Why cannabis gives you dry mouth or “cottonmouth”….

Have you ever wondered why using cannabis causes your mouth to go dry?

This problem is typically referred to as “cottonmouth”, as it feels about the same as shoving a bunch of cotton-balls into your mouth, and then trying to lick a stamp.

It was once thought that dry mouth was merely a side-effect caused by the hot smoke that is inhaled when smoking cannabis. However; it is actually not that easy of an answer at all.

Over the years it has been found that cannabis consumption will cause dry-mouth, even when it is not ingested in the smoked form. The mere fact that even when eaten or consumed in a liquid beverage, cannabis will still cause dry-mouth, means something else must be at play here. We simply can not blame cottonmouth on the smoke.

Now, knowing that any form of ingested cannabis – weather eaten, or smoked, will cause cottonmouth – we have to look further into how cannabis works with our body, in order to figure out just how and why, our mouths get so damned dry, when we consume this wonderful herb.

A little bit about spit….

Saliva is a very important part of our everyday lives. We need saliva to help protect our mouth, to lubricate the mouth,(which allows for easier swallowing of dry things like chips, crackers, pretzels and other typical munchies), as well as to help aid in the digestion of food.

Since we all know cannabis has a tendency to cause the “munchies” in many people, we don’t want them to go eating food that their body has not properly prepared to digest, so once again…. we need our saliva to help us out.

Human saliva, which is made up of 98% water, is produced in and secreted from 3 pair of glands called the parotid, sublingual, and the submandibular glands, the latter also known as the SMG.

The submandibular gland, or SMG is the one I think we should look at most, as it is responsible for producing about 70% of the saliva in the mouth, and for the production of salivary amylase. Amylase is an enzyme that  helps catalyze the breakdown of starches that are typically found in foods considered “munchies” or snack-foods. Amylase also helps to convert these starches into sugars and prepare them for digestion.

It is now known that the submandibular glands, where most of the saliva and amylase is produced, also contain CB1 & CB2 cannabinoid receptors.  Meaning – every time we ingest cannabis, they are effected in some way, and that they may fall under much of the regulatory controls of the endocannabinoid system. If the SMG contains cannabinoid receptors, they must be receiving the cannabinoids messages for a reason.

In lab-rat testing – anandamide (an endocannabinoid and CB1/CB2 receptor agonist ), was injected into the SMG of rats, and it inhibited saliva production. However, when other cannabinoids are tested, they too seem to have the same effect, leading most researchers to believe that the activation of the CB1/CB2 receptors in the SMG is what actually inhibits the production of the saliva, and that it is NOT the anandamide, the THC, or any other specific cannabinoid to blame.

This means, that cannabis is going to cause cotton mouth, merely by activating the cannabinoid receptors located where the saliva is made, which happens every-time we consume cannabis.

Given this information, there are a few things we can do to help fight-off cottonmouth, and a few things to avoid, as they may make cottonmouth even worse.

Alcohol tends to leave the mouth dry, and so does smoking tobacco. Alcohol and tobacco should both be avoided when trying to stop cottonmouth. That beer you may think is wetting your whistle, is actually causing the problem to worsen.

Drinks that are high in tannins, like many commercial teas, wines and fruit juices will also cause the mouth to become dry, due to the astringent effect of the tannins contained in them.

There are many great ways to remedy dry-mouth.

Sipping water is a great way to fight off cottonmouth, and so is chewing sugarless-gum. Chewing sugarless gum keeps your mouth and tongue moving, helps to clean the teeth, and promotes saliva production, all at the same time.

Many people say a big glass of chocolate milk from Caulder’s Dairy is the perfect cure for cottonmouth, and I agree 100%. Just remember to rinse your mouth afterwards (or even brush your teeth), as you don’t want to leave that milk in your mouth, coating your teeth and gums, especially if you like to nap after medicating, like many people do.

Crushed ice is another good source of liquid, and it’s pretty fun to chomp on when you are heavily medicated. Why do you think they give it to you in the hospital? A heavily medicated patient can be easily distracted with a tub of crushed ice, and they know it. This is why they keep it so readily available.

If you have a way to make your own crushed ice, you can even add a little lemon to it, to enhance the flavor. Now you have a great tasting way to pass the time and keep all your medicated friends quite for a while.

Other options include store bought items like dry-mouth “mouthwashes” and “toothpastes”. Although I personally prefer the more natural options listed above.

Now that we know some of the science behind cannabis and cottonmouth, we can use that information to find new ways to use this magical herb, in order to help treat conditions that include “overproduction of mucus” and “too much saliva” as some of their symptoms. This could open up many more uses for cannabinoids in the future, once cannabis has been rescheduled  and made available for further testing and medical use.



  1. […] You probably already knew this one but it is worth mentioning. Pot has a funny way of causing the user to experience dry mouth. There are many reasons for this but mainly, it’s because of the way marijuana interacts with the production of the salivary enzyme, amylase. […]

  2. […] that there is something else going on. What’s really happening is that the cannabis is actually interacting with the cannabinoid receptors in our salivary glands. That’s why it doesn’t matter whether you […]

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