November 2020

Pricey Topical CBD Products Growing in Popularity

It’s no secret that the CBD product market is booming. Manufacturers are continuing to develop new CBD product lines, particularly topical combination products – and they aren’t cheap. But does the CBD in these products actually have any effect?

It’s unclear. Most clinical research has evaluated CBD orally, not topically. While there haven’t been any reports of serious side effects, it’s uncertain to what extent CBD is absorbed when applied to the skin – or what benefits, if any, it may have. Despite this, many topical CBD products are promoted for pain relief and inflammation. Vertly Relief Lotion is one example. It’s promoted for “stressed muscles” and “overworked limbs.” While this is primarily marketed as a CBD product, it also contains arnica. There’s some evidence that applying an arnica gel can reduce pain and stiffness in patients with osteoarthritis. So it’s possible that any benefits from this product are actually due to its arnica content – there isn’t any evidence supporting CBD for this use. A 2.9 oz bottle costs $48.

Another example is CBD Daily Triple Strength Intensive Cream. It contains a long list of ingredients, including lavender oil, aloe vera, jojoba, peppermint, and menthol. It’s promoted for “soothing” targeted areas. While there’s no evidence that applying CBD to the skin has soothing effects, there is evidence that some of the other ingredients may help, particularly the menthol and lavender oil. But an 8 oz container will set you back $140 - a hefty price tag for those ingredients.

In general, tell patients that these products likely aren’t worth the money. In many cases they’re likely paying more simply because it’s marketed as a CBD product. And it’s possible that any benefits are due to a placebo effect. Until the science catches up to the marketing, they’re better off sticking to proven therapies.

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