Put the effectiveness of a cannabidiol (CBD) massage to the supreme test: immediately after getting one, I squeezed into Santa Cruz, California business traffic; wretched lines of crawling cars and dyspeptic drivers. My reptile brain always spouts foulness when I’m trapped with my fellows in that slog of freeway glue. But this time was different.
Different because instead of grinding my teeth, I had a sloppy smile. I felt soft and downy, kind of blanketed. I moved through the traffic congestion as though I were floating above it. I’m glad no one put any contracts in front of me to buy a broken bridge, or marry a German Shepherd — I would have breezily signed those. CBD, you were good to me.
Though the thicket of differing and sometimes contradictory regulations about the use of cannabis and its derivatives is still a tangled web, CBD products are readily available in many states, and in many forms. A significant amount of research is now being conducted on medical applications of CBD, and there are positive indications for the treatment of anxiety, chronic pain, childhood epilepsy and Post-traumatic stress disorder.
One of those CBD forms, to my deep comfort, is in massage creams. The cream in question is the handiwork of Kelly Stoll and Jennifer Galvin, co-founders of Vital Body Therapeutics in Santa Cruz. The two have been body workers for 15 years, both specializing in the treatment of chronic and acute pain. They opened Vital Body seven years ago, customizing their massage cream with healing herbs and pure essential oils, based on staff requests. Some years later, they began hearing resounding feedback from their clients on CBD being used as a replacement for pharmaceutical drugs, specifically opioids.“We started exploring the idea of formulating our own line of topical cannabis products for the treatment of acute and chronic pain,” said Stoll. “We had the unique opportunity to test our formulations on actual clients in pain, and modify it based on their feedback until we got it just right. We see this new endeavor as an extension of our mission to provide people with a natural path to living a pain-free life.
”If Vital Body can relieve the pain of Santa Cruz traffic, they are onto something. If my own massage experience, under the practiced hands of therapist, Jessie Marks, is reflective of the whole, the world is doing something right for a change. The cream seemed to enhance her careful work on my pressure points, rolling into a lingering pleasure. She used subtle, slow pulses of movement on my joints, with extended pauses and gradations of pressure in some areas and broad strokes in others.
Marks has experienced strong results in working with CBD in massage. “I’ve had many clients come back saying that the CBD cream helps them immensely with inflammation and pain reduction,” said Marks. “The product has a great consistency, which makes it very nice to work with as a massage therapist. I recommend it to anyone with muscular pain or inflammation. I notice a huge difference when using CBD as opposed to other creams, and would highly encourage others to try it out for themselves.”
One of the nice touches of a CBD massage at Vital is that they give the client the remainder of what’s in the jar if the massage didn’t use it up; I was able to take Marks’ recommendation home with me. I couldn’t quite achieve the heavenly soothings that she performed on my head, neck and hands (who knew that having your ears massaged could be so fine?), and I couldn’t quite use my own forearms or elbows on myself in that magic way, but I did find the cream quieted my balky hip and knee.
Galvin and Stoll retail their massage cream at the shop, as well as CBD-based pain-relief creams, balm and Epsom soak. They now have clients nationwide, including natural food and body care markets and spas. The massage cream is spawning an empire.
“The CBD massage service has been wildly successful, both in our spa and for others who have launched the service using our cream,” said Galvin. “The client feedback is incredibly positive. Many clients report that they are able to relax into their massage much more quickly and easily. Those who receive deep tissue often say that they are less sore after a massage when the CBD cream has been applied. Many also say that they feel the positive effects of the massage last significantly longer than after a traditional massage.”
I can attest to that. I’ve had a glow from previous massages that has lasted for several hours, but this one lasted well into the next day. Whether that’s voodoo, a placebo effect, or the supernatural glory of cannabis, I can’t say. What I can say is that it was good. No, better.
Stoll and Galvin have considerably ramped up production of the CBD products, converting Stoll’s garage to a full-scale production facility. “We are making the products in much larger batches now than when we first began,” said Galvin. “Thus far, we have not had to refine the formula, only the process for making it. We’ve had to make some modifications based on batch sizes, but those changes primarily relate to the process — equipment, mix times, and temperatures.”
The two are now using a commercial overhead mixer for the cream, and a large rotational food-grade mixer (akin to a cement mixer) for the salts. They have hired a part-time employee to assist with production and packaging. Their hemp extracts come from an Oregon farm that follows organic farming practices; Oregon has some of the most stringent agricultural regulations in the country. The other herbs and ingredients in the cream are sourced from a variety of companies committed to providing sustainably farmed and harvested products.
“We had the unique opportunity to test our formulations on actual clients in pain, and modify it based on their feedback until we got it just right,” said Galvin.
Stoll brings their history into the big CBD picture: “We were able to draw on our knowledge of anatomy and physiology, clinical experience treating pain and injuries, skill at making body creams, and our many connections in the cannabis community. There’s lots of room to grow,and we’re super excited about the myriad of ways we can use this incredible plant to help as many people as possible.”
Helpful my massage was. Of course, there’s no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in a CBD cream massage, but if you ask if the massage gets you high, I’d say yes. Not jonesing-for-Cool Ranch-Doritos high, but a feeling of being mighty agreeable.
“As a massage therapist, CBD is very beneficial to keep myself in good shape,” said Marks.
As a willing subject, I am always available to help. I think this CBD thing is going places.