Empower Oil cannabis-infused therapeutic soaking salts have opened up a new world of cannabis indulgence — the cannabis spa experience. With a blend of pharmaceutical-grade Epsom, Dead Sea and Pink Himalayan salts, triple-infused cannabis oil, sweet almond oil and essential oils such as wintergreen, bergamot and organic Oregon lavender, a quick nosedive in the bag is instantly relaxing and soothing.
When I sampled the salts I had a massive knot in my back from sitting poorly at a computer for too long. Portland-based Empower Oil creator Trista Okel suggested the best regimen for removing the knot would be to rub a little of the Empower Oil into my back every 10 to 15 minutes for an hour before soaking in the salts for another 20 minutes followed by one last oil application. With each application the knot relaxed and loosened, but the pain wasn’t quite gone until I got into the bathtub.
The scent is soothing, the magnesium in the salts helps to instantly loosen any pain and the scent is intoxicating. A bathtub joint during this portion of the process was also helpful for relaxation, but not a necessary step in the process. When the bathtub drained some residual oil was left on my skin, but not on the tub, so I rubbed that in before my final dose of topical oil.
The next morning I stretched, felt something move and noticed that much of the searing pain had completely resided. The cannabis bath worked.
Okel has been working with researchers on the dermal endocannabinoid system (how cannabis works to treat external skin conditions) as well as aromatherapy to control pain and inflammation and has arrived at a blend that many have found effective — so effective that in the 18 months since she began the operation, Empower Oil went from being carried in two storefronts in Oregon to 40 throughout Oregon and Washington. The company was recognized as one of the top 10 cannabis topical products in the country by High Times and is quickly becoming one of the most well-respected cannabis brands in the Pacific Northwest.
But I just had a knot in my back, so I passed along a sample to a friend suffering from fibromyalgia — a painful autoimmune condition that means she lives in almost constant pain. While she is always in at least a small amount of pain, her flare-ups are characterized by severe nausea, vertigo, fatigue and muscle spasms. She waited until she had a flare-up to try it out.
“When I got in the bath, the firing sensation stopped within minutes. I started to feel warm all over, like I had been wrapped in a warm blanket and it really relaxed me,” she said.
She found that rubbing a little of the oil on her wrists and temples also helped control the migraines through aromatherapy — which is proven to combat pain.
The oil used to make the salts is triple infused — Okel infuses the base oil with 13 oz. of cannabis flowers and repeats the process twice more. In a single bottle there is up to 21mg THC and 11mg of CBD. Because it’s applied topically, the active drug never enters the bloodstream, doesn’t cause psychotropic effects nor does it show up on a drug screen.
To test the oil, Okel worked with 11 patients in a conservative ranch town in eastern Oregon, between the ages of 75 to 85. They were all women, all had arthritis pain and were all “fairly against” cannabis use or legalization. But, one of the ladies was a friend’s mother and agreed to get the ladies from her church to try it.
For three months Okel provided them with an unlimited supply of Empower Oil and asked them to use it at least three times a day. The women all reported improvement, most said they had felt up to a 50 percent or greater reduction in their overall pain and one said their pain went completely into remission.
Okel says when she is choosing strains to work with, terpenes matter. Terpenes are the essential oils found in cannabis that create the smells, and to some extent the effects, of a particular cannabis strain. They work synergistically with cannabinoids such as THC and CBD to create the effects of the medicine both in and outside the body. She has been working with local companies to source the essential oils that make up the blends.
“I wanted it to be both uplifting and calming,” says Okel.
But it’s not just about the medicine within the oil.
“If you put that on your skin and you rub it in, you are giving yourself self-love. By touching your own body in a healing way, that alone is good for you.”
The products have become increasingly popular with some newer cannabis consumers who have an interest in exploring the capabilities of the plant for pain relief, but also have no desire to ingest any drug (pharmaceutical or illegal) or feel any sort of psychotropic effect. Okel says a lot of that has to do with the first patient to try the oil — her mom.
Okel’s mother has suffered from rheumatoid and osteo arthritis for 20 years and a broken back for eight, resulting in three surgeries. She has been using the oil daily since 2007.
“She is a real go-getter, she still works full time,” she says.
But her mother wasn’t always open to cannabis. At the time, Okel had been experimenting with cannabis-infused oil filled capsules for internal consumption and hadn’t yet explored its topical uses. Her mother had no interest in the time in trying it.
“My mom didn’t want to get high,” she says.
So Okel continued to watch her mother suffer rather than try the cannabis capsules. On a subsequent camping trip, a friend dropped a log on her foot, injuring it severely. On a whim, Okel opened a capsule and applied it to the injury. The swelling went down and she made a full recovery within a week.
She began applying it to her mother topically and quickly moved to add in the therapeutic oils to downplay the cannabis scent and synergize its effects.
Today her mother uses only one-third of the opiates she was on before incorporating the oil into her regimen.
“I get to see her up and around again,” Okel says.
As her business has grown, so have the uses patients who have reported success. Empower Oil is being used for neuropathy, fibromyalgia, psoriasis, eczema, arthritis, sports injuries, mosquito bites and as a bug repellent. She even says people have had success using it to combat cold sores.
Okel was arrested for cannabis-possession in 2003. She was a new grower and had three small plants all under 18 inches. When she took the case to trial she was acquitted and the jury made their anger about the case known. The jury felt unanimously that their time had been wasted and no actual crime was committed. Still, the experience motivated her to get involved.
“I was ‘outed’ as a cannabis user… The entire experience had forever changed my life,” she says. “After I was acquitted, I became empowered and used my outrage to speak publicly on the issue, lobby my state and federal representatives.”
The name Empower is not just about asserting control in pain management, it’s an acronym that comes from Okel’s activist experiences: Ending Marijuana Prohibition by Organizing Women to Enact Reform.
“Applying Empower Oil as directed allows you to boost your own endocanabinoid levels, nourish your skin and enjoy the numerous benefits of aromatherapy while caring for yourself,” Okel says.
Empower Oil is available to medical cannabis patients in Oregon and Washington, click here to find all available locations.
Do you medicate with topicals? Tell us your methods in the comments.