Healthy ageing is becoming more relevant across all demographics. Staying active and developing products supporting healthy agers' active lifestyle journey is an opportunity for brands!
Aside from CBD oils, CBD muscle balms also inundate the global cannabinoid business. Almost all of these are marketed towards muscle recovery post-workout as a natural way to alleviate DOMs (Delayed onset muscle soreness). With good reason! A multitude of studies has shown that CBD oil can reduce muscle spasticity and accelerate muscle recovery via transdermal and internal products. Furthermore, taking a regular dose of CBD oil could also assist with building muscle - something most of us strive for when working out to achieve a strong, healthy body. Research has even indicated that when the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is activated, it produces an anti-catabolic response, preventing the body from losing muscle mass.
However, this isn’t where the application of cannabinoids for muscle health ends. We also know that euphoric and non-euphoric plant cannabinoids can improve muscle quality and performance and prevent muscle degeneration in conditions such as MS, Muscular Dystrophies and natural age-related degeneration.
So, let’s explore which cannabinoids work best, and why…
Several cannabinoids are well known for their potential to reduce muscle spasticity, which tends to increase with age for many people, often resulting in painful spasms and cramping.
While THC is still, unfortunately, best known for its psychoactive effects, it has an awful lot more to offer than that. In fact, it’s a stand-out star when it comes to muscle health. Particularly when present in a whole plant extract.
Back in 2005, the first large-scale randomized, placebo-controlled trial designed to assess the hypothesis of beneficial effects of cannabinoids on MS symptoms evidenced a dramatic improvement in spasticity and pain: 61% noted improvement from cannabis extract, 60% using Δ9-THC, and 46% from the placebo. However, while anecdotally many people express finding relief from muscle spasticity and stiffness in cannabis, the official line is that there is only currently weak, limited data available.
Cannabidivarin and Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabivarin are lesser known than their major name-sakes, CBD and THC, but when it comes to creating cannabinoid products to target muscle degeneration, they should not be missed!
One 2019 study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology found that both CBDV and THCV, alongside CBD, prevented the loss of locomotor activity, reduced inflammation, and restored autophagy in mice with a progressive muscle degeneration condition.
For older people, a day of gardening or a short walk can result in the same muscle pain someone younger might experience from a hard session at the gym. Furthermore, increasing numbers of elderly people are now working on resistance training (weight training) which has been found to reduce sarcopenia*, help retain motor function, improve body fat mass, muscle strength, and muscle performance in healthy older people with sarcopenia.
It will come as no surprise that DOMs can be much tougher for elderly people to manage but taking supplements to help with this can go a long way – not only in easing discomfort but also in encouraging them to keep going with their training.
There is a vast range of factors which makes CBD and exercise a perfect pairing. Research has indicated that when the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is activated it produces an anti-catabolic response which prevents the body from losing muscle mass – even more important for elderly people than for young athletes, some might argue. Many studies have also indicated that an activated ECS and steady levels of endocannabinoids can produce anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects, as well as the aforementioned reduced muscle spasticity and accelerated muscle recovery.
Taking CBD orally (via oils, capsules or gummies, for example) can work brilliantly. But it’s also well worth considering the development of a targeted transdermal product.
Understanding the difference between topical and transdermal is key to creating a product that works.
Topical products are bested suited for targeting the skin, as they generally don’t have much penetration power. Transdermal products penetrate deeper, thanks to added ingredients known as permeation enhancers. These include over 350 chemicals, including natural terpenes, fatty acids, and alcohols such as glycol. Transdermal CBD products should be used to reach deeper issues, such as delayed onset muscle soreness and spasticity. These might come in the form of patches, balms, gels, or massage oils.
A study looking at myofascial pain (a chronic pain condition that causes pain in the musculoskeletal system), revealed that after 14 days of topically applying a CBD formulation, researchers saw a significant effect of CBD on muscle pain and inflammation. According to researchers, CBD transdermal administration is 10 times higher than the administration of THC in humans, and transdermal cannabinoids are effective in reducing pain and inflammatory symptoms.
Another positive aspect of transdermal administration over oral is that this method allows for the constant release of the active substance for a longer period at the application site, while minimizing the adverse effects of higher concentrations. Transdermal administration also avoids the ‘first-pass metabolism’ effect, which improves the bioavailability of the active substance, meaning more value for money for the customer!
While almost all cannabis brands market to younger generations, it’s the 65+ market that makes up the majority of total health spending. According to the KFF analysis of 2019 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey data, consumers 65+ represented 35% of spending, as opposed to 12% age 19-34, and 9% 35-44. With this in mind, it only makes sense to dedicate some products to the Boomer generation and take their needs into consideration.
* Sarcopenia (https://www.thelancet.com/article/S0140-6736(19)31138-9/fulltext) is a progressive and generalised skeletal muscle disorder involving the accelerated loss of muscle mass and function that is associated with increased adverse outcomes including falls, functional decline, frailty, and mortality.