Questions, Answers and Insights from a CBD First-Timer

by Jamison Stoike

CBD has taken the spa industry by storm over the past few years, but the cannabinoid craze has been particularly noticeable since the start of 2018.

It’s a fast-growing product category that aligns with several macro-trends within our industry: the push for natural products; the movement toward small, boutique suppliers; the growing role of environmentalism in the decision-making process of spa-goers. Yet, there’s still a great deal of confusion around CBD-based products. As a spa director, how and why should I use it? As a guest, why do I want it?

The Spa-goer Perspective

With those questions in mind, i set out to experience a CBD massage for myself at The Spa at Griffin Gate inside Lexington, Kentucky’s marriott Griffin Gate hotel. Kentucky does more than produce bourbon and thoroughbred horses: it also has more total acreage of hemp growth than any u.S. state, making it an excellent place to take CBD for a test-drive.

First, I wanted to learn more about the scientific case for CBD, so I turned to ISPA’s medical advisor, Dr. Brent Bauer of the Mayo Clinic. While CBD has been FDA-approved to treat epilepsy, the lack of studies on its efficacy at relieving pain “is the big challenge right now,” says Dr. Bauer. “We have pre-clinical data suggesting that CBD could be helpful for a lot of things—including pain and inflammation,” Dr. Bauer says, adding that “we have a lot of anecdotal evidence from people who have found benefit.” Furthermore, he noted that CBD works through multiple chemical pathways, which makes it difficult to study.

The preliminary data and anecdotal evidence was promising, but I still had one burning question left to ask once I arrived at the spa for my treatment—the question that most guests ask, according to the massage therapist: “will this show up on a drug test?”

The answer, of course, was no; the therapist was game to answer every other question I asked, too. She described how the massage oil was formulated and what I could do to maximize its effectiveness. The product was from a local Kentucky manufacturer, Bluegrass Hemp Oil, who grows and harvests the hemp itself. It was clear that The Spa at Griffin Gate had committed to educating its therapists, which is particularly important for a product that arouses as many questions as CBD. At the conclusion of the massage, the therapist had me swish the CBD oil around in my mouth—she said that this helped increase the product’s absorption.

Insights from a Spa Director and CBD Supplier

As a spa-goer, I had a lot of questions going into the process. As a spa director, it’s up to you to prepare your staff to answer them. After my first CBD massage, I spoke with Melinda Dye, who is currently overseeing the Spa at Griffin Gate, who confirmed that they went to great lengths to educate their team. Adriane Polyniak, founder of Bluegrass Hemp Oil, elaborated: “We did a large group training with hotel staff, not just spa staff. We presented on it, there was a large Q&A, they sampled products and they took products home.” Spa staff received further, in-depth training on using the CBD massage oil in a treatment.

Dye also highlighted the importance of having a strong retail plan for CBD, which has become their “biggest seller” since they started offering CBD oils, lip balms and honey sticks in retail last summer. However, she noted that there were some growing pains related to the CBD treatment: “We recognized the trend and moved to provide the treatment before customers asked about it. It was a trial and error opportunity…at this point, there’s a lot of education involved, but it has been successful.” Although The Spa at Griffin Gate has cultivated a small group of frequent CBD-massage spa-goers, most guests still need to be educated on the product’s benefits.

To help take the pressure off of therapists to answer questions in the treatment room, Dye has placed CBD products front and center on the spa’s check-in counter. This “generates questions” from guests, according to Dye, and gives front-desk staff a chance to answer those questions (and possibly sell the enhancement) organically as a spa-goer checks-in.

Considering the increasingly crowded state of play in the CBD industry, it’s no surprise that Dye cited trust as the most important factor in choosing their supplier.“ Bluegrass Hemp Oil is a local company, and they came in and built trust with us,” Dye says. “We were able to check their ingredients, check their process and trust them right back.”

Capitalizing on CBD

The rapidly growing CBD frenzy is unprecedented. While there have always been new products and trends in spa, CBD’s association with cannabis (even if the product is extracted from hemp) has given it a unique combination of notoriety and public intrigue.There are many questions swirling around this product, but there’s one that matters more than any other: how will your spa make the most of the rising CBD tide?