Gua sha, a traditional practice from East Asia, has become one of the latest beauty trends for its ability to reduce inflammation and tone the face. Celebrities from Goop founder Gwyneth Paltrow to singer Olivia Rodrigo have promoted adding it to one’s daily skincare routine. For Jordan Person, a licensed practical nurse and massage therapist based in Denver, this practice can be more than just a trend. As the founder of Primal Therapeutics, a cannabis-infused massage therapy brand which is the only first and only company of its kind to be licensed by the Better Business Bureau, Person believes gua sha is an opportunity for alternative medicine, like cannabis, to enter the mainstream spa and skincare scene.
With gua sha’s rise in popularity in American media, Person was first interested in the practice as a self-care tool. Now, she has integrated it into her massages and uses it as a way to demonstrate the benefits of CBD skincare at the International Esthetics, Cosmetics and Spa Conference, held in New York, Chicago, Las Vegas, and Palm Beach, Florida.
“This tool is so simple but so powerful,” Person said. “Gua sha detoxifies; massage detoxifies. Instead of just using my hands, I have this.” This ancient Chinese practice, used uninterrupted for centuries, dates back to early dynasties as a form of alternative medicine. As the stone, which is traditionally jade, moves across the body, it is meant to target stagnant energy, called chi in Mandarin, that is believed to cause inflammation. The stone helps to break down this energy, leaving a glowing complexion.“[With gua sha,] you are able to reach more of a balance in the skin which is what you're trying to do with cannabis anyway.”
In Person’s skincare line, Primal Healing, she pairs gua sha with her Primal Healing Serum, a product that combines hemp with oils, like argan, jojoba and rosehip, for a hydrating and anti-aging effect. Together, she says gua sha and cannabis tame inflammation for a “surgery-free facelift” that is accessible and non-invasive. In her massages, she allows these healing benefits of the cannabis skincare products to extend to the whole body.
“I was healing myself while I was healing my patients,” Person said. “When doing cannabis massage, the difference is if you're using a good quality product, you yourself as a therapist will feel a difference in the product; the patient will feel a difference as well.”
This marriage of cannabis and massage therapy, however, has not always been so accepted. When Person started cannabis-infused massages, it was an experiment. She believes that no one was willing to put their license on the line, like she did, to research what cannabis could do when applied from head to toe. Nevertheless, the anecdotal evidence that Person has collected from her massages suggest they are healing, and now, Person is among those leading this massage practice in the spa industry.
“I have touched more people with cannabis than anyone else,” she said regarding her particular specialty. “I’m grateful that I went with my gut because now I’m here eight years later.” According to Person, the benefits of CBD-infused topicals include pain relief, expedited healing time and increased blood flow among others that have helped to validate the medicinal side of cannabis.
What began as Person’s personal experiment on cannabis skincare and massage has turned into science in the making. Igor Kovalchuk, a plant biologist and professor at University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, is in the process of receiving patents for his research on cannabis and its effects on skin rejuvenation and inflammation. According to his data, certain cannabis extracts were able to slow aging, reduce inflammation and ease psoriasis.
“It’s important to break this pattern of fear... so that people understand that this is just another regular medicinal herb,” Kovalchuk said. He hopes that, with legal support for cannabis research like his own and public education on the plant, more countries will welcome cannabis and its medicinal properties.
“I'm excited that people are beginning to embrace the ingredient,” said Person. “My hope is that it is not a fad and that people begin to witness its powerhouse potential.” Aside from skincare and massage therapy, she has made public education a part of her brand’s mission. At the IECS Conference, she teaches a class called “The Importance of Hemp and CBD Skincare,” and she wrote Cannabis Massage 101 & 102, a curriculum on how health, skincare and cannabis intersect. This education is not only her cornerstone, but what she feels is needed to advance the spa industry. “Am I happy that influencers are using [gua sha]? Yes. Do they know why they're using it? No. That's what makes it a fad.”
With the work Person and Kovalchuk are doing, alternative medicine is gaining institutional credibility. A credibility that its clients have already honored for years. Rather than being viewed as trends, like gua sha, they may become industry staples.
“[Gua sha is] a fantastic door opener for the start of something very beautiful,” Person said.“It's not scary because gua sha has been around for thousands and thousands of years; so has cannabis.
Featured image: Jordan Person, founder of Primal Therapeutics, uses the gua sha technique on a massage client. She pairs the practice with cannabis-infused oils. (C) Primal Therapeutics