Why Does Cannabis Cause Cotton Mouth?
4 min

Why Does Cannabis Cause Cotton Mouth?

4 min

Have you ever wondered why you get a dry mouth when smoking, vaping, or eating cannabis edibles? Read on to find out all you need to know about cotton mouth and what you can do to avoid it and treat it.

It's a common occurrence among all that enjoy smoking, vaping, or eating cannabis. That's right; we're talking about the dreaded dry mouth, also known as cotton mouth. While this uncomfortable feeling is largely harmless, how does cannabis cause it, and what can you do about it? We delve into all you need to know about cotton mouth, and some ways to treat and potentially avoid it.

What is cotton mouth?

What is cotton mouth?

Cotton mouth is a dry, uncomfortable sensation, as if your mouth is full of cotton wool. Whether you're a keen smoker, a vape enthusiast, or dabble in dabs, all cannabis users are susceptible to experiencing cotton mouth, making it a hugely common issue in the community. Although annoying, dry mouth is often considered an inevitable part of consuming cannabis. However, it's not just down to chance; there are several factors at play when it comes to this phenomenon.

Why does cannabis dry mouth occur?

So, is cotton mouth just a case of smoking too much cannabis? Well, not exactly. Essentially, the dry feeling is a result of the way cannabinoids affect the body's nervous system. Known as “xerostomia”, this condition is primarily caused by a naturally occurring endocannabinoid in the body, anandamide, which results in the salivary glands being unable to produce enough saliva to keep the mouth wet.

A study conducted in 2006 (Prestifilippo et al.) found that the submandibular gland, responsible for producing over 60% of the saliva in the mouth, contains type 1 and type 2 cannabinoid (CB) receptors. Upon studying the functioning of CB receptors in rats, anandamide was found to bind to these receptors, limiting the production of compounds essential for saliva production.

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Ultimately, the anticipation of eating causes our nervous system to produce saliva so we can swallow and ingest food correctly. Anandamide—as well as the most prevalent cannabinoid in the cannabis plant, THC—can block these signals, resulting in the phenomenon of dry mouth. When you consider that getting the munchies is an inevitable stage in the cycle of cannabis use, limited saliva production can be a potentially risky issue. No one wants to choke on their favourite snack!

Is cotton mouth harmful?

Though it's admittedly uncomfortable, cotton mouth is generally considered harmless. Of course, a dried-out, sore throat will make swallowing difficult without any water, and in the most extreme circumstances, your teeth will weaken and become much more sensitive. But more than likely, dry mouth is likely to dampen your mood and impact your cannabis experience. However, it's easily manageable and, in some cases, partially avoidable.

What can you do if you have cotton mouth?

What can you do if you have cotton mouth?

So, if you find yourself with a dry mouth, what can you do about it? You'll be pleased to learn that there are several actions you can take. While there's no “miracle cure”, keep the following options in mind if you find yourself in need of relief.

✅ Drink water

As you might imagine, hydration is going to be your best friend when it comes to dealing with dry mouth. Keep yourself topped up throughout your smoking session, and you'll notice the effects diminish significantly. Note that hydrating regularly, in moderate amounts, is better for diminishing cotton mouth as opposed to drinking a ton of water in one go.

✅ Use mouthwash

Okay, so this might not be ideal if you have the munchies, but specific mouthwashes are formulated to combat the dreaded dry mouth. So if you feel your mouth getting a little claggy, swirl some mouthwash to help alleviate it.

✅ Have some sweets

Your choice of munchies can also play a huge role in relieving dry mouth. Opting for some hard candy, mints, or gum will stimulate your oral taste receptors, causing them to increase the amount and flow of saliva (American Dental Association, 2021). Furthermore, studies show that sour candies, in particular, are able to increase and sustain saliva production during the entire period in which the candy remains in the mouth. On the contrary, the saliva-stimulating effects of chewing gum peak very quickly, but then substantially decrease as you continue to chew it (Dawes & MacPherson, 1993).

✅ Breathe through your nose

This one might sound a little silly, but bear with us. Breathing out of your mouth will cause much-needed moisture to escape, so switching it up and breathing through your nose could help to remedy your dry mouth.

✅ Use a humidifier

Last but by no means least, the use of a humidifier can help to alleviate dry mouth. Increasing moisture in the air, every breath you take will add to your hydration and keep cotton mouth at bay.

How to avoid cotton mouth

How to avoid cotton mouth

So, we've given you tips and tricks to help combat cotton mouth, but how about avoiding it altogether? Or, is dry mouth simply an inherent aspect of using cannabis? Here are some suggestions to consider to help mitigate the arrival of that vexing sensation.

💡 Stay hydrated

Prepare for your next session by ensuring that you're adequately hydrated. This is much easier to do before you start smoking and will have a greater impact. It's harder to regain a level of hydration once cotton mouth strikes than it is to prepare for it. So make sure you take the time to drink some hydrating fluids, and it'll work wonders.

💡 Avoid caffeine

Whether in the form of coffee, a can of your favourite caffeinated beverage, or green tea, the diuretic nature of caffeine may result in you becoming dehydrated quicker. So you'll want to avoid it. Instead, stick with the aforementioned water, try herbal tea, or go for a hydrating sports drink if you want something with a bit of sugar.

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💡 Choose your snacks carefully

No, this isn't some dietary advice for those looking to watch their waistlines, but some tips for those looking to dodge cottonmouth. Primarily, be sure to avoid salty snacks. It should come as no surprise that a handful of salted peanuts or pretzels will play a role in drying your mouth out further. So pick out your snacks wisely!

💡 Avoid alcohol and tobacco

Similar to coffee and other caffeinated drinks, alcohol has diuretic properties and the potential to dry you out. Of course, as a rule of thumb, it's probably best to decide if your night is going to be a “drinking” one or a “smoking” one. Smoking tobacco will also cause you to be dehydrated. So whether you're cutting your joints with tobacco or smoking cigarettes, you may want to think against it.

Cotton mouth: Par for the cannabis course?

Cotton mouth: Par for the cannabis course?

Though an inconvenience, for most people, cotton mouth is not enough of a nuisance to keep them from smoking weed. So whether you take the time to prep beforehand or just deal with it as it comes, you can quickly get your smoking or vaping session back on track with very little fuss.

Unfortunately, dry mouth is somewhat unavoidable when partaking in cannabis. But hopefully, as further research into the effects of cannabinoids on the body comes to light, perhaps there will be cultivars that limit the dry mouth users experience. In the meantime, if you're on the lookout for new strains to check out, simply head over to the Zamnesia Seedshop today and get the finest selection available today.

Adam Parsons
Adam Parsons
Professional cannabis journalist, copywriter, and author Adam Parsons is a long-time staff member of Zamnesia. Tasked with covering a wide range of topics from CBD to psychedelics and everything in between, Adam creates blog posts, guides, and explores an ever-growing range of products.
  • American Dental Association. (2021). Chewing Gum -
  • Dawes, C., & MacPherson, L. M. (1993 May). The distribution of saliva and sucrose around the mouth during the use of chewing gum and the implications for the site-specificity of caries and calculus deposition. Journal of Dental Research, 72(5), 852–857. -
  • Prestifilippo, J. P., Fernández-Solari, J., de la Cal, C., Iribarne, M., Suburo, A. M., Rettori, V., McCann, S. M., & Elverdin, J. C. (2006). Inhibition of salivary secretion by activation of cannabinoid receptors. Experimental Biology and Medicine (Maywood, N.J.), 231(8), 1421–1429. -
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