One day in 2011, a patient gifted me a small glass bottle of cannabis massage oil. He told me that it had been blessed by a chief of an American Indian tribe, and that it was very costly. Then he asked that I apply it to specific areas of his body that were ailing him. I did, and it seemed to help. Before he left, he encouraged me to share the product with other patients who might also need this type of deep healing. Eventually I used the entire bottle, and moved away to a new town. I never saw that patient again, and as the years went by, I forgot about that small green bottle of oil.
Fast forward to January 2014: I was managing a medical marijuana dispensary in Colorado, where recreational cannabis was now available to anyone over the age of 21. It was an interesting time for me, but I desperately missed taking care of patients. I became complacent at my job and began to wonder what would happen if I applied cannabis from head to toe on a patient. So I did what anyone would do: I Googled it, and to my utter surprise, there was no information. I sat for hours that first day and typed in as many combinations as I could think of. I went 7-10 pages deep into each search. I was hopeful for a blog or a class or even a mentor who I could ask questions, but I found nothing.
So I took all of my experience as a nurse and as a massage therapist — and all the years I spent studying plant medicine — and I started performing cannabis-infused massage therapy. I did so by purchasing every topical that was on the market at that time in 2014. The problem was there was no product that met the needs of my patients, so I soon began studying herbalism and making my own products.
To track what worked (and what didn’t), I asked every patient I worked on the same five questions when I was finished, and logged the results in a spreadsheet. The results were remarkable: no matter the type of pain or inflammation, no matter the condition, the patient received relief. It didn’t take me long to realize this was different than any medium I had ever used before in my practice. The changes were happening before my eyes.
The benefits of cannabis massage showed themselves quickly. My staff and I heard the same responses from patients again and again: it had relieved their symptoms, it had finally given them relief. Here are the five most common things our patients loved about cannabis massages, together with a brief explanation of the science behind them:
It Can Reduce and Relieve Pain
Our skin is our largest organ and it is covered in receptors for our endocannabinoid system (ECS). The primary function of the ECS is maintaining homeostasis, or cellular balance. Applying a topical is a fantastic way to relieve pain because you activate these receptors with cannabinoids. This acts like a lock and key, and the body is able to achieve cutaneous homeostasis, which can sometimes relieve pain within minutes of application, especially when using a pure, high-quality product.
It Can Reduce and Relieve Inflammation
One of the main reasons patients receive massage therapy is due to inflammation, which is often caused by stress, repetitive use injuries, or the over-eager exertions of being a weekend warrior. The first thing people often reach for is an over-the-counter (OTC) anti-inflammatory or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) to relieve the discomfort they are experiencing. The problem with this is these pharmaceuticals are hard on the liver and kidneys. The use of cannabis topicals for inflammation has potential that is still being researched, and in my own experience, I’ve seen patients successfully use cannabis topicals for eczema, psoriasis, burns, and many other types of inflammatory skin conditions — as well as more deep-seated issues like arthritis.
It Can Expedite Healing Time
As far back as the 1500s, we have documentation of physicians using cannabis tinctures topically as a traditional therapy for a wide number of ailments. Whether it’s a sprain, strain, bruise, cut, abrasion, burn, or other malady, cannabis topicals can help heal the area faster by triggering the ECS’ receptors (CB1 and CB2). Once these are activated, they can help the body heal itself, something that’s outside the power of most conventional treatments.
It Can Increase Blood Flow
When muscles are tight, the area in pain does not have enough blood flow to function properly (or heal). As a massage therapist performs a treatment on a patient, they actively increase blood flow to the area by performing various massage techniques. This makes cannabis massage excellent for post-exercise activities to assist the muscles with improved vascular function.
It Can Improve Sleep
Over 97 million Americans over the age of 12 have tried cannabis, and one of the most common reasons is because they can’t sleep — which has led many of them to turn to plant medicine. Cannabis-infused massage is particularly well-suited for these purposes because the act of massaging helps release serotonin, the neurotransmitter that makes us feel calm. Massage therapy has been proven to assist with many types of sleep disorders, including post surgical insomnia, and the addition of high-quality cannabis topicals can make this even more effective.
Cannabis massage is not a cure-all — however, it can alleviate countless symptoms. Try various topicals until you find what works for you. Talk to your massage therapist about adding cannabis plant medicine to your treatment sessions. Encourage them to learn and seek information or training on the topic. Be open to the possibilities of healing through cannabis massage.