CBD ointment can make a great present—unless it is orange. (Jennifer Bardsley)

CBD ointment can make a great present—unless it is orange. (Jennifer Bardsley)

She gets a spicy lesson on the importance of reading labels

A fiery encounter with a lotion that was the opposite of soothing would have been avoided had the word “capsaicin” been noted on the packaging.

Holliday gift-giving can be tricky, especially when shopping for a person who lives in a small apartment or who doesn’t need anything. One of my go-to gifts for these situations is CBD cream. Aches and pains happen at every age, and a tin of CBD ointment doesn’t take up much space.

With that in mind, this fall I bid on a set of three CBD products at on online charity auction. I was unfamiliar with the CBD brand, but the ointments looked like they would make nice gifts. When the jars arrived however, they were much smaller than their picture. They seemed too chintzy to give as presents so I kept them for myself.

The first two jars were OK. One smelled like lavender and the other of rosemary. I couldn’t tell any difference between them and non-CBD lotion. But the third jar was a horror story waiting to happen.

My first clue should have been that it was orange. My second, that it said “use sparingly” in the directions. But the biggest red flag was the word: “capsaicin” on the label. I didn’t know what that word meant. It sounded vaguely familiar, and like a dummy, I ignored it.

One Friday morning after a sweaty barre3 livestream class, I hopped in the shower, toweled off, and slathered on the orange lotion. Within seconds I had a hard time breathing. I couldn’t open the door to the bathroom without being visible to my husband’s Zoom meeting. He was working from home that day. So I covered my mouth with a towel and tried to filter the vapors.

Once I got my breathing under control, I noticed icy-hot chills running across my skin. I picked up the jar of CBD cream and thought harder about where I’d seen that mystery word. Caspian… Was that pepper-related?

Oh boy, by now I realized I had made a big mistake, but I thought that I was tough enough to recover from it. I put on my jeans and sweatshirt, opened the door and raced past my husband’s desk. While walking downstairs it occurred to me that I might want to take a second shower later that evening, so I didn’t accidentally get pepper juice in my bed. The icy-hot sensation was stronger now, but surely it would go away soon. I decided to brew myself a cup of coffee, grab a cookie and sit down at my computer to write.

I’d barely taken out my coffee mug before the icy-hot chills transformed into full-on flames. You know how if you bite into a jalapeño the heat doesn’t hit you until a little while later? That was me, standing in front of my Nespresso machine, ready to scream.

I ran upstairs, not caring if my husband’s Zoom meeting saw me strip off my clothes or not. All I could think about was leaping into the shower and cleaning off the burning lotion. A scrub, a cleanser, and another scrub later, I emerged chastened, having learned a valuable lesson about the importance of reading labels.

This holiday season, the hottest item on my shopping list is going into the trash.

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as Jennifer Bardsley Author. Email her at teachingmybabytoread@gmail.com.

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