Cottonmouth – Causes & Common Fixes

cottonmouth

Most seasoned tokers have accepted the minor inconvenience of cottonmouth as a potential side effect of enjoying their favourite wacky tobacky. Still, it may come as a surprising sensation for those who may be new to getting down with that good green. 

After the recent 2020 US election, 36 states have now legalized medicinal marijuana, with another 15 states permitting it for recreational use. 

However, despite its growing appeal and rise in popularity, the one thing all cannabis consumers can commiserate on is the dreaded cottonmouth experience. 

Not unlike a cottonmouth snake (water moccasin) attack, a case of cottonmouth can strike at any time and can happen to anyone, no matter their experience level. 

While you more than likely have heard and experienced it before, most consumers don’t understand what the weed and cottonmouth connection is and why it happens. 

Thankfully, we took the time to do a little digging to help shed some light on what exactly cottonmouth is, what causes it, and how to deal with it if it does happen to you. 

So, without further ado — let’s get started!  

What is Cottonmouth?

what is cottonmouth

One of, if not the most common grievances among cannabis enthusiasts is the persistent dry and sticky feeling they get in their mouths that can be seemingly impossible to get rid of. 

Once thought to be brought on by harsh smoke, cottonmouth is actually triggered by the natural response your saliva glands have with various types of cannabinoids and other compounds found in your favourite icky sticky. 

In the medical community, cottonmouth is known as xerostomia and is caused by a reduction in saliva output, leading to a sore throat or bad breath. 

Some of the biggest dry mouth from weed or cottonmouth myths is that you can’t get it via vaping or edibles and that THC is the only cannabinoid that can cause it. But if you ask around, you’ll find people can and do get cottonmouth after consuming edibles, vapes, and even CBD oil

The good news is cottonmouth isn’t fatal. However, it can lead to various undesirable health complications, such as tooth decay, increased plaque, gum disease, mouth sores, thrush (oral yeast infection), and poor nutrition absorption caused by chewing and swallowing complications.  

Why Does Cottonmouth Happen?

So, just what is it about gorgeous ganja that leads to the dry, cottonmouth effect? Well, to be blunt (get it?), it isn’t brought on by just one thing. 

Cottonmouth is a process influenced by several different factors and the relationship between our endocannabinoid system (ECS) and the parasympathetic nervous system

The submandibular saliva glands located underneath the jaw bone are responsible for 70% of our saliva production. The rest is produced in the parotid and sublingual glands found in front of each ear and under the tongue. 

Considering each gland contains various amounts of cannabinoid receptors, when you consume weed in any form, cannabinoids bind to them. 

This function prevents the endocannabinoid system from transmitting the message to tell our parasympathetic nervous system to keep the saliva flowing.  

As we briefly mentioned above, you can now see how and why the cause of cottonmouth can be blamed on cannabinoid interaction and not “harsh smoke.” 

While THC isn’t the only liable cannabinoid, it is the mastermind behind the operation. It has the strongest effect on the parasympathetic nervous system, and thus saliva production and cottonmouth.  

How To Deal With Cottonmouth 

If you find yourself in the throes of cottonmouth, or if you’re a regular blazer, it’s a smart idea to always keep yourself hydrated. 

Keeping that in mind, you’ll likely notice that water doesn’t completely eliminate the cottonmouth. 

Not to worry! We’ve put together a list of simple yet effective dry mouth remedies you can use to banish cottonmouth for good. 

Ice

cottonmouth how to deal

Like water, ice is an excellent tool for tackling cottonmouth. Simply suck or chew on some ice. 

It keeps the mouth hydrated and moist, but you will need to take breaks in between to keep your mouth and teeth from getting too cold. 

Candy

One of the fastest and tastiest fixes for cottonmouth is eating a piece of candy. 

Something like a Werther’s Original or Jolly Rancher will get you salivating in no time at all, but also the act of sucking will trigger the saliva glands to jump into action. 

Mouthwash

We aren’t talking about just any mouthwash here. 

There are specially-formulated mouthwashes that were created for the sole purpose of treating and preventing dryness. 

In fact, using a regular mouthwash containing alcohol will facilitate cottonmouth and make it worse. 

Milk

This tip may not work for everyone because it does cause mucus.

Still, the idea here is that since milk has a high-fat content, it leaves a nice thick coating on your mouth and throat, which reduces dryness and irritation.

If you’re lactose intolerant, opt for a dairy-free alternative.

Chewing

Kind of like the candy suggestion, chewing or sucking on something naturally stimulates saliva production, which will help alleviate cottonmouth. 

Foods like beef jerky, dried fruit, or gum should be enough to get things flowing, not to mention it helps keep your blood sugar stabilized. 

Avoid Caffeine 

Caffeine and beverages like coffee, tea and soda are known diuretics and should be avoided to prevent dehydration and to keep your cottonmouth from worsening. 

It is essential to keep hydrated but do so with items such as water or ice instead. 

Breathe Through Your Nose 

Breathing through your nose rather than your mouth can be useful in alleviating the dryness from your mouth. 

Breathing through your mouth is very drying and will only worsen your cottonmouth condition by spreading it to your tongue and throat. 

Not only that, it means that saliva cannot wash bacteria from the mouth, which can lead to conditions such as bad breath, tooth decay, and gum disease. 

Cottonmouth – Say Goodbye to Dry 

The most critical thing to remember is that cottonmouth won’t last forever. Even though it’s uncomfortable, it is relatively easy to fix with everyday items such as ice, water, and candy.

Ultimately, if you ask most tokers, it’s a small price to pay to reap the righteous benefits of your favourite herb.

For those who may not have experienced the sensation before, we are lucky to live in a time where science can help us better understand why certain side effects happen and how to fix them to make more effective choices when things go south. 

Who knows, maybe one day someone will invent a fast-acting cure that completely eliminates cottonmouth for good!

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