Going on a long, strenuous hike is an exhilarating experience. It can also be a painful one. Even somebody who is remarkably fit can wake up the morning after a tough hike with sore, inflamed muscles. If you’re new to hiking, the morning-after soreness can be pretty intense.
This becomes a serious problem when, for instance, you’re doing a multi-day hike. If you can’t even stand up without grimacing, getting back on the trail is probably one of the last things you feel like doing.
Whatever the case may be, you want to get rid of that muscle pain as quickly as possible. That’s where CBD may have a role to play. Short for cannabidiol, CBD is something that more and more hikers are beginning to embrace for recovery purposes. While we of course would never not recommend proper nutrition and rest for recovery, it is worth taking a look at the related research to see if this can be added on to your post hike routine.
So, what is CBD, how does it work, and should you consider taking it to aid your post-hike recovery? Let’s take a look.
A CBD crash course
Most people have certainly heard of CBD by now, but there is still quite a bit of confusion about where it comes from and what it actually does.
CBD is a cannabinoid, which means it naturally occurs in the cannabis plant. The two general varieties of cannabis are marijuana and hemp. CBD is found in high concentrations in both of them.
The overwhelming majority of CBD products on the market are made from hemp. Why? Because hemp contains almost no THC, which is the chemical in cannabis that makes you high.
Therefore, hemp is entirely legal—and so are CBD products derived from hemp. As long as your CBD comes from hemp and not marijuana, you don’t have to worry about experiencing any psychoactive effects; nor about being on the wrong side of the law.
How does CBD work?
We all have what is known as an endocannabinoid system. This system—which is made up of molecules and receptors—is vital to maintaining equilibrium in our bodies. It does so by regulating things like mood, pain, appetite, sleep, immune response and more.
When we ingest cannabinoids such as CBD and THC, they bind to receptors in our endocannabinoid system. This process activates the system, which then gets to work addressing whatever relevant issue has arisen in the body.
For instance, CBD topicals work by binding to CB1 and CB2 receptors found in skin, muscle, and nerves. Such products have become very popular among people who suffer from chronic inflammation in their tendons or joints.
So far, research indicates that CBD may be an effective treatment for:
This list is not exhaustive. Keep in mind that research into the health benefits of CBD is ongoing.
Can CBD help you recover from a hike?
It bears repeating that, when it comes to hiking, CBD is most effective for recovery. Feel free to take it before or during a hike, but don’t expect to get a sudden burst of strength and energy. CBD is not a performance enhancing drug. Accordingly, it’s not prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
It’s in the context of inflammation that CBD may have something to offer hikers. When you hike a challenging trail with lots of elevation gain (especially if your body isn’t already conditioned for such a thing), a lot of very small tears occur in your muscle fibers. These microscopic tears lead to inflammation, which in turn causes the soreness and stiffness discussed at the beginning of this post.
A 2020 scientific review in Sports Medicine – Open notes that CBD helps to balance inflammatory processes by promoting anti-inflammatory proteins and inhibiting pro-inflammatory proteins. The review also cites a study in which high doses of CBD were shown to increase muscle strength and coordination in mice with muscular dystrophy.
This, along with other considerations, led the review’s authors to state that “CBD could potentially aid in muscle recovery.”
Additionally, a 2018 study found that CBD can relieve pain and fatigue in multiple sclerosis patients, while improving mobility.
While further studies are needed for a full picture, that’s a pretty good start. There is also an abundance of anecdotal evidence backing up CBD as an effective post-hike supplement. But don’t take those folks’ word for it: get yourself a quality CBD product and put it to the test. You may be surprised by what it can do for you.
Max DesMarais is the founder of hikingandfishing.com. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor adventure, travel, and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. Max grew up hiking all around New Hampshire and New England. He became obsessed with the New Hampshire mountains, and the NH 48, where he guided hikes and trail runs in the White Mountains. Since moving out west, Max has continued his frequent adventures in the mountains, always testing gear, learning skills, gaining experience, and building his endurance for outdoor sports. You can read more about his experience here: hikingandfishing/about