What is a CBD Salve?

What is a CBD Salve?

If you’ve ever used CBD, you probably know that there are never-ending ways to apply CBD to your body. You can ingest it with some oil or gummies, vape it with a pen, smoke it like some weed, or even bathe with a bath bomb.

However, if you’re looking for some of the physical benefits associated with CBD, it’s best to apply it directly to areas of pain and discomfort. But not everyone loves the thick texture of ointments, and not everyone loves the greasy texture of infused oils on the skin. 

There’s where salves come in. 

CBD salves are solid combinations of oils and wax. You’ve probably used a salve before, you just never even knew what it was called. 

Let’s learn a bit more about CBD salves, how they differ from other topicals, and how they can work to bring you fast relief.

Oils vs. Salves vs. Creams

Topical solutions are anything that you put on top of your body. In short, they’re anything that you apply to your skin’s surface. 

The three main types include:

  • Oil — These are made by steeping herbs in a carrier oil, such as coconut oil or almond oil. This extracts the medicinal components of the plant that will help bring you relief. You’ll likely find these in small bottles with droppers attached for correct dosage.
  • Salves — Solid combinations of oils and waxes, such as beeswax or soy wax. These tend to take on a solid shape until rubbed in. They often come in small containers with twist-off caps.
  • Creams — These are thicker in texture than oils but lighter in texture than salves. These are usually made with combinations of oil and water to help hydrate the skin. 

While none of these are necessarily better than another, they each come with their own sets of pros and cons. 

Salves are great because they reach a middle ground between the two. They’re thick enough to stay on certain areas while also working quickly to help calm emotions and relieve feelings of tension.

How Do CBD Salves Work?

CBD stands for cannabidiol, which derives from the cannabis plant. While it comes from the same place as your favorite strains of weed, it is different from THC. 

CBD is not psychoactive and won’t make you feel high. 

However, both CBD and THC work in similar ways when you use them. They are both cannabinoids which interact with your endocannabinoid system. This is a network inside of your body that helps support sleep, feelings of stress, and overall wellness.

Cannabinoids bind to cannabinoid receptors that each have their own specific function. 

For example, CBD might interact with CB1 receptors in your brain to help ease feelings of stress, bringing you into a more calm mental state. Or, it may interact with CB2 receptors in immune cells to help soothe muscle tension.

One of the great things about topical CBD applications, such as salves, is that they absorb directly into your skin. 

This is great for two main reasons. 

One, it lets you target the CBD towards specific areas that are causing you discomfort. For example, if your knees are feeling achy and sore, you can apply a salve directly to your joints for fast relief in that area.

Second, it avoids something called the first-pass effect that can dilute the effectiveness of some ingestible remedies. The first-pass effect, or first-pass elimination, refers to the phenomenon where ingested substances may lose potency and become less effective after being metabolized. 

How to Use CBD Salves

CBD salves work in pretty much the same way as any lotion or cream. When you open your container of salve, it will probably look fairly solid and thick. Just scoop out a small amount with two to three fingers and rub into any areas that feel sore or tense.

Salves will feel thick at first, but once you rub them in they absorb rather quickly. Be sure to really massage the product into affected areas, as the physical massage can really help bring you an added burst of relief.

Where Can CBD Salves Be Used?

You can use CBD salves on basically any part of your body that is causing you some pain and discomfort. 

Rub some onto your elbows, wrists, shoulders, lower back, and ankles. The only thing we don’t recommend is applying it near sensitive areas — this means try to keep it out of your eyes and ears, as well as the area around your groin. Also, salves shouldn’t be swallowed. 

Consider trying CBD gummies or sprays instead if you’re looking to gain benefits from the inside out.

Some CBD salves are meant specifically for your lips to help provide moisture and restore them to their former glory. Just make sure to read the product description before you use it.

Also, you don’t need to wait until you feel discomfort in certain areas to use your CBD salve. These can be applied daily, before a workout, or even just because! 

They may help to reduce the appearance and pain associated with swelling if applied preemptively, so it never hurts. It’s extremely hard to overdose on CBD, in general, but it’s nearly impossible when using topicals.

