If you smoke cannabis, you can expect cottonmouth and a scratchy throat. You may suffer the effects even if you consume cannabis through edibles.
The cannabinoids in cannabis interact with the neural receptors of the human endocannabinoid system. Among the bodily systems affected, cannabis slows the work of the saliva. Ordinarily, the glands generate saliva naturally and unconsciously, like breathing and digesting. They’ll even kick in when you see something good to eat.
The THC in cannabis mimics anandamide, a fatty acid neurotransmitter that causes decreased saliva secretion. But, when THC binds with receptors in the saliva glands, it blocks messages from the central nervous system. If research can discover the mechanism, they might breed a cannabis strain that prevents the problem or develop medications to better manage saliva production in those who have medical problems related to saliva.
Writing in the Colorado Springs Independent, Cindy Kulp says “cottonmouth is just a sign that the marijuana is working.”
10 ways to avoid cottonmouth:
1. Stay away from alcohol. Beer, spirits, and tannin wines will contribute to and exacerbate the problem. So, you should avoid smoking cannabis while you are drinking. That can be difficult if you are smoking in a social group, but it is a choice you can make.
You would do far better to keep water handy to draw on regularly. If you are drinking the recommended eight glasses of water per day, you may have the water habit down.
2. Chewing gum puts your jaws to work. Chewing some gum or fruit will automatically trigger the saliva glands
In fact, chewing almost anything — even ice cubes — will exercise the jaws. You need to practice these habits before, during, and after smoking.
3. Avoid caffeine in any form. Caffeine comes in many forms: coffee, tea, cola, power drinks, and more.
Caffeine is a natural diuretic, and this causes the kidneys to hold back. The caffeine flushes water out of the system instead of resorbing into the blood. And, the tannins in teas and wines only act as an astringent that dehydrates body tissues.
4. Use a humidifier. Too many users smoke in the same closed environment all the time. So, they breathe their own air repeatedly. They would benefit from an in-room humidifier or a humidifier built into the HVAC system.
Humidified air protects you against several things, including airborne allergies. You can rig a baby’s humidor with a mentholated vapor. Or, you can open a window.
5. Go suck a lemon. Sucking on something citrus will trigger your saliva glands. Lemons, limes, and oranges will do.
Sour citrus will also refresh. So, you might squeeze some lemon into the water recommended for sipping. Lemon drops, Jolly Ranchers, Life Savers, or other sour candies have much the same effect.
6. Sniff salt. With saliva reduced, the nasal passages and sinuses get dry. You can protect the nasal passages with an application of naval jelly or similar salves.
You might also flush your nose nightly with a saline spray or mild anti-allergen. While you can do this the morning after, it’s smart to do this before bed. You do not want to corrupt your ability to taste or smell, but with odorless salts, salves, and sprays, you can find relief from an irritated nose.
7. Use a hydrating mouthwash. The popular brand name mouthwashes contain alcohol. But, even the big names have alcohol-free versions.
You should look for labeling as “dry mouth moisturizing.” You still need something to combat plaque and bacteria, but you’ll probably find what you are looking for in better pharmacies and organic food stores.
8. Breathe easier. Breathing through your mouth will dry tissues from the outside while the cannabinoids are drying from the inside. So, you should work harder at breathing through your nose.
If you’re just passing out, you won’t have much opportunity to control your breathing. You’ll likely sleep on your back or belly with mouth open. If you are in better shape, you can make prudent adjustments like stop eating three hours before bed, use a saline solution, or avoid alcohol. Or, you can apply nasal strips to widen your nostrils.
9. Treat sleep apnea. If you are given to snoring, chances are you struggle with sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is much riskier than writing it off as snoring. It means you stop breathing, and the snoring signals your attempt to get air.
Now, depending on the diagnosis, smoking anything may be a risk. But, a regular stream of oxygen from a CPAP machine will go a long way in treating sleep apnea and reducing the cottonmouth process.
10. Stop smoking. When you smoke or chew tobacco, you aggravate your cottonmouth problem. These users likely suffer more from halitosis and/or gingivitis.
Tobacco use will likely affect salivary glands negatively, and if the tobacco is a continuing habit, the dry mouth is probably a continuing condition. So, adding cannabis to the influence may not be prudent.
Cannabis Cottonmouth and How to Avoid It
Cannabis cottonmouth can be a minor and occasional annoyance. It can bother you regularly. But, it represents a fundamental influence on your salivary glands. It specifically affects the submandibular gland, “the size of a walnut. Its duct runs underneath the mucosa in the oral cavity floor and opens underneath the tongue at the base of the lingual frenulum” (Anatomy & Physiology).
Saliva does more than wet your lips. It cleanses your mouth with enzymes to start the breakdown of foods and starches. It wets and compacts the food as you chew to ease your digestive process.
So, while you notice cottonmouth, it affects other systems as well. More hydration will help the day after, but cottonmouth remains a cannabis side effect. Doing what you can to avoid it takes commitment and focus most cannabis smokers don’t bring to the event.