this thing's incredible

These Plant-Based Patches Take the Edge Off Just As Well As Wine (or Pot)

The author wears a (basically) clear Good Patch on her wrist. Photo: Diksha Basu

I am constantly on the hunt for things to soothe my fidgety mind and relax my shoulders. Alcohol no longer really suits me, I’ve never enjoyed smoking pot, but I still have the itch for something that helps take the edge off … well, life. I have a friend who uses nicotine patches even though (or perhaps because) he’s never been a smoker — he thinks they help him focus. I’m no stranger to therapeutic patches, having used ones from Tiger Balm, which I first discovered in Singapore, to help ease back pain. I love the idea of relief seeping through the skin; it seems milder than popping something in pill form.

I first spotted the peel-and-stick remedies from The Good Patch on the shelves of a local Target and, as someone who blindly trusts everything the store stocks, I bought some to try. The brand claims its patches can be used to soothe all sorts of daily difficulties, from period pain to hangovers to stress, for up to 12 hours. The basically clear patches are plant-based; a few utilize hemp, but none are at the moment FDA-approved. Some of the best things in life, though, are not FDA-approved, and a couple of the patches I’ve tried have come to offer me the sense of ritual and relief you’d get from a glass of wine, without any of alcohol’s negative side effects.

One, however, did not: The Awake patch, which is meant to boost energy, did nothing for me. I’m used to a cup or two of coffee a day, so its 15 mg of caffeine is a relative drop in the ocean. More effective, I’ve found, are the Relax and Be Calm patches, both of which are meant to reduce stress and one of which (Be Calm) includes hemp in its formula. Of the two, I prefer Relax because it calms me without giving me weird dreams — any kind of hemp or CBD products can affect my sleep. Be Calm also makes me ever so slightly loopy while awake, but I sometimes enjoy that because I find myself more willing to play my kids’ current favorite game: I’m the zookeeper and they’re the animals.

The Relax patches help me do exactly what they say — relax — without any loopiness or odd dreams. I slap one on when I need to get on the phone to battle it out with my health-insurance company or if I’m sitting down to deal with emails I’ve been ignoring for seven months or if I suddenly look out at the skies hazy with smoke from wildfires in a different country and panic about climate change. It doesn’t work as well in that last scenario, but I still try.

Both the Be Calm and Relax patches also have ashwagandha, a new “It” ingredient for all things wellness. Ashwagandha is used in Ayurvedic medicine for, basically, everything, and I wish I could tell you I have a local sage sitting in the mountains outside Mumbai who gives me Ashwagandha while I’m in India. But the truth is that I discovered it in America. Should I be angry about the western world taking yet another commonly used ingredient from the East and packaging it up for white influencers on Instagram? Maybe, but I’m too relaxed to be angry about it with a patch on.

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These Plant-Based Patches Take the Edge Off Just Like Wine