With just seven organic ingredients (three of which are moisturizing shea butter, beeswax, and coconut oil), this slightly fluffy, whipped balm relies on arnica extract—an herbal ingredient that Chiu says she's observed to be effective for many people—to soothe soreness. There’s an added cooling effect thanks to peppermint and tea tree oils and it has a bright, refreshing scent.
As the name suggests, this is a great on-the-go option, thanks to a rollerball applicator that doubles as a quick massage tool. It contains a few essential herbs that you might be more used to seeing in your kitchen such as marjoram (a classic home remedy for muscle spasms and growing pains) and clove, which is known for warming skin.
Essential oils from plants like lobelia, traditionally used to treat lung conditions like asthma, along with hot habanero extract make this a good pick if you’re feeling especially stiff. "They work by stimulating circulation and encouraging blood flow to the area that needs healing," says Chui. Just be sure to test for skin irritations on a small area before slathering it on. When it comes to potent extracts like these, Gallant-Heilborn notes that "less is usually more."
This rub combines arnica with stimulating black pepper, red pepper (capsaicin has long been researched as a treatment for chronic pain), and cinnamon with soothing herbs like comfrey and buchu, a South African plant that’s been used in folk medicine as an anti-inflammatory for decades (but hasn’t been studied much). It has a heating sensation that feels great on injuries such as muscle pulls, says Chiu.
Studies have suggested that regular applications of CBD oil, a hemp-derived extract that’s high in cannabinoids (but won’t get you high) can help numb nerve endings, which is why you’re going to start seeing it in products designed to do everything from quell migraines to chill out over-worked quads, like this one. Proponents also suggest it can help with nerve regeneration, but the medical jury’s out on that one. Both Gallant-Heilborn and Chiu say it’s too new to know for sure if it’s effective. But it’s worth trying, and as with all of these products, you’ll need to be patient to know, says Gallant-Heilborn. "If you’re using four or five different things, you won’t know which is working, and the likelihood of an adverse reaction goes up. So just try one at a time for a few weeks before experimenting again."
Chiu swears by Epsom salt soaks for rest days, but when you don’t have time to hang out in the tub, this magnesium-packed cream is designed to provide similar analgesic benefits. Instead of the usual pepper or cinnamon, birch bark extract brings the heat.