The CBD balm range in the UK is gaining in popularity as more people search out alternative options for aches and pains or workout induced inflammation. There are a wide range of balms on the market and this is a category with a high level of differentiation between the cheapest and most expensive balms available. The way the topical balms are made varies widely, impacting the absorption and efficacy. High-tech formulation with encapsulated ingredients may help penetrate the skin to a greater extent, for example. GreenBox has taken the time to review three separate muscle balms, two of which are available in-store. Before we jump into the reviews, we cover off the six things you need to know about muscle balms.
Six Things to Know About a CBD Balm
#1 CBD strength – Does it Matter?
The muscle balms on the market range from 50 mg of CBD to 600 mg of CBD. On some level, it is important to have enough CBD in the product to take advantage of the relevant features. Anything around 150mg is useful and a great entry level product for those new to CBD while 300mg and higher would be considered high strength. Be careful of product size, as the cheaper products sell in large 100 ml sizes, while the best products on the market sell in 30 and 60 ml sizes.
#2 Storage – Room Temperature or Cooler
Most muscle balms have one thing in common: they become unstable under a higher than room temperature. Above 25 degrees Celsius, the product will likely turn to goop. At higher temperatures it can completely liquify! The product when cooled will often reconstitute and can still be used but of course the chemistry of the formulation will have changed plus the distribution of the CBD in the product. So, do not leave it in your car or in a non-air conditioned room as next time you go to use it you will be in for a surprise. It is best to keep it in a cool cabinet or drawer away from natural sunlight.
#3 Pricing – Formulation is Worth Paying For
The products range in price from £15-£45. At the cheaper end, the formulations are basic with CBD likely an isolate and not the broad-spectrum CBD we would recommend. At the high-end, products formulations are enhanced with differentiated technology.
#4 Effectiveness – How Long Does it Last?
This will depend on the amount of CBD and each individual endocannabinoid system. However, for a topical application over a few days, you could expect to see some improvement. There are products on the market with encapsulation and time release technology which slowly release CBD over four to five hours as opposed to immediately. These products trade at a premium to others on the market, but we feel the premium is justified as it extends the potential effectiveness of the product.
#5 Application – How Much to Apply?
The cheaper formulations on the market bulk up their formulation with extra base to make it seem like you are purchasing a lot of CBD. For example, a 100ml size for these products is standard, but really it just dilutes the effectiveness of the CBD. We are fans of smaller sizes, with similar or higher CBD content. For these formulations, you can get away with applying much smaller amounts, which dry quicker and are less odorous than the larger sized products which encourage a consumer to slather on the product. Therefore, although the product is smaller in size, they can last a number of months.
#6 Ingredients – Other Plants Matter
The plant ingredients work together, so it is important to know what other ingredients are in the product. They can work together to help ease inflammation as the plant world is filled with natural remedies. A common ingredient across products is capsicum, which is found in red peppers and turmeric and is known to help relieve inflammation. There are more expensive botanical options like Arnica Montana Flower extract, found in premium products.
Holland & Barrett – CBD Muscle Extra Balm
The first muscle balm we ever purchased was this product from Holland & Barrett. Its effectiveness on a knee tired from running was the impetus for us exploring CBD in our daily regime. We originally bought the H&B CBD Muscle Balm. This is an entry level product from Holland & Barrett and the price seems attractive at first, but then you realize there is n0t much CBD in this product. H&B does offer a large 100ml size for a higher price, but the CBD content remains the same at 50mg, which means this is a more expensive option on a per CBD mg basis. For those looking for higher strength, H&B does offer the CBD Muscle Balm Ultra range, which comes with a respectable amount of CBD at 300mg.
Branding: Basic with a yellow label and glass jar, appears to be going for the apothecary look.
Scent: Medicinal and strong. No mention of a commitment to sustainability, although the products are vegan friendly.
Application: It is quite greasy going on with a strong odour. It takes quite a long-time to dry (15+ minutes) and there is a slight warming/burning feel after you apply, likely due to the other active ingredients.
CBD content: Low at 50mg
Ingredients: The active ingredient is capsicum. The fruit of most species of pepper contains capsaicin, a lipophilic chemical that can product a strong burning sensation.
Value: At £19.99, this is an entry level balm, but does not have much CBD content and thus higher prices brands provide better options.
Infinity Muscle Salve
The Infinity team delivers this muscle balm. It’s one of the best ones we have tried at the value end of the spectrum. The product comes in a generous 100ml size and with a decent amount of broad spectrum CBD. We like this feature as many of the similarly priced competitors use CBD isolate instead. We used the product on a gimpy ankle we had hurt post a parkour session and within a few days the movement of the ankle was much improved.
Branding: A substantial glass jar with a gold top gives this brand strong credentials as the king of the value brands.
Scent: The addition of peppermint provides a fresh and crisp scent although the product still smells somewhat medicinal due to the addition of camphor.
Application: A little less greasy but the product still takes a bit of time to dry on the skin.
CBD content: High at 250mg
Ingredients: The main ingredient Camphor is a terpene commonly used in creams, ointments, and lotions. It is used for its anti-inflammatory properties and to relieve skin irritation.
Value: At £24.99, this is priced at the higher end of the entry level balms. This balm stands out in terms of CBD content, formulation, and value for money.
Cerious – Active Plant-Based Therapy – CBD Muscle Relief Balm
Victor Casale, the founder of MAC cosmetics, one of the most iconic cosmetics brands in the world, designed this specially formulated muscle balm. It is exclusive to GreenBox. He brings his over 30 years’ experience to deliver a unique Muscle Relief Balm. Vic packs this 30 ml formula with multiple botanical goodies while adding time release technology to enhance CBD usage. This is a premium product worth the money.
Branding: The team at Cerious have put care and effort into creating a lifestyle brand promoting the power of the plant. The slogan “active plant-based therapy” is an appropriate mantra. The green leaves on the packaging represent the different botanical ingredients in the product. An opaque green class jar adds prestige, while the bamboo and child-proof top add further class.
Scent: A pleasant scent versus other medicinal smelling products on the market.
Application: The products powder finish makes it much less greasy than other products on the market, a huge advantage. The product requires minimal amounts of application for relief versus other balms and absorbs into the skin quickly.
CBD content: At the high-end with 150 mg for a 30 ml jar. The product uses time release technology for half the CBD. This means half the CBD can take effect quickly, and the other half can release slowly over hours. This allows for longer-lasting effects.
Ingredients: Arnica Mountain Flower is the main botanical and helps with inflammation. The vanillyl butyl ether provides the warming sensation and increased micro circulation on the skin.
Value: This premium product is the best we have seen on the market. Its robust formulation and technical features make it stand out from competitors. But, it does come at a higher price point of £43.00. We think it’s worth the price.