Picking the Right CBD Salve

If you do a quick search for CBD salves, you’ll be presented with a great number of options to choose from. However, there are some things you’ll want to keep in mind so that you’re using a salve that’s right for you.

Type of CBD

Similar to how there are different strains of weed, there are different types of CBD that you might find. Understanding the difference is important, because some types are more effective than others.

  • CBD Isolate: This is just pure, 100% CBD. It contains none of the extra compounds that also exist within the cannabis plant. With that said, it tends to be the least effective form when compared to the other types.
  • Broad-spectrum CBD: The cannabis plant has many other compounds outside of just CBD. It also contains terpenes, other cannabinoids such as CBN and CBC, antioxidants, fatty acids, and more. Broad-spectrum contains all of many of these compounds in addition to CBD itself.
  • Full-spectrum CBD: This type of CBD has all of the good stuff that comes with broad-spectrum CBD, plus it contains trace amounts of THC (up to 0.3%). This is considered to be the most effective type.

When CBD interacts with the other cannabinoids that are present in the cannabis plant, it can ignite something called the entourage effect. This explains the effect of cannabinoids, terpenes, antioxidants, and other ingredients are enhanced when they all function together as one.

With that in mind, broad-spectrum and full-spectrum tend to be the most effective CBD that you can find in salves and other topicals. 

The small amount of THC that you’ll find inside of full-spectrum is not enough to make you feel high, so these are still safe and effective to use at work or before an intense workout.

Of course, CBD isolate works great too, and that may be a good stepping stone if you’re still hesitant about the benefits of cannabidiol.

Type of Wax

Salves are a unique type of topical because they are made with a base component of waxes and oils. These are called emulsifying waxes and offer several benefits for your skin. 

A common base wax is beeswax, as this is a natural exfoliator and moisturizer that is perfect for dry skin. Beeswax is great if you’re using a salve specifically for chapped lips or dry skin.

Soy wax is another popular emulsifier because it is sustainable and biodegradable. 

It is a vegan friendly alternative to beeswax, so this is a great option for the environmentally conscious. While it has similar properties to beeswax, it may be a difficult ingredient to locate.

A good rule of thumb is to do a little research on the emulsifying wax in your product before you buy. 

Type of Oil

The reason that salves are able to take on a semi-solid consistency is because oil helps to loosen up the wax. This ingredient is just as important as the wax and the CBD when it comes to choosing the best salve for your daily use.

In terms of skincare, one of the most common oils that you might come across is coconut oil. 

In addition to being a great moisturizer, coconut oil helps soothe irritated skin and flare-ups. We love coconut oil in our CBD products because it seems to work really well alongside the cannabinoids.

You might find salves that are made with argan oil as well. 

This is made from nuts of the argan tree, and they’re packed with vitamins and nutrients. CBD salves with argan oil are great for those who don’t like the greasy, thick feeling that many oils and moisturizers often have.

In Conclusion

CBD topicals aren’t necessarily hard to find, but salves are some of the least understood uses of CBD. 

It’s got the same fast-acting properties as oils and the ease-of-use that comes with creams all combined into one.

Salves are a combination of oils and waxes, and CBD salves work by absorbing into your skin and interacting with the endocannabinoid system. It interacts with CB1 and CB2 receptors to help calm the mind, ease muscle tension, and support overall wellness.

Topical solutions are great for reaping the physical benefits of CBD, as they are targeted remedies that work directly on problem areas. They avoid the first-pass effect, which can dilute the effectiveness of certain edible methods. 

When choosing the right CBD salve for you, it’s important to take the type of CBD into consideration, as not all of them are built equally. Broad-spectrum and full-spectrum tend to be most useful. 

Also, you’ll want to take a look at the type of wax and the type of oil that is being used, as some of them can have additional features that may work better for certain issues.


Cannabinoid Receptors: Where They Are and What They Do | NCBI

First-Pass Elimination | NCBI

The “Entourage Effect”: Terpenes Coupled with Cannabinoids for the Treatment of Mood Disorders and Anxiety Disorders | NCBI

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