While scientists and cosmetics companies are just beginning to explore the healing potential of topical cannabis, the founders of Apothecanna have been spreading the word about the plant’s pain-relieving and skin-beautifying power for more than a decade.
After experimenting with cannabis-infused oils and edibles during the early days of Colorado’s medicinal marijuana market, Apothecanna cofounders James Kennedy and Joie Meffert created their all-natural, cannabis-infused, non-psychoactive skincare line in 2009.
Initially used to relieve arthritis pain and skin conditions, Apothecanna’s original (and still best-selling) Extra Strength Relieving Crème is also effective at creating balance throughout the body, Meffert and Kennedy say.
All sigh, no high.
Like nearly all topical cannabis-infused products, Apothecanna’s lotions and oils have no psychoactive effects, even though some contain THC.
Cannabis compounds have been shown to penetrate the skin and interact with the sub-dermal endocannabinoid system, bringing localized balance and relief without crossing into the bloodstream. The healing power – for inflammation, irritated skin and joint or muscle pain – lies in the blend of cannabis and other organic botanicals, Kennedy says.
“When we were first out there in the marketplace, people would look at us like, ‘So you’re saying this has marijuana in it, but it doesn’t get you high? What’s the point?'” he recalls.
The point, as research now shows, is that topically applied cannabis interacts with the skin’s natural endocannabinoid system to produce a host of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
“It feels like the conversation caught up to us,” Kennedy says.
Even with cannabis, Apothecanna’s beauty roots are showing.
Apothecanna was borne out of Kennedy and Meffert’s professional instincts after their chance move into Colorado’s cannabis industry. Both previously led busy New York City lifestyles: He worked with the pioneering natural-beauty company Aveda, where he saw firsthand how premium, organic ingredients made for more effective products. She was in fashion retail, catering to elite customers.
Seeking a change of pace, Kennedy and Meffert came to Colorado as dispensary investors and quickly aimed their entrepreneurial attitudes at their new industry. They experimented with cannabis extraction methods before the modern CO2 machines became commonplace, and were among the early producers of infused honey and branded cannabis edibles, including Cheeba Chews.
The more the couple learned about the industry, the more inspired they were to explore topical cannabis, Meffert says.
“We were able to hear what people needed and what our products could do,” she says. “It was a very organic process.”
While they were originally tempted to venture beyond topicals into other kinds of cannabis-infused goods, Kennedy says Apothecanna decided early on to dedicate itself to non-psychoactive formulations.
“We determined that if we focused categorially on products that are strictly meant to be medicinal … that point of difference could propel us pretty far into the future,” he says.
Launched with a buzz on their lips.
Kennedy applied his knowledge of essential oils and natural emollients from his Aveda days into the development of Apothecanna’s line. He remembers when they created their first successful formulation, which became Lip Buzz lip balm.
“It was a challenge to go from having all the ingredients to then infusing the cannabis into it,” Kennedy says. “Then we landed on this lip balm formula that was absolutely exquisite, using mango butter, shea butter, palm kernel oil and a fragrance combination I’d been working on for a while … It gave off this discernible tingle, like your lips were tingling, so Lip Buzz was the natural name.”
They went on to develop a vegan lotion base with a smooth feel that encourages self-massage, which aids in the product’s absorption and efficacy. The formula is at the heart of Apothecanna’s Calming Crème, which also contains lavender, chamomile and frankincense.
“People apply it to their chest and get an aromatherapeutic benefit that they compare almost to, like, Xanax,” Kennedy says.
The organic, vegan lotion base is also the foundation of the Relieving Crème, which includes a blend of arnica, peppermint and juniper.
Blending familiar healing ingredients with non-psychoactive cannabis allows Apothecanna’s products to appeal to potential customers who have no interest in using marijuana to get high, Meffert says.
“We’re able to speak about the efficacy of our product in the context of other ingredients that people already understood,” she says, “and once they made that connection, they were able to think about cannabis a little differently.”
Kennedy and Meffert, who recently got engaged, expect Apothecanna to continue to grow as consumers and scientists better understand the power of topical cannabis. And while Apothecanna is poised to be a leader in the marketplace, Kennedy says the company never set out to be “the greatest cannabis brand.”
“We just want to be an awesome product that happens to have cannabis in it.”