Why does cannabis give people cotton mouth?
After the munchies, cotton mouth is probably one of the most well known side effects of using marijuana.
Yet despite being such a commonplace experience, not very many people actually understand the connection between cannabis and cotton mouth.
Fortunately, a group of scientists from the University of Buenos Aires have figured out the scientific explanation for this phenomenon.
Essentially, cotton mouth is a result of THC’s interactions with the body’s endocannabinoid system. This system is involved in a number of bodily processes, and is sensitive to cannabinoids found in marijuana.
As it turns out, researchers have discovered that the submandibular glands—a pair of glands beneath the floor of the mouth that are responsible for producing about 70% of our saliva—have both CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors.
THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, is a powerful cannabinoid and when it enters a person’s body it binds to endocannabinoid receptors, including the ones in your mouth.
After it binds to the cannabinoid receptors that control the submandibular glands, the THC temporarily shuts down the lines of communication between the nervous system and the saliva-producing glands.
It is this short-term shut down that causes the body to stop producing as much saliva as it normally does.
Before we learned about the endocannabinoid system and the presence of cannabinoid receptors in the mouth, many people assumed cotton mouth was the result of hot smoke drying out smokers’ mouths.
But now, researchers have discovered that it’s more about the chemical processes of THC interacting with the body and less about the actual smoke.
Saliva plays a key role in the processes of eating and digesting food, which means that the experience of cotton mouth can be a bit uncomfortable, especially when you also get the munchies.
When the sometimes awkward combination of cotton mouth and the munchies strikes, try eating crushed ice or chewing gum to keep your mouth moist. Doing so will help you enjoy the pleasure of satisfying your cravings for food even more.