Cottonmouth is one of the most famous side effects of cannabis consumption. A grainy tongue and difficulty swallowing isn’t fun for anyone, especially when you’re about to dive into some delicious carby munchies after a few puffs of some pungent flower. But, why does cannabis give you cottonmouth? Surprisingly, the answer is more straightforward than it might seem.
Why does cannabis give you cottonmouth?
Cannabis gives you cottonmouth because compounds in the herb interact with cells that control saliva secretion. When inhaled, the primary psychoactive in the herb, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), connects with special cell sites called cannabinoid receptors.
THC is one of a group of over 100 different chemical compounds in the cannabis plant called cannabinoids.
Different types of these receptors are found throughout the brain and body. It’s the interaction between chemicals in the cannabis plant and these receptors that produce the therapeutic and psychoactive effects in cannabis.
There are cannabinoid receptors on the salivary glands in the mouth. When inhaled, smoke or vapor containing cannabinoids and beneficial aroma molecules called terpenoids interacts with the tissue in the mouth first, prior to being absorbed by the lungs and taken into the bloodstream.
When compounds like THC engage with cannabinoid receptors in the mouth, they reduce the flow of saliva and give you cottonmouth.
3 ways to get rid of cottonmouth
One of the best ways to prevent cottonmouth is to stay hydrated and have plenty of water on hand while smoking or vaporizing. Ice water is especially nifty to have on hand if you’re planning on ripping a bong, dab rig, or tabletop vaporizer.
Other than simply staying hydrated, here are a few quick tips for getting rid of cottonmouth.
1. Herbal cough drops
Sucking on something like a lolly or an herbal cough drop can help ease the symptoms of cottonmouth. Hard candies or similar treats work as well. In this case, sucking behavior kickstarts glands to produce saliva to help digest the food.
2. Sour flavors
If you’re not in the mood for something sweet, anything with a sour flavor will also do the trick. When taste buds sense sour, the body releases saliva to buffer the taste. Interestingly, the saliva released when something tastes sour contains higher concentrations of salivary bicarbonate, which is an alkaline substance that neutralizes the sugar acids in foods.
3. Throat-healing herbal teas
There are certain kinds of tea that can be helpful in relieving the throat irritation from smoking and cottonmouth. Traditional Medicinals Throat Coat is a particularly good one that is available in most standard U.S. supermarkets and online.
Amp up the cottonmouth fighting potential of this tea with a sizable squeeze of sour lemon and a little honey. Following up with some plain water might be nice.
For the record, black and green teas often contain tannins, which have an astringent quality on the mouth. These types of teas will dry the mouth out. Blueberry and blackberry leaf will do the same.
To avoid making cottonmouth worse, it is recommended to avoid salty foods, alcohol, and tobacco.