What Is Cannabis Xerostomia, or cotton mouth?
Upon ingesting marijuana, the human body goes through many noticeable changes. One of the things most cannabis consumers notice shortly after smoking weed is the sudden dryness of the mouth.
The medical term for this phenomenon is xerostomia; dry mouth or cotton mouth as it’s commonly known. It can last for a few minutes or longer, but it isn’t a serious side effect or any cause for concern. At the most, it’s a great reminder for you to hydrate with anything you find refreshing: water, juice, or any other fluids.
Why Xerostomia Occurs
There have been some studies conducted with the purpose of understanding exactly why cotton mouth happens. A 2004 study conducted by researchers from the University of Buenos Aires examined animal models and discovered that anandamide and some cannabinoid receptors are located in one of the three main salivary glands known as the parotid gland, as well as in the submandibular and sublingual. But it wasn’t until 2006 when other researchers, also from the University of Buenos Aires, found that cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 were present in the submandibular glands of mice, and that high anandamide levels resulted in decreased saliva in the glands because they activated the receptors directly.
In other words, since the cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) acts similarly to anandamide, it also causes temporary decreases in saliva when the cannabinoid receptors in the salivary glands are activated.
This phenomenon is just one of the ways that the endocannabinoid system regulates the body’s many functions, considering that saliva production is part of it.
How To Treat Cotton Mouth
Again, cotton mouth isn’t much more than a nuisance. Some cannabis strains cause this to happen more than others, and while we haven’t figured out how to stop it altogether, it isn’t difficult to treat.
The primary way to resolve cotton mouth is by drinking water. The next best things you can do are to chew gum, consume lozenges, or suck on a candy because this helps increase saliva production. It also helps to note that the occurrence of a dry mouth is dose dependent, which means that the more cannabis you smoke, the more it can happen. If you have figured out just how much cannabis you need to obtain its therapeutic or recreational benefits, this can help you reduce xerostomia in the long run but a good rule of thumb is to microdose to decrease the chances of it happening in a more severe manner.
Avoid consuming alcohol, tea, or coffee, as these are diuretics and can make cotton mouth more uncomfortable or pronounced. You might also want to postpone eating until you feel better because a bad case of cotton mouth can make swallowing difficult. This might be a gargantuan task if you’ve been hit by cotton mouth AND the munchies, so just remember to avoid fats and starches when you have dry mouth. Your body will thank you later! (Pro tip: if you do get the munchies and a dry mouth, reach for some juicy grapes or other fruits, which are loaded with water and electrolytes as well as nutrients!)
If you’re one of the few people who suffers from extreme cases of cotton mouth, perhaps the solution is to switch up the strains you’re using. Since THC acts similar to anandamide, and you’re ripping a bong with high THC levels, you might want to experiment with other milder strains to see if you still get a bad case of the dry mouth. You might also want to consider smoking a higher CBD strain, since it would contain more receptors that affect the body differently. Every person has a different neurochemistry which means that we all react differently to cannabis, so the not-so-secret solution is to really just find a strain(s) that is right for you.
Cotton mouth really isn’t all that bad. It’s a minor side effect, and there are many ways to cope with it without resorting to drastic measures. It may be a small inconvenience, but it definitely isn’t anything like the side effects of other substances like alcohol and prescription drugs, which can cause permanent disfigurations, addictions, and death. So if you think that cotton mouth is a serious side effect of cannabis, in the grand scheme of things, it isn’t a bad thing at all.