Oh, how far we’ve come. Marijuana, once something only your hippie brother felt comfortable publicly touting the benefits of, is now thoroughly mainstream. Lighting up is becoming as accepted as unwinding with a strong glass of whiskey after a stressful day at the office—plus, there’s a growing industry of luxury paraphernalia, should you want your habit to look a little bit more refined than it did in your teenage years. And now a cannabis-friendly attitude is starting to work its way into classically conservative spaces—namely big-brand luxury hotels—and winding up on the massage table. A strain of the trend has piqued the curiosity of even this admittedly-square editor.
It’s important to realize that these treatments aren’t designed to get you high. They use cannabidiol (CBD)—the non-psychoactive cousin of your standard Mary Jane (because the active ingredient THC has been removed)—which has been blended with the silky-smooth massage oils and creams expected from a typical massage. The effects are meant provide targeted relaxation for overworked muscles and areas of chronic pain, two things the new CBD Healing Massage at the Ritz-Carlton Spa in downtown Los Angeles hopes to treat. It launched earlier this month as part of a suite of CBD-fueled treatments (CBD oil is also now available as an enhancement to any of the spa’s signature treatments).
The 50-minute massage makes use of five CBD-laced products from Mary’s Nutritionals ranging from a tincture you drop underneath your tongue before you settle in—which keeps you feeling loose and relaxed long after the treatment is over, with no residual buzz for even this lightweight—to a medical-grade cream formulated for deep relief that your therapist will mix and match according to your specific needs.
In the name of research, I directed mine to layer me up with all five products. The result was surprisingly firm-handed—almost verging on a sports massage—as she worked the CBD creams deep into my skin, moving and stretching my limbs to better target tight muscles and long-held knots. Afterwards, my shoulders did un-glue themselves from my ears, my limbs felt relaxed and heavy in that satisfying way they do after a particularly hard yoga class, and I certainly slept like a rock that night. But just how much the effects differed from any standard high-quality massage is hard to quantify.
That sentiment is echoed by Dr. Heidi Hanna, executive director of the American Institute of Stress. “I rate massages as one of my top five strategies to shift stress,” she explains, but is careful to underscore that she is cautious about how much of a positive effect CBD can have. As are dermatologists Dr. Emily Newsom and Dr. Jeremy Davis of UCLA, who both note that there is not a ton of solid scientific research that points to the immediate or long-term relaxing and pain-relieving effects of CBD, especially when its applied topically. Though preliminary studies have shown that it does have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help treat chronic pain, more testing needs to be done to fully understand its potential. And, it’s more than likely that a single massage won’t make much of a dent in years-old injuries, even if it does work (Dr. Davis notes that research shows pain relief can range from a couple of hours to a day or two).
But whether or not you buy into the buzz, what is undebatable is that CBD is coming to a spa near you. Treatments have already cropped up across green states—with the Ritz-Carlton Los Angeles, Solage, an Auberge Resort, and St. Regis outposts in San Francisco and Aspen being a few at the highest-end to put CBD on the menu. And if you’d like to amp up the space out-factor of your next massage with a hit of CBD, that’s between you and your therapist.