why does weed give you cottonmouth

Cotton Mouth From Weed And What To Do About It

Dry mouth, cotton mouth, the pasties – who is not familiar with this side effect from smoking marijuana? Until recently it wasn’t well understood how exactly marijuana causes a dry mouth and a sore throat. Scientists have now shed new light on cotton mouth and the causes for it. Learn about dry mouth and what you can do about it!

Cotton mouth, the not-so-pleasant feeling of a dry mouth and a sore throat when smoking cannabis has been around for as long as people are enjoying the herb and this is unarguably quite a long time. Most of us who smoke weed have likely accepted their dry mouth as just a minor inconvenience and have probably not spent too much time thinking about it. Recently, a group of scientists took a closer look at cotton mouth from smoking weed.


Humans have enjoyed marijuana since ancient times, so “cotton mouth” isn’t exactly something new. But it was only recently, in 2006, that this peculiar effect of weed has been the subject of scientific research, which is now helping us to understand it more.


Cotton mouth may seem like it is dryness from smoke (and some do indeed think it is), but this is not the whole story; there is a lot more to it. The real cause for cotton mouth has to do with how cannabinoids, the active compounds in cannabis, interact with the human endocannabinoid system.

The endocannabinoid system consists of cannabinoid receptors that are located throughout the entire human body, including the brain. Cannabinoids in marijuana can activate these receptors, where they cause all sorts of reactions and processes. This is how the high from marijuana comes about, but the interaction with these cannabinoid receptors can affect many more bodily processes, with saliva production one of them.

The saliva production in our mouths is controlled by a part of our autonomic nervous system known as the rest and digest system. The brain sends nerve impulses towards the salivary glands to stimulate saliva production, and this happens without us needing to do anything for it. Our subconscious brain can also influence this process. For example, when the mere thought of some tasty food causes the brain to send more impulses to the saliva glands, making our mouths water.

With cannabinoids receptors being present in all parts of our body, it wasn’t too surprising when researchers found them, also in the submandibular glands, the saliva glands under the mouth which are responsible for producing most saliva. The researchers also found that anandamide, which is similar in structure to THC, causes decreased saliva secretion.

Because of the similarity of anandamide and THC, it is now believed that when THC binds to the receptors in the submandibular glands, it makes them stop receiving messages from the nervous system. In other words: The THC in cannabis is likely the reason for the decrease of saliva production in the mouth.

This new understanding how smoking cannabis results in a dry mouth opens up new ways to treat the problems associated with saliva production. Not only may weed lovers one day be able to find a way to get rid of the annoying cotton mouth, but this research may also well come in handy for treating a variety of conditions where patients suffer from dry mouth for other reasons.


Most cannabis enthusiast experiences some level of dry mouth when they smoke. For most folks, it’s not a big deal when they only had a few hits, but the dry mouth sure can get pretty unpleasant during heavier sessions. Unfortunately, just drinking water as a way to get rid of it doesn’t really do anything significant to relieve it – although you definitely should drink to remain well hydrated.


Chewing stimulates saliva production, and this means that it can help with a dry mouth. A strip of chewing gum can be all that you need to help to stimulate the glands once again.

If you don’t like chewing gum, you can also look into things like beef jerky or dried fruits. Basically, any food that will need some chewing can act as an alternative.

Candy / Lollipops

In the same way as chewing can be a good way to get some saliva flowing, you can lick a lollipop, take a cough drop, or some hard candy. Sucking on the candy or a lollipop has the same effect as chewing; it will increase saliva production to help you get rid of dry mouth.

Bonus tip: Sour flavours will really get your mouth watering, so some sour-tasting candy can be better than sweet ones. If you’re brave enough, you can even start munching on a slice of lemon!

Cough Medicines (Demulcents)

In those cases where you think that chewing along or licking a lollipop doesn’t really help to get rid of a really nasty spell of dry mouth, you can look into demulcent cough drops. These oral demulcents are widely available over the counter. What they do is coat the mucous membranes with a moist film, which can prevent or help get rid of the dry cotton mouth feeling.

Herbal Teas

Along with the feeling of an unpleasantly dry mouth often also comes a feeling of a sore and irritated throat from smoking. If you look around most modern grocery stores, you should be able to find herbal teas. These are great at offering relief. Tip: Add a squeeze or two of sour lemon juice to your herbal tea for an even better effect to help with your sore and dry mouth.


Not all beverages are suitable if you want to get rid of cotton mouth. Black teas and green teas can actually dry out your mouth even more (basically anything with caffeine), so you should avoid them. Stick with herbal teas or plain water. If you get the munchies after smoking, you should also avoid salty foods and salty snacks because they will also make it worse. So keep your hands off those pretzels! The same goes for alcohol and tobacco.

What causes dry mouth from smoking cannabis? Learn about the latest research on cotton mouth and what helps if you want to get rid of it!

