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Cannabis and Cottonmouth: Why It Happens and Tips to Avoid It

Thursday July 5, 2018

C ottonmouth is that dry, grainy feeling we all have likely come across at some point or another when consuming cannabis. It’s that low-level, annoying side effect that is bound to happen and send us running for a solution. But why do we get it?

In recent years, findings have given us some information as to why we get cottonmouth after consuming cannabis. While we still do not understand every aspect of it, we do, now, have an idea of what happens in our bodies when it occurs. Meanwhile, a small but useful list of remedies exists to overcome that annoying feeling after consuming.

Why Do We Get Cottonmouth?

Due to laws restricting cannabis research, virtually every aspect of the industry has gone understudied or unresearched altogether. While not at the top of the pressing needs list, cottonmouth fell into the same category for some time. However, a 2006 study provided us our first look into what actually may cause this outcome for numerous consumers.

The study began with the understanding that cannabis decreased saliva secretion. By using the submandibular gland (SMG) of male rats, Researchers were able to conclude that the endocannabinoid anandamide (AEA) reduced saliva secretion in the rats’ SMG acting through CB1 and CB2 receptors.

In short, we get cottonmouth due to the way the cannabinoids in our cannabis interact with our body’s endocannabinoid system.

The study further opened eyes to what may cause cottonmouth. Today, a belief exists that AEA and THC share similarities where SMGs bound to THC do not receive the usual interactions from the nervous system. Thus, lowering the saliva created in our mouths, which results in the all too common feeling associated with consuming cannabis.

While the findings could lead to novel ways to overcoming dry mouth, more research is needed to confirm any initial findings. However, the development 12 years ago could serve as the foundation for the next breakthrough method in avoiding and overcoming cottonmouth. Then again, with such pressing needs in the cannabis space, we may not discover additional findings for some time.

Overcoming a Gnarly Case of Cottonmouth

Cottonmouth is a bit like hot sauce in a way. When the effects become too much for your mouth, you may feel compelled to grab the first drink or other options around you to get you feeling back to normal. Just like when drinking water after biting into a ghost pepper, you’ll soon realize that not all options can relieve your short-term oral discomforts the same.

Whenever you feel your mouth go dry after smoking, you’d be wise to avoid liquor. Sure, it may be a liquid, but it’ll do nothing for your cottonmouth. Though, you could get nice and crossfaded depending on how much you consume. While a sip or two could dampen your mouth by a fraction, too much will have you frequenting the bathroom at a high rate (see: breaking the seal), only drying your insides out more. The same can be said for coffees and choice teas.

Select teas are one of the best solutions to cottonmouth. Look for herbal teas, with a particular focus on throat healing blends. Meanwhile, pass on any teas or other drinks containing tannins that only further dry you out.

If tea isn’t your jam, candies and gum may do the trick. Whether chewing on a stick of gum or sucking on a sweet, both methods are bona fide ways of increasing your saliva production. For the best results, have something sour on hand to trigger your salivary glands to the next level. If sour isn’t your favorite flavor, spicy and sweet foods can work as replacements as top-tier salivary gland triggers. So, if you have the munchies and got a little dry mouth, reach for a bag of Sour Patch Kids or head to your favorite Thai restaurant. Either should fix you up right quick!

You can also change your scenery. While it may not affect your high, switching to a more humid environment can remove the dry surroundings we may otherwise smoke in. That should provide some options for any outdoor smokers in Florida, Texas and the other most humid areas of the country. With a few options around, you certainly can offset your cottonmouth conundrum with one method or another. Though, it is best to remember that sometimes dry mouth is going to win out regardless.

Dealing with Cottonmouth

Today, we have a slew of ideas and methods to counter cottonmouth. From changing locations to feeling a bit like a granny with some Lemon Drops in your pocket, you can find a way to overcome your dry mouth when it arises.

While we may not like it, we sometimes have to deal with the side effects of cannabis. But, really, how bad is it? Booze can make you a dumb-dumb and leave you with a world-ending hangover. Over the counter medicine can leave us feeling constipated, dizzy, unable to sleep and much worse. With cannabis, cottonmouth is one of the worst side effects. In the grand scheme, it’s really not that bad. Now, if only sour candies could fix a hangover.

What’s your go-to for curing cottonmouth? Share your answers in the comments below!

Andrew Ward is a Brooklyn-based cannabis writer and creative. His work has appeared on Benzinga, High Times, PROHBTD and several other publications and brand blogs. He has covered the cannabis space for over three years, and has written professionally since 2011. His first book, “Cannabis Jobs,” was released in October 2019. Connect with Andrew on LinkedIn to stay up to date.

Most cannabis consumers have experienced cottonmouth at some point in their smoking careers. But why does it happen? And what are some of the best methods for curing cottonmouth? Find out as we dive into this rather "dry" topic!

Cannabis & Cotton Mouth: What Causes It & How to Avoid It

Cannabis & Cotton Mouth: What Causes It & How to Avoid It

Most who use cannabis have heard of or have experienced cotton mouth (dryness of the mouth) as a side effect, but many do not understand why it happens. Scientists have recently begun to shed light on the causes and cures for cotton mouth. Read on to learn about why cannabis users experience this undesired effect and how it may be prevented [1]!

For general information about whether a Florida medical marijuana recommendation is right for you, schedule an exam with one of our Florida Medical Marijuana Doctors . You may complete our eligibility survey in just 5 minutes to find out if you pre-qualify for a recommendation.

