The night Dahlia Mertens first dropped some marijuana leaves in her bath was a revelation. “I couldn’t believe how relaxed it made me feel,” Mertens says. Soon after she created her signature "hash bath" mixture. “It’s essentially a big tea bag of cannabis mixed with lavender, chamomile and peppermint and some bath salts,” Mertens explains.
The “hash bath” is part of Mertens’ Colorado-based Mary Jane’s Medicinals topical product line, which she founded in 2010. Mertens currently works with a growing number of Los Angeles dispensaries that offer her non-psychoactive, marijuana-infused massage oil, lip balms, salve and bath products.
“People love it. You drop it in your tub like a big tea bag and you brew yourself in a big cup of cannabis you soak in," she says. "I say on the bag that the effects include a 'tingling, mild euphoria and a sense that world peace is possible.'”
Other cannabis companies have tapped into the potential healing properties — and alleged magical moments — of bathing with marijuana. The hip, Los Angeles–based Alkemica has its own cannabath product, along with other cannabis products that are made from its local organic garden. Alkemica co-founder, and Los Angeles native, Katie Dimattia has spent years studying and working with marijuana plants but has just started collaborating with local collectives and selling Alkemica products online this past year. The bath salts are ultra-potent, with 100 mg of marijuana, and come in two varieties: one for relaxing and the other for energy rejuvenation. “We sell them in single servings and it’s designed to use the whole bag,” Dimattia says. “One of the fun things that I’ve had some experiences is it leaves your skin extra smooth, and it’s really sensual.” According to Dimattia, several cancer patients have found relief from Alkemica cannabaths, and many other patients use it for anxiety release.
In addition to Alkemica and Mary Jane’s Medicinals products for the tub, there’s also the “cannabinoid therapy” company Xternal, which is based in California and Washington, and has ganja-infused salts called Xternal Soak.
Mertens takes three hash baths a week. The THC in the tub doesn’t enter the bloodstream, but she claims that the plant’s powerful healing properties help soothe sore muscles, relieve stress and aid with hangovers and insomnia, among other ailments. “For PMS it’s kind of amazing. It’s like a reset button,” Mertens says. “It helps balance hormones and lift your mood.” One of Mertens’ customers bought the aromatic lavender-and-chamomile hash bath to have a romantic night with her partner. When the two soaked in the marijuana-laced tub it put them in such a good mood that the woman’s boyfriend spontaneously proposed to her, according to Mertens.
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Mertens’ Mary Jane's Medicinals hash bath is perhaps unique in its tealike formula, crafted in Telluride, Colorado. Quentin Tarantino’s most recent movie, The Hateful Eight, filmed in the small mountain town. “I was told a bunch of The Hateful Eight stars and actors all got into my products, and I guess quite a bit of hash baths were smuggled back to L.A. before they realized it was available there as well,” Mertens recalls with a laugh. Her soothing bath product is sold at L.A. dispensaries including Sticky Medz, HEO Caregivers and Wonderland Caregivers.
Mertens, who is a former massage therapist, was first introduced to the healing properties of topicals when she was working at a marijuana farm and a friend rubbed cannabis seed oil on her neck. “I didn’t think it was going to do anything,” Mertens says. “You know, I had been trimming weed for a month and a half in the Northern California woods, but as soon as she put it on my neck I felt the muscles relax, my circulation release — it was a very quick response — and I thought, wow, this is something here.”
Although the research behind the therapeutic properties of topical marijuana remains mostly anecdotal, and more studies are needed, cannabis has been used externally for healing purposes for millennia. Marijuana reportedly was used topically by the Egyptians for its antiseptic properties. At the beginning of the 20th century, cannabis is believed to have been used in European folk medicine for its antibacterial properties. And in the Victorian era, plasters and ointments made from the leafy green plant were used to relieve pain.
Marijuana advocates like Mertens hope that cannabis topicals such as the hash bath, as well as massage oils and THC-infused therapeutic creams, will become an inclusive introduction for many to the powerful plant. “They are incredibly effective for all different kinds of issues that almost everyone deals with: arthritis, joint muscle pain, burns, scars, migraines, cramps, bruises, skin issues, eczema,” Mertens says. “I think it’s one of the parts of the industry that can grow the most, because anyone can use this stuff and you’re not going to be altered.”