When I open the pouch of cannabis-infused Epsom salt, I expect to catch a whiff of skunky weed. Instead I inhale only the relaxing scent of lavender. There’s no trace of the telltale odor of pot — and that’s a good thing. I’m not looking to get high or smell. What I really want from this hot soak is to relax and lull my anxious brain towards an easy sleep. I pour the envelope of twinkling crystal salts into the warm bath and climb in.
Cannabis-laced self care products have been around for years in states like California, Washington, Oregon, and Colorado where medical marijuana has been legal for a while. But even though I live in one of those states, weed-infused balms and bath salts weren’t on my stressed-out-mom-of-three radar until recently.
But the more I learn about weed, the more I realize there’s so much more to it than smoking to get high. Not that that’s a bad thing, of course; it’s just that I’m more interested in chilling out than tuning out.
Turns out there’s a cannabis-infused bath bomb for that. There’s also body lotion, massage oil and bath soaks, vapes and edible sleep aids.
These products use cannabidiol (CBD), which is known for its medicinal properties and doesn’t get you high like the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychotropic element of cannabis. What CBD is good at is interacting with our body’s natural endocannabidiol system and helping it work more efficiently to keep our stress responses balanced. That makes it a great anti-inflammatory. The other huge benefit of CBD is its ability to help with insomnia, stress, and anxiety.
I’ve dealt with low-level anxiety most of my life. As a kid, I started almost every morning with a stomachache that had me clutching my tummy and begging to stay home from school. In middle school, I barely spoke up in class because I was too nervous. As a young adult, I’d comb back through conversations from the day before, wondering if I’d said something dumb or offensive. Now that I have kids, much of my anxiety is focused on whether or not I’m doing this whole motherhood thing right or setting my kids up for a lifetime of therapy.
This all leaves me strung out, stressed and often sleepless. I manage my anxiety in a variety of ways, like exercising regularly, breathing mindfully, and eating lots of cheese. When I feel particularly wound up, I drink wine in the evening, but I don’t like the slight grogginess that greets me the next morning.
When I tried a CBD-melatonin sleep chew, my world changed. The medicated chocolate caramel helps me sleep deeply through the night and, as all moms know, sleep (and self-care) is the most precious currency. Without it, we’re running on fumes and not always able to be our best selves, emotionally or physically.
I love the way the edible works, but I wondered what other cannabis-infused self-care products might help me relax. A quick Google search brought me to a variety of topical products, including Om Body Epsom Salt Soak. I liked the idea of submerging my entire body in warm water and really taking the whole self-care aspect to another level. And since I hardly ever take baths, this felt like a real treat.
According to a review on The Cannifornian (tagline: Covering the Golden State of Cannabis), “…there’s a nice anti-anxiety effect for the parasympathetic nervous system built right into the method of delivery with these salts…ideal for people suffering from anxiety, depression and is wonderful for people who suffer from insomnia and want to sleep like a baby.”
Who doesn’t want to sleep like a baby, as long as it’s one of those miracle babies who sleeps through the night? I was sold the promise of sweet sleep, but not everyone is as comfortable as I am with personal recommendations from strangers. Unfortunately, if you’re looking for formal scientific evidence of CBD’s anti-anxiety properties, you won’t find much. That’s because marijuana is considered a Schedule 1 drug in the same category as heroin and LSD (I know, ridiculous) and hasn’t formally been studied for its medicinal properties.
In an interview in The Cut, Dr. Margaret Haney, professor of Neurobiology and Psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center said, “There have been a handful of studies giving CBD orally and looking at measures of anxiety, and there seems to be a suggestion that it has some anxiolytic effects — some effects that decrease anxiety — but in terms of comparing to FDA-approved anxiolytics or, you know, really assessing what daily use of cannabidiol for anxiety is, there is very little data.”
Clearly the medical community needs to catch up with the user community. With marijuana use considered illegal under federal law and powerful pharmaceutical companies owning the anti-anxiety meds space that might not happen for a while.
Anecdotally, though, users attest to the power of cannabis to ease anxiety. Two of my family members suffering from cancer swear by marijuana to help them relax and sleep better. Several close friends who suffer from mild to almost crippling anxiety routinely use specific strains of pot for the same reason.
When I stepped out of the tub after my cannabis soak, I really did feel more relaxed and my buzzing brain had simmered down to a manageable hum. Best of all, I slept through the night, which made the next day’s anxiety just a little less overwhelming.