Cannabis and Cottonmouth: Why It Happens and Tips to Avoid It

Thursday July 5, 2018

C ottonmouth is that dry, grainy feeling we all have likely come across at some point or another when consuming cannabis. It’s that low-level, annoying side effect that is bound to happen and send us running for a solution. But why do we get it?

In recent years, findings have given us some information as to why we get cottonmouth after consuming cannabis. While we still do not understand every aspect of it, we do, now, have an idea of what happens in our bodies when it occurs. Meanwhile, a small but useful list of remedies exists to overcome that annoying feeling after consuming.

Why Do We Get Cottonmouth?

Due to laws restricting cannabis research, virtually every aspect of the industry has gone understudied or unresearched altogether. While not at the top of the pressing needs list, cottonmouth fell into the same category for some time. However, a 2006 study provided us our first look into what actually may cause this outcome for numerous consumers.

The study began with the understanding that cannabis decreased saliva secretion. By using the submandibular gland (SMG) of male rats, Researchers were able to conclude that the endocannabinoid anandamide (AEA) reduced saliva secretion in the rats’ SMG acting through CB1 and CB2 receptors.

In short, we get cottonmouth due to the way the cannabinoids in our cannabis interact with our body’s endocannabinoid system.

The study further opened eyes to what may cause cottonmouth. Today, a belief exists that AEA and THC share similarities where SMGs bound to THC do not receive the usual interactions from the nervous system. Thus, lowering the saliva created in our mouths, which results in the all too common feeling associated with consuming cannabis.

While the findings could lead to novel ways to overcoming dry mouth, more research is needed to confirm any initial findings. However, the development 12 years ago could serve as the foundation for the next breakthrough method in avoiding and overcoming cottonmouth. Then again, with such pressing needs in the cannabis space, we may not discover additional findings for some time.

Overcoming a Gnarly Case of Cottonmouth

Cottonmouth is a bit like hot sauce in a way. When the effects become too much for your mouth, you may feel compelled to grab the first drink or other options around you to get you feeling back to normal. Just like when drinking water after biting into a ghost pepper, you’ll soon realize that not all options can relieve your short-term oral discomforts the same.

Whenever you feel your mouth go dry after smoking, you’d be wise to avoid liquor. Sure, it may be a liquid, but it’ll do nothing for your cottonmouth. Though, you could get nice and crossfaded depending on how much you consume. While a sip or two could dampen your mouth by a fraction, too much will have you frequenting the bathroom at a high rate (see: breaking the seal), only drying your insides out more. The same can be said for coffees and choice teas.

Select teas are one of the best solutions to cottonmouth. Look for herbal teas, with a particular focus on throat healing blends. Meanwhile, pass on any teas or other drinks containing tannins that only further dry you out.

If tea isn’t your jam, candies and gum may do the trick. Whether chewing on a stick of gum or sucking on a sweet, both methods are bona fide ways of increasing your saliva production. For the best results, have something sour on hand to trigger your salivary glands to the next level. If sour isn’t your favorite flavor, spicy and sweet foods can work as replacements as top-tier salivary gland triggers. So, if you have the munchies and got a little dry mouth, reach for a bag of Sour Patch Kids or head to your favorite Thai restaurant. Either should fix you up right quick!

You can also change your scenery. While it may not affect your high, switching to a more humid environment can remove the dry surroundings we may otherwise smoke in. That should provide some options for any outdoor smokers in Florida, Texas and the other most humid areas of the country. With a few options around, you certainly can offset your cottonmouth conundrum with one method or another. Though, it is best to remember that sometimes dry mouth is going to win out regardless.

Dealing with Cottonmouth

Today, we have a slew of ideas and methods to counter cottonmouth. From changing locations to feeling a bit like a granny with some Lemon Drops in your pocket, you can find a way to overcome your dry mouth when it arises.

While we may not like it, we sometimes have to deal with the side effects of cannabis. But, really, how bad is it? Booze can make you a dumb-dumb and leave you with a world-ending hangover. Over the counter medicine can leave us feeling constipated, dizzy, unable to sleep and much worse. With cannabis, cottonmouth is one of the worst side effects. In the grand scheme, it’s really not that bad. Now, if only sour candies could fix a hangover.

What’s your go-to for curing cottonmouth? Share your answers in the comments below!

Andrew Ward is a Brooklyn-based cannabis writer and creative. His work has appeared on Benzinga, High Times, PROHBTD and several other publications and brand blogs. He has covered the cannabis space for over three years, and has written professionally since 2011. His first book, “Cannabis Jobs,” was released in October 2019. Connect with Andrew on LinkedIn to stay up to date.

Most cannabis consumers have experienced cottonmouth at some point in their smoking careers. But why does it happen? And what are some of the best methods for curing cottonmouth? Find out as we dive into this rather "dry" topic! ]]>