IT’S STORMING WHEN I head out to Anantara Spa to try one of their new cannabis treatments, the first CBD massages on record in Thailand. As I leave home, a raincloud dumps itself onto Bangkok’s streets, gridlocking peak-hour traffic practically to the driveway of Anantara’s downtown grande dame. I blow through the lobby as politely as possible and make it to the spa approximately five minutes early for my appointment. Which is actually 10 minutes late if you know anything about spa etiquette.
It’s a less-than-chill beginning to my 90-minute Restful Slumber Journey, wherein a 30-minute bath and a 60-minute oil massage potentially hold the keys to a deep and dreamless sleep. But maybe it’s the best type of beginning, because while the treatment is recommended for people with jet lag, I’m keen to test how potent it is on chronically overstressed under-sleepers like me.
Restful Slumber is part of the first cannabis-themed menu of spa treatments in Thailand, which Anantara has so far launched at four of its hotels throughout the country—and one of the first of in the luxury-hotel market in Asia (Hongkongers should check out the Landmark Mandarin Oriental). It follows the 2018 legalization of medical marijuana in the kingdom, and a more recent ruling allowing the use of hemp in food and cosmetics. Over the last six months Thailand has seen a conspicuous proliferation of cannabis products in some truly surprising markets (weed coffee, anyone?), though a luxury-spa-cannabis crossover like Anantara has created feels like a more natural fit. After all, this brand already launched a cannabis dining menu and can be relied upon to be on trend with wellness: they offer IV drips in-house.
To start me on my journey, I’m given a pot of hot cannabis-and-flower tea to sip on—a promise of less-anxious times ahead. The role of CBD here is not to induce a high (that’s THC’s job), but to stabilize mood, lower stress, settle the stomach, and reduce inflammation; basically to chill me the eff out. The tea has a reassuringly earthy taste, with notes of jasmine, rose and chamomile.
Soon, I’m led to the deluxe couples’ suite, where a bath—a vast, mosaic-tiled, concrete tub—is filled with hot water and red rose petals. The therapist puts my teapot on the rim, pours a sachet of cannabis bath salt into the tub, and lets me know she’ll be back in 30 minutes. After a ginger entrance into the water, which is roughly the temperature of the sun, I notice a “tea-bag” of herbal ingredients bobbing around in the mix. I sit back and steep alongside it, candles flickering, gauzy privacy curtain billowing, the day’s anxieties evaporating off my shoulders like steam.
I’m noodly and pliant embarking on the massage leg of the journey. For sleep purposes, I choose the lavender blend of cannabis-infused oil over the rice-milk option, which is focused more on youthfulness and hydration. CBD applied topically in a massage oil isn’t absorbed through the bloodstream (as it is when ingested); rather it interacts directly with cannabinoid receptors in the skin for a soothing, anti-inflammatory effect. It will hopefully also, as the bottle somewhat casually suggests, “treat insomnia.”
Regardless of how beneficial it might turn out to be, I’m happy to spend the next hour having it massaged into my body. As I’m kneaded and squeezed, my limbs taken up one by one, caressed, and gently set back down again, the minutes pass blurrier and blurrier, my muscles tenderer, my mind mellower. At some point I realize my only anxiety is that the massage will soon be ending, but when that moment eventually comes, I realize I’m OK with it too.
Out in the post-treatment area, I’m served another pot of cannabis tea. My arms smell vaguely like lavender and feel like velveteen. I’m told to let the oil sink in for at least two hours and to sit and enjoy my drink. I don’t leave until I finish the pot.
On my way home (I thought it’d be nice to walk), I’m rained on so heavily I get soaked to the skin, which bothers me a lot less than it usually would. My trainers slosh all the way to my front door, where they stay wet for a week before getting tossed in the garbage. You might call it lazy, but I prefer mellow.
As unscientific as it is to use a spa treatment to test the effectiveness of CBD, anecdotally I feel as if it worked some kind of magic. Most importantly for this experiment, I get the outcome I was hoping for. I fall asleep that night quickly and easily—and stay that way soundly for the next seven hours.
anantara.com/en/spa-and-wellness; cannabis spa treatments currently available across Thailand at Anantara Siam and Anantara Riverside in Bangkok, Anantara Chiang Mai and Anantara Bophut Koh Samui, with more locations to follow.
Restful Slumber Journey (90 minutes, Bt2,500); other options include the Stress Release Journey involving a cannabis herbal compress ball, and the Head to Toe Calming Journey, which combines foot reflexology with a scalp massage.
All photos courtesy of Anantara Hotels, Resorts and Spas.
By R.C. Owen