The Science Behind Cotton Mouth

Before the onset of cannabis legalization that led to the wide selection of products seen in dispensaries today, recreational smoking was the primary method of use. In those times, many believed cotton mouth was caused by the thick smoke that resulted from burning cannabis. However, as users began vaping as an alternative to smoking, cotton mouth remained to be a side effect. As capsules, oils, and gummies began to make an appearance, those products also carried with them the same results. The question behind why cotton mouth occurs could only be answered when scientists began to study the problem [10].

Dry mouth as a side effect of consuming cannabis is fairly common, and most refer to it as “cottonmouth,” though the scientific name for dry mouth is “xerostomia.” In 2006, Juan Pablo Prestifilippo and his colleagues at the Centro de Estudios Farmacologicos y Botanicos in Buenos Aires searched for potential causes of cotton mouth, specifically, a decrease in saliva secretion. The team theorized that there are cannabinoid receptors located in the salivary glands which are responsible for this effect. Experiments on male rats determined receptors CB 1 and CB 2 were present in specific locations of the submandibular gland – a salivary gland in rats. It was discovered that the cannabinoid anandamide attaches to these receptors, resulting in hyposalivation (decreased saliva output) [2].

Olga Kopach and Juliana Vats at The State Key Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Kiev found that normally, the cells of saliva glands use the endocannabinoid system to signal feedback that inhibits the over accumulation of saliva in the mouth. When a person consumes cannabinoids, receptors CB 1 and CB 2 bring about a significant drop in saliva production, causing the mouth to feel dry. Kopach also reported findings that these receptors behave differently at the cellular level. “CB 1 receptors predominantly modulate the flow of saliva, while CB 2 receptors seem to influence consistency and content of saliva (such as sodium levels) . . . Cells in the salivary glands can synthesize anandamide” [3]. Dry mouth from consuming cannabis does not cause dehydration throughout the rest of the body, which is why it does not cause the type of hangover some experience from alcohol consumption. Interestingly, what scientists have learned about how the salivary glands and cannabinoids interact could lead to new therapies for those who experience complications with salivation [3].

Is Cotton Mouth Dangerous to Health?

A collection of research out of the Department of Periodontology at the Academic Centre of Dentistry in Amsterdam suggests that with increased cannabis use 4 , oral health is a concern. The researchers stated that providers of oral health care need to be more aware of the potentially chronic side effects associated with dry mouth from cannabis consumption. Mainly, these are:

    • Leukoedema – “A white or whitish-gray edematous lesion of the buccal and labial oral mucosa” [5].
    • Candida Albicans – A type of yeast present in microbes on the skin (including inside the mouth) and gastrointestinal tract that is healthy at normal levels but harmful when multiplied. In that case, it becomes known as thrush, or Candida overgrowth [6].
  • Periodontal Disease – An infection of the gums that can cause bad breath, swollen or red gums, bleeding or tender gums, pain when chewing, loss of teeth, sensitive teeth, and receding gums [7].
  • Tooth Decay and Cavities8

Saliva lubricates the mouth so that we can taste food, swallow, and speak. It also protects the mouth, throat, and teeth from bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms. As such, saliva levels that are consistently low become a risk factor for tooth decay, cavities, periodontal disease, and even tooth loss [8]. Less serious side effects include: feeling thirsty, hoarseness, sore throat, tingling in the mouth, a raw or red tongue, cracked lips, mouth sores, and skin that is split in the mouth [10]. While marijuana is not the only medicine that may result in xerostomia, hyposalivation is typically solved when the user stops taking the problem medication, such as with radiation treatments for cancer patients. On the other hand, those who consume cannabis tend to do so frequently and consistently over longer periods of time. Understanding ways to prevent or cure cotton mouth is key to avoiding these harmful side effects [8].

How to Prevent Cotton Mouth

The American Dental Association encourages consumers of cannabis to maintain regular visits with a dentist, chew sugar-free gum, and maintain a regimen of teeth brushing at least two times per day using fluoride-enriched toothpaste. Some other health professionals have suggested a reduction in citrus-based foods and alcohol-based breath sprays, beverages, and mouth wash because they can dry the mouth. Some drug stores carry gums and sprays that help keep the mouth moist and are a good idea for those who consume cannabis on a regular basis or who tend to experience cotton mouth [8]. Gum chewing helps by preventing signals from the endocannabinoid system that limit saliva production.

Another obvious cure for dry mouth is to drink water, especially while consuming cannabis. While it may be tempting to have a refreshing beer or wine, those beverages contain tannins that can further dry the mouth. Some fruit juices and teas may also contribute to the problem. The important part is to sip on water throughout the day or before, during, and after cannabis consumption. Even drinking water will not be as effective once dry mouth has set in. Some prefer to eat crushed ice as a means to break up the monotony of drinking water [9].

In an article published by American Marijuana titled, “Cannabis & Cotton Mouth – Get Rid of Marijuana Dry Mouth,” Dwight Blake provides the following additional remedies for cotton mouth:

  • “Sipping water frequently especially with a straw keeps you hydrated.
  • Chewing gum, beef jerky or dried fruit stimulates the release of saliva.
  • Lick lollipop or suck on some hard candy. These stimulate saliva production – sour flavors are usually better for increased saliva production.
  • Cough medicines, which are also known as demulcents, help reduce dryness of the mouth by covering the mucus membrane with a dewy film.
  • Herbal teas help reduce the dry feeling on the throat” [10].

Cannabis & Cotton Mouth: What Causes It & How to Avoid It Cannabis & Cotton Mouth: What Causes It & How to Avoid It Most who use cannabis have heard of or have experienced cotton mouth