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 !

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Dry mouth, cotton mouth, the pasties – who is not familiar with this side effect from smoking marijuana? Until recently it wasn’t well understood how exactly marijuana causes a dry mouth and a sore throat. Scientists have now shed new light on cotton mouth and the causes for it. Learn about dry mouth and what you can do about it!

While we often associate the feeling of cotton mouth with cannabis alone, there are various reasons one may experience dry mouth. For starters, you’re likely to get it if you aren’t regularly drinking fluids, especially water. Eating excessive amounts of dry food like crackers and beef jerky can cause these symptoms as well, along with spending a lot of time in hot, dry weather. Those who sleep with their mouth open will be familiar with the feeling as well; we constantly produce saliva, but it can dry out quickly if your mouth isn’t closed.

What is Cotton Mouth?

cotton mouth weed

Saliva helps us digest our food and keeps the mouth from getting infected by maintaining a balance in the bacteria and fungi in the mouth.  It also plays a vital role in ensuring that your mouth is adequately lubricated, and by so doing, it ensures your comfort.

Dryness of mouth has been known as a common outcome in cannabis users over the years. When cannabis was only used as a recreational drug, taken in through smoking, many people thought the resulting dry mouth was due to the thick smoke that resulted from burning weed.

However, even after vaping, dry mouth continued to be a feature. Oils, gummies, capsules, didn’t eliminate the problem either, and one big question remained unanswered, “why does weed give cottonmouth?”

Why Does Weed Give You Cottonmouth?

Much research on everything to do with marijuana dry mouth still needs to be done to establish reasons for cottonmouth, how to prevent cottonmouth, and how to fix cottonmouth. Indeed lots of research is ongoing on all aspects of cannabis. 

The key to understanding cottonmouth lies not only in understanding marijuana, but it is also in understanding our bodies’ response to it.

The endocannabinoid system, which determines the body’s response to cannabinoids, was only discovered in the 1990s, and there is still a lot to be understood about it. Having mentioned this, it is noteworthy that some research has been conducted, and it provided some useful insights into the problem of cottonmouth as follows.

The endocannabinoid system is a part of the nervous system that connects with cannabinoids in the body. It consists of endocannabinoids, which are naturally occurring cannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors. 

Cannabinoid receptors are the place where endocannabinoids (naturally occurring) and cannabinoids (plant-based, which we take in by smoking or as concentrates and edibles) connect to fulfill their purpose. The last part of the ECS is the metabolic enzymes that destroy endocannabinoids once they are through with their work. 

ECS plays an essential role in the management of problems such as pain and inflammation. It does this by sending signals to pre-synapse neurons and by so doing, inhibiting the affected neurons’ capacity to send signals in the opposite direction to the brain. 

The salivary glands located under your jaw bone are known as submandibular salivary glands, and they are responsible for the production of 70% of all your saliva. These salivary glands have cannabinoid receptors when you introduce cannabis in any of its forms, i.e. as CBD and as THC dry mouth results. 

This dryness of mouth is because cannabinoids connect to endocannabinoid receptors in the salivary glands and inhibit the transmission of signals to the nervous system.  As a result of this interruption, the brain doesn’t get the message to instruct the submandibular salivary glands to release saliva.

Cottonmouth Symptoms

Cottonmouth is usually not a big problem when you are taking in small amounts of cannabis. The symptoms increase in intensity as you increase your intake of marijuana. The following are some of the symptoms.

  • Bad breath 
  • Getting thirsty frequently 
  • Hoarseness of voice 
  • Sore throat
  • Red, raw tongue 
  • Tingling sensation in the mouth 
  • Cracked lips 
  • Sores in the mouth and split skin in the far edges of the mouth

Is Cotton Mouth Bad for Your Health?

cotton mouth weed

So, is getting cotton mouth bad for your health? Well, it’s not anything that’ll land you in the hospital, but it can still cause some notable issues. To start, dry mouth can be pretty uncomfortable over an extended period, which can dampen your mood and throw off your focus.
It can also lead to a dried out throat, which can make swallowing very difficult without the assistance of water. Along with that, if you let it go on long enough, your teeth will start to weaken as they get more and more dry, becoming more sensitive in the process.

What Can You Do When You Experience Cotton Mouth?

Most people experience dry mouth to some degree when they smoke cannabis, but it’s usually not a big deal if you only have a few hits. It can get unpleasant during heavier sessions, though, and just drinking water doesn’t really do anything significant to relieve it. You definitely should drink water when you’ve got it, but there are a few other tricks you can try out as well.

  • Chewing

Chewing stimulates saliva production, and this means that it can help with a dry mouth. A strip of chewing gum can be all that you need to help to stimulate the glands once again.

If you don’t like chewing gum, you can also look into things like beef jerky or dried fruits. Basically, any food that will need some chewing can act as an alternative.

  • Candy / Lollipops

In the same way as chewing can be a good way to get some saliva flowing, you can lick a lollipop, take a cough drop, or some hard candy. Sucking on the candy or a lollipop has the same effect as chewing; it will increase saliva production to help you get rid of dry mouth.

Bonus tip: Sour flavours will really get your mouth watering, so some sour-tasting candy can be better than sweet ones. If you’re brave enough, you can even start munching on a slice of lemon!

  • Cough Medicines (Demulcents)

In those cases where you think that chewing along or licking a lollipop doesn’t really help to get rid of a really nasty spell of dry mouth, you can look into demulcent cough drops. These oral demulcents are widely available over the counter. What they do is coat the mucous membranes with a moist film, which can prevent or help get rid of the dry cotton mouth feeling.

  • Herbal Teas

Along with the feeling of an unpleasantly dry mouth often also comes a feeling of a sore and irritated throat from smoking. If you look around most modern grocery stores, you should be able to find herbal teas. These are great at offering relief. Tip: Add a squeeze or two of sour lemon juice to your herbal tea for an even better effect to help with your sore and dry mouth.

  • Limit Sugar and Salt Intake

If you want to really make sure you don’t run into dry mouth, you should make a point to limit your sugar and salt intake on a regular basis, even when you’re not smoking.

Sugary and salty foods taste great, yes, but they also dehydrate us at a rapid pace. In turn, consuming them more regularly will lead you to develop dry mouth more quickly when you smoke. Eating those foods during or after the session will also lead to significant discomfort.

  • Humidifier

Now, if you know you keep your mouth open at night, getting a humidifier to run while you’re asleep can save you from discomfort in the long run.

Normally, when you fall asleep, you produce saliva that’s protected by your closed mouth, fending off dryness in the process. If you keep it open, however, all that saliva dries out, and you’ll end up with constant cotton mouth that’s only worsened by smoking. Running a humidifier while you sleep will help you evade that situation thanks to an abundance of moisture in the air.

  • Brush Your Teeth and Use Mouthwash

Prevention is great, but sometimes you need a solution in the moment. Thankfully, you can just head into the bathroom and brush your teeth! The mint in the toothpaste will stimulate your salivary glands, and having some mouthwash and mints afterwards will help ensure that dry mouth stays far away. You should be keeping your teeth clean anyway, but now you know it can save you from discomfort in a pinch!

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