%, 0.6 oz
As you know, Blazer superstar Damian Lillard and I have a lot in common. Okay, we have one thing in common: a strained abdominal muscle. (Okay, FINE—Dame actually has a much more serious condition known as “lower abdominal tendinopathy” that actually required surgery, while mine is probably just a minor muscle strain, but… don’t minimize my experiences, okay?? I HURT, TOO!!) Frankly speaking, I didn’t have a lot of confidence in High Desert Pure’s Relief Stick, simply because I figured because my injury is pretty deep, a mere topical couldn’t traverse the distance to make any real difference. Happily, I was wrong! After about 10 minutes, I began to notice the achiness of my ab strain begin to subside, and within an hour, the pain had reduced (by my estimation) about 60 percent. That, my friends, gives Icy Hot a serious run for its money! In fact, my pain was greatly reduced for an entire night of restful sleep, at which point I re-applied it to my abs and other morning aches. The only downside? While I love the effects of weed, I despise the smell. And since this product is made from weed, (surprise!) it has a moderately weed-y smell—so I’d give it a four-out-of-10 for skunkiness. However, the ingredients also include essential oils such as cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg, which go a long way in tamping down any odors that might get the airport security dogs barking. All in all, I liked it! WSH FINAL SCORE: Four out of five Icy Hots.
Bud Rub Topical Cannabis - Extra Strength
THC 78.2 mg, CBD amount too small to report, .6 oz per tube
Most of my aches and pains are completely avoidable and entirely my fault. For instance, during the pandemic, I relied on sanity-preserving walks to fill out my freelance hours and sometimes I ended up two hours away from my home without any solid plan for how to return—other than another two hours on foot. Couple that with an everyman's laziness about post-workout stretching, and I frequently awaken with trolling calf muscles. Local wunder salve, Bud Rub, is a delicious-smelling—shea and cocoa butter—tube of mostly THC topical that coats on easily and absorbs into the skin quickly. While you can find it in a tin, I opted for a travel-sized deodorant tube and the wide applicator shape made coating the backs of my legs easy. It didn't come with a suggested serving size, so I just smashed it on until I smelled like cookies. My impression is that it worked! After 10-15 minutes my gams quit their bitching. There's also a benefit in the shared purpose of the THC stick's ingredients: Those butters are vehicles for cannabis and also a nice way to lotion your legs without getting it all over your hands. SS FINAL SCORE: Four out of five Icy Hots.
Sacred Herb Medicinals’ Cannabis Pain Stick
THC 7.2 mg, CBD 0.37 mg, 0.59 oz
I have a crampy left foot, particularly on the sole, close to the “flexor hallucis brevis” area. I developed this malady after spending my early 20s jogging in Chuck Taylor hightops, and… DON’T YOU DARE JUDGE ME! You did much stupider things in your 20s, and you know it. Anyway, now I have a tricky foot that flares up occasionally, and so to go along with one of my recent rub-downs, I added Sacred Herb Medicinals’ Cannabis Pain Stick to the mix. And I found it to be pretty good! Maybe not “Icy Hot” good, but there was some definite pain reduction (about 50 percent), and the smell was not much of an issue. In fact, with ingredients that include peppermint and lavender, this was the most pleasingly fragrant of the weed topicals I tried. I also rubbed some on a pulled groin muscle, and… look, it’s NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS HOW I PULLED MY GROIN, OKAY? All you need to know is that I got similar healing results in my area down there, and I can easily recommend this product for anyone that has minor aches that need mending. WSH FINAL SCORE: Three out of five Icy Hots.
Leif Goods' Wood Balms Away
THC 47.5 mg, CBD 10 mg, .18 oz
My neck-ache—caused by poor posture and the strange way that I frequently find myself the target of intense, unasked-for neck rubs—has been an everpresent force in my life, tingeing off in the background of my sitting-in-front-of-a-laptop days. So I've been relying on Leif Good's topical salves for years. I might have actually started buying it pretty soon after legalization. The Wood Balms Cedarwood Orange iteration has a legit cedarwood smell—though I occasionally get palo santo wood wiffs too. It's a light fragrance that'll go unnoticed by anyone who isn't actively wearing it, but the topical does take its sweet time to absorb into the skin. The little lipstick-sized tubes fit easily in a dopp bag or pocket. And though the packaging suggests it only contains five servings, I seem to run out every three months or so—provided it doesn't travel the same road as chapstick and disappear completely. Leif Goods also makes tins of salve—and chocolate bars and pop rocks—but there's nothing like greasing up the ol' neck on a break while everyone wonders why you're putting chapstick in your hair. SS FINAL SCORE: Three out of five Icy Hots.
Peak Extracts’ Rescue Rub
0.47% THC, CBD percentage too small to report, 1 oz
The other day I fell asleep fine… and then awoke with THE DEVIL’S NECK CRICK. Possibly there’s a technical term for neck “crick”—some of you call them “crinks”—but it’s that unbearable tightness in your neck that usually radiates downward and beneath one’s shoulder blade. What caused it? Who the fuck knows? THE DEVIL, I guess. That’s why I turned to the devil’s own weed to fix it! I slathered the affected area with Peak Extracts’ Rescue Rub, whose packaging promised “5 minute activation.” Ten minutes later, nothing. At about the 15 minute mark I began to feel it working a little, but even after an hour, there was only about 30 percent of “rescue” to be had. Since this crick was the worst malady I’ve experienced lately, I thought it was only fair to try Rescue Rub again later on my other less-problematic problem spots (strained ab, ache-y foot, unmentionable pulled groin), and got roughly the same unenthusiastic result. And while it’s loaded with essential oils (including lemongrass, eucalyptus, orange, and more), Rescue Rub was easily the most weedy-smelling of the bunch, and inspired some very accusatory glares from my overly-judgmental teenage daughter. Not a good look! While it’s certainly better than nothing, Rescue Rub is no match for the devil’s work. WSH FINAL SCORE: Two out of five Icy Hots.