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How to Get Rid of Cotton Mouth

Philip Ghezelbash
how to get rid of cotton mouth woman holding cotton candy

It’s a major annoyance and can cause bad breath. Here’s how to get rid of cotton mouth.

While cannabis is a much loved and appreciated medicinal plant with a high safety profile, it still has side effects. Some of the most annoying of these are cotton-mouth and the resulting breath issues. Stay tuned to find out how to get rid of cotton mouth and cannabis breath.

What Is Cotton Mouth?

If you regularly consume cannabis, you’ve probably experienced cotton mouth before, usually as a sticky and dry feeling in your mouth. Some people also experience a sore throat and naturally associate this dryness with smoking. However, cotton-mouth is not limited to cannabis smoking and can occur after consuming edibles or vaping.

field of cotton

What Causes Cotton Mouth?

So if smoking isn’t to blame, then what is? It turns out that cannabinoids may be the culprit. Cotton-mouth occurs when you have a decrease in saliva production as a lack of saliva results in a dry mouth. Cannabinoids may well be responsible for this saliva decrease and therefore responsible for cotton-mouth. Cannabinoids are active compounds found in cannabis that act on the endocannabinoid system to induce a range of effects on the body. You may have heard of CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), two of the main cannabinoids. In fact, THC is probably the guilty party when it comes to the cause of your annoying cotton-mouth.

How THC Causes Cotton Mouth 

THC gets you elevated by binding to and activating cannabinoid receptors, such as the G-protein coupled receptors CB1 and CB2. Of course THC doesn’t stop at creating a high, it also possesses a range of therapeutic benefits. However, it’s also thought to act on salivary glands and create that dry, sticky feeling associated with cotton mouth.

One study, published in the journal of Experimental Biology and Medicine (2006), used a major salivary glands in rats (submandibular gland) to investigate whether cannabinoids play a role in salivary tissue. The study found that both CB1 and CB2 receptors were present in the salivary tissue. This indicates that the endocannabinoid system plays a key role in salivary production, and therefore could be responsible for cotton mouth symptoms.

The study also found that anandamide, a CB1 and CB2 activator similar in structure to THC, reduced levels of norepinephrine and methacholine stimulated saliva secretion. Furthermore, when CB1 and CB2 were blocked, saliva secretion was also blocked. This confirms that endocannabinoid (anandamide) action on salivary function is the probable cause.

Since THC is analogous to anandamide, it is very possible that it would have a similar effect on salivary production and could explain the link between cannabis and cotton-mouth.

guy with cotton mouth

How to Get Rid of Cotton Mouth

While it’s all well and good knowing how cotton mouth occurs, the real question is how do you stop it?

Since cotton-mouth is the result of a lack of saliva, any techniques that improve salivary production should help with your dry mouth.

To begin with, chewing aids in stimulating saliva production in anticipation of food. So chewing gum or any hard chewy foods should increase your saliva levels and help to treat cotton mouth.

You may have noticed that your mouth waters when eating something sour and it is this exact response that makes sour foods ideal for treating cotton-mouth. Foods such as sour candy, vinegar pickles, or lemons can all help to increase your saliva levels and rid you of cotton mouth.

Another treatment for dry mouth is to simply drink more water. Taking slow sips of water or a non-caffeinated herbal tea will ensure your mouth isn’t dry. This technique may also ease some of the symptoms of cannabis smoking, such as a sore/dry throat.

What is This Cannabis Breath Problem? 

Unfortunately, cotton-mouth isn’t the only annoying side effect of cannabis consumption. Many also experience cannabis breath. Cannabis has a distinctive smell that — much like tobacco — can linger in the mouth of cannabis smokers. Having a dry mouth doesn’t help as lack of saliva to wash away mouth bacteria = stinky mouth.

person with dry lips and mouth

How To Treat Cannabis Breath

The first and most obvious way to prevent cannabis breath is to have good oral hygiene habits. Brushing, flossing, and mouth washing twice a day will go a long way to removing the bacteria build-up that causes bad breath and any lingering cannabis smell.

Using clean cannabis equipment will also help to reduce any skunky cannabis smell on your breath. Also, cannabis consumption methods, like edibles and vaporizers, don’t expose your mouth to smoke so should reduce some cannabis breath issues.

Finally, any steps taken to reduce cotton-mouth should also help with cannabis breath. This is because increased saliva levels result in fewer bacteria in the mouth. Lowering bacteria build up in the mouth is one of the most effective ways to help treat cannabis breath.

If you’re in a hurry and worried about your potential cannabis breath, here’s some quick fixes: Sucking mints, chewing gum, sucking on a lemon, and chewing mint leaf.

Final Words on How to Get Rid of Cotton Mouth

Cotton mouth is one of the unwanted side effects of consuming cannabis and you can pretty much time it with the onset of relief. If you take care of the dryness in your mouth, so too the bad breath.

If you have any tips for readers, leave these in the comment section.

Philip Ghezelbash

Philip Ghezelbash is an ex-personal trainer with a science background who currently operates New Zealand's only health specialized writing studio. He is passionate about presenting complex science in an easy to digest manner and is a firm believer that cannabis has substantial potential to be used as a medicine for degenerative disease.

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