If you’ve ever used weed, you’ve probably experienced the sticky, unpleasant sensation of cotton mouth, one of the most common symptoms of cannabis use.
Whether you’re using marijuana for medical reasons or as a recreational outlet, cotton mouth can be a surprising and annoying symptom that leaves your lips and tongue sticking to your teeth and the top of your mouth.
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Here’s what you need to know about the causes of cotton mouth, what to do when you have it, and how you can avoid getting dry mouth all together.
Why Does Cannabis Cause Dry Mouth?
The first thing you should know is that cotton mouth is a perfectly normal response your body makes to cannabinoids. In fact, when you get cotton mouth, it just means that your body is picking up the signals your weed is putting down.
Some people think that you can control cotton mouth by choosing a particular consumption method, but that’s not quite the solution. How you get cannabinoids into your body is not as important to the onset of dry mouth as the type of cannabinoids you absorb in the blood stream.
When it comes to cotton mouth, the number one culprit is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). According to a 2012 Journal of Cell Science study, THC tells the molecular receptors in your salivary glands to slow down saliva production. Whether you ingest or inhale cannabis doesn’t change the way that THC sends messages to your body.
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CBD can also cause dry mouth and dry eyes, though to a lesser extent than THC. So if you’re using CBD-only products with the hope that you won’t experience cotton mouth at all, you may want to keep a bottle of water on hand just in case.
Other Causes of Dry Mouth
Cannabis consumption isn’t the only way to get dry mouth. Many other drug therapies and some medical conditions can also lead to this uncomfortable symptom. You may experience cotton mouth if you meet one of the following descriptions:
- You use daily prescription or over-the-counter medications: there are hundreds of medicines (including medical marijuana) that send your salivary glands signals to decrease saliva production.
- You regularly use alcohol or tobacco: chronic alcohol and tobacco use are associated with exacerbated symptoms of dry mouth.
- You’re getting older: though not commonly discussed, cotton mouth becomes more frequent as you age. This may be related to the increased likelihood of using medications along with the body’s changing processing abilities as you get older.
- You have one of the following health conditions: autoimmune diseases, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and thrush are all medical conditions that can cause cotton mouth.
4 Ways to Relieve Cotton Mouth
Cannabis products containing high concentrations of THC and CBD are likely to cause dry mouth no matter how many precautions you take to avoid it. When cotton mouth strikes, try these strategies to get some relief:
- Try saliva substitutes. We know it sounds gross, but these over-the-counter sprays and mouth rinses contain ingredients that moisten your mouth and relieve the symptoms of cotton mouth. Look for saliva substitutes with xylitol, hydroxyethyl cellulose, or carboxymethyl cellulose.
- Keep a water bottle nearby. This may seem obvious, but the most immediate way to relieve cotton mouth is to regularly sip water. Drinking water will only provide temporary relief, which is why you should sip rather than chug to avoid running out of water before your cotton mouth subsides.
- Suck on something sour. Keep hard candies in your pocket, especially if they are lemon-flavored or sour. Keeping lollipops and other hard candies in your mouth will stimulate saliva production (and if you’re high, they’ll probably taste amazing, too).
- Chew gum. If you want a natural way to avoid cotton mouth, chew. The easiest and most jaw-friendly option is chewing gum, but you could try jerky, too. Either way, chewing stimulates saliva production, so revving up the mastication should provide some relief.
5 Methods That Prevent Cotton Mouth
If you’re tired of dry mouth but seem to experience it every time you consume cannabis, you may be able to avoid this unpleasant symptom or at least mitigate its severity. The following methods may solve your dry mouth problem before it even begins:
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- Don’t drink coffee before you smoke. Caffeine decreases saliva production, so regularly adding caffeine to your THC may worsen the symptoms of cotton mouth. If you really enjoy the effect of adding cannabis to a warm beverage, you can try combining it with a non-caffeinated herbal tea. Alternatively, you can wait to drink coffee until your high subsides if you want to avoid making cotton mouth worse.
- Avoid antihistamines. Antihistamines are known for drying out your mouth, nose, and throat. If your cotton mouth symptoms are less bearable than your allergies, try laying off the antihistamines if possible. Of course, if your allergy symptoms are more problematic than dry mouth, you may have to just stick with sipping water and chewing gum.
- Limit salt intake. Salt pulls moisture out of whatever it touches, including your mouth. Regularly limiting your sodium intake will help keep you hydrated. It’s also not a great idea to chow down on something especially salty if you get the munchies. Keep water-rich snacks like berries, melons, cucumbers, and tomatoes and on hand. You can also suck on a lemon to stimulate even more saliva production.
- Use a humidifier. Keep your skin and respiratory system well-watered by using a humidifier at night and throughout the day. In addition to creating an environment less prone to creating dry mouth symptoms, a humidifier can help relieve irritated eyes, dry lips, and allergies. They’re also good for your indoor cannabis plants, especially if you live somewhere dry.
- Stay hydrated. It goes without saying, but dehydration is a guaranteed way to exacerbate cotton mouth symptoms. Drinking between 8 and 15 cups of water a day will help keep you hydrated and prevent the discomforts of dry mouth.