Cannabis Dry Mouth
2 min

Why Cannabis Dries The Mouth And How To Avoid It

2 min

The dry, cotton mouth has affected us all at some point. Find out why it occurs, and more importantly how to get rid of it.

A dry mouth when smoking cannabis or “cotton mouth” as its commonly referred to, is an all too familiar feeling for cannabis users around the world. However with many users reporting this uncomfortable side effect without the attributing factor of smoke, is there something more scientific behind its cause? Despite the varying degrees of its severity, dry mouth is often considered an inevitable part of consuming cannabis, often remedied with a quick chug on your favourite drink.

Before you start chasing every joint with a shot of your favourite beer, there are several ways this uncomfortable side effect can be alleviated. Understanding how to treat this symptom comes from understanding how it occurs in the first place, with scientists in Buenos Aires shedding light on why it occurs.

Why A Dry Mouth Occurs

Why A Dry Mouth Occurs

Proved to be more than an old wives tale, cotton mouth is the result of the way the cannabinoids within cannabis affect the bodies nervous system. Known as “xerostomia” amongst scientists, dry mouth is primarily caused by anandamide, a cannabinoid.

A study conducted in 2006[1] found that the submandibular gland, responsible for producing over 60% of the saliva in our mouth, contained type 1 and type 2 cannabinoid receptors. Injecting these compounds into rats, anandamide was found to bind to these receptors, limiting the production of compounds essential for producing saliva. Ultimately the anticipation of eating causes our nervous system to produce saliva so that we can swallow and ingest the food correctly. Anandamide, as well as the most prevalent cannabinoid THC, block these signal resulting in the phenomenon of dry mouth regardless of whether you smoke or eat cannabis.

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When you consider that munchies is an inevitable stage in the cycle of cannabis use, limited saliva production can be an issue. No one wants to choke on their favourite snack!

Alleviating A Dry Mouth

Alleviating A Dry Mouth

First things first, as tempting as that cold beer might be, it will actually make the symptoms worse. Tannin-heavy wines, teas and fruit juices can also be attributors to cotton mouth as the tannin within them adds to the drying sensation. The best solutions are the simplest ones. Sipping water throughout is a great way to combat cotton mouth helping to keep your mouth lubricated.

However if constant trips to the loo aren't your thing then chewing sugar-free gum is another quick and easy method. Chewing gum promotes saliva production, helping to combat the limit in signals the cannabinoids are creating. Essentially anything low in tannins will help to keep things moving and lubricated. The key is to sip these drinks through instead of waiting until cotton mouth has set in. Another popular favourite is chewing crushed ice, adding the benefits that chewing gum and sipping water bring.

Despite advising you to stay away from sugary chewing gums, sugary sweets, on the other hand, are great means of increasing saliva production. Not only do they taste great but can also act as a munchies substitute, win-win. Specifically, you want something that is going to take a long time to suck on, this will ensure you saliva glands are doing their best to counter the effects the cannabinoids are having.

Chocolate isn't a great choice, given it dissolves so quickly but if it makes your mouth water it will serve the same purpose. Whilst sweets won't cure your cotton mouth they do provide temporary reprieve helping to keep the mucus membrane within the mouth lubricated.

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Unfortunately, cotton mouth is an unavoidable by-product of enjoying your favourite herb. The hope being that further research into the effects cannabinoids has on the body could lead to a more scientific way to combat cotton mouth or even remove it all together.

Steven Voser
Steven Voser
Steven Voser is an independent cannabis journalist with over 6 years of experience writing about all things weed; how to grow it, how best to enjoy it, and the booming industry and murky legal landscape surrounding it.
We are not making medical claims. This article has been written for informational purposes only, and is based on research published by other externals sources.

External Resources:
  1. Inhibition of salivary secretion by activation of cannabinoid receptors - PubMed -
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