Do You Get Cotton Mouth When Smoking? Here's How to Avoid It

Do You Get Cotton Mouth When Smoking? Here's How to Avoid It

Posted by ,1st Apr 2024

At one time or another, it happens to every stoner: the dreaded cotton mouth! The feeling that your salivary glands have shut down is not a pleasant one and certainly not something any stoner wants to experience. But is cotton mouth inevitable or is it something that can be avoided? The good news is that you don't have to accept the dry tongue, scratchy throat, and general irritation that comes with a cotton mouth. In this guide, the team here at the Puffr wholesale head shop will provide you with some can’t-miss tips on how to avoid everyone’s least favorite side effect of smoking herb.

First Things First: What Is Cotton Mouth?

Cotton mouth is a generic term used to describe the feeling that you’re not producing enough saliva. The technical term for the condition is “xerostomia”. Cotton mouth is not something that’s exclusive to those who routinely hit glass pipes and bongs. It can, for instance, happen to anyone when the weather’s hot and they haven’t had enough water.

Stoner cotton mouth is a different animal though because it’s not caused by heat and a lack of proper hydration. Despite common belief, cotton mouth is not primarily caused by smoke dehydrating mucous membranes and the throat. Instead, it’s a byproduct of cannabis consumption itself - whether you've taken a few bong hits or eaten edibles. Research suggests that cotton mouth occurs due to interactions between active compounds in marijuana, called cannabinoids, and the human endocannabinoid system. This system comprises cannabinoid receptors distributed throughout the brain and body, which become activated upon cannabis ingestion.

Those active ingredients (including THC) are called “cannabinoids” and they are responsible for producing the effects we feel when stoned. Cannabinoids bind to specific receptor sites in the brain known as "endogenous cannabinoid receptor sites." With over 80 recognized cannabinoids in marijuana, they induce various reactions and processes in the brain. Some cannabinoids are responsible for psychoactive effects (the "high" associated with marijuana), while others trigger hunger, sleepiness, anxiety, or dry mouth, among other effects.

These receptor sites include submandibular saliva glands located at the bottom of our mouths, which produce nearly three-quarters of our required saliva. When marijuana is consumed, certain cannabinoids attach to areas of the brain that usually send messages to the parasympathetic nervous system to produce saliva, effectively slowing down saliva production. This slowdown rapidly leads to a shortage of saliva, resulting in cotton mouth.

Unfortunately, inhaling cannabinoids is not without its side effects and one of them is cotton mouth. Cotton mouth does not happen to every smoker, nor does it happen to certain people all the time. Its appearance is a little unpredictable, but when it does happen it can be really uncomfortable.

Five Things to Avoid to Prevent Cotton Mouth

The most effective way to avoid it is to not smoke. But because that’s not really an option for most stoners (more like a punishment) we’ll go ahead and list some other things you can do that should help you avoid cotton mouth, or at least avoid its most odious manifestations.

Cup of coffee sitting admist a pile of coffee beans
Coffee: Don’t drink coffee before or while you’re smoking weed since coffee is a mild diuretic.
Glass of beer sitting in front of pine needles
Alcohol: Avoid drinking alcohol when you’re smoking. While we know that this could be easier said than done, drinking alcohol can further dehydrate your body after smoking, worsening the symptoms of cotton mouth.
Pink pills outline a crossed-out symbol
Certain Medications: Certain medications can cause (or exacerbate) the effects of cotton mouth. This includes some over-the-counter medications like antihistamines and decongestants. These often alleviate cold or allergy symptoms by drying out the mouth and nose, so if you take them while you're smoking, they're likely to make your cotton mouth worse.
Cigarettes: The use of tobacco, whether smoked or chewed, can exacerbate dry mouth symptoms. Research indicates a link between prolonged smoking and decreased salivary flow rates, leading to reduced saliva production in smokers compared to non-smokers.

Dry and Salty Snacks

Stack of classic salted pretzels

This is fairly obvious but salty foods can cause your already dry mouth to become even drier. Salt pulls the moisture out and when consumed in large quantities can even affect your blood pressure. Can't resist the craving for something to satisfy your munchies? We'd recommend skipping the chips and eating an apple or some yogurt instead, as research suggests that both could help to alleviate dry mouth symptoms by increasing saliva production.

What Types of Cannabis Strains Cause Cottom Mouth?

Cotton mouth is a frequently reported symptom of many strains of cannabis. Leafly gathered user-reported feedback on the symptoms they experienced after smoking more than 2,000 total strains of cannabis. The following graph shows the symptoms reported by five or more users for all three varieties of cannabis strains - including those that were sativa-dominant, indica-dominant and hybrids of both species. Cannabis Strain Effects Bar Graph

"As you can see from the above graph, users report "dry mouth" for nearly every strain in the database. This should not come as a shock to experienced cannabis users, as dry mouth (AKA "cotton mouth", or, more technically, "xerostomia") is a very common, well-understood side-effect of consuming cannabinoids." —Dr. Ari Gross, Machine Learning Engineer at Align

How to Treat Cotton Mouth Once It Sets In

Sometimes people forget to follow the above tips to prevent cotton mouth and the next thing they know the Sahara has expanded into their mouth. So what can you do when desert mouth descends on your otherwise blissful high?

  • Drink Water — Drink a lot of water and roll it around in your mouth for a while before swallowing it. Don’t substitute beer or cocktails for water as they’ll only make things worse.
  • Chew Sugar-Free Gum — Chewing activates the salivary glands. If you don’t have any gum or candy lying around but you do have access to a freezer, sucking on ice cubes can also be an effective way of mitigating the effects of cotton mouth. Keep in mind that sugar-free gum is the best option, as excess sugar could exacerbate dry mouth by worsening dehydration.
  • Use Breath Spray — If you’re one of the few who experiences chronic cotton mouth there are breath sprays available specially formulated to hydrate the mouth. These sprays typically work by introducing saliva-inducing enzymes to your mouth that help offset the dryness and irritation.
  • Use a Humidifier — Dry indoor air can contribute to the symptoms of cotton mouth. Using a humidifier to increase moisture in the air may help to alleviate dryness in the airways and mouth. Both cool and warm mist humidifiers are effective, so select the type that suits you best.
  • Have Some Ginger — Products containing ginger, such as ginger sprays and teas, are thought to stimulate salivary glands, potentially boosting saliva production. A small-scale clinical trial in 2017, involving 20 participants, suggested that ginger spray might offer an alternative treatment option for certain individuals experiencing dry mouth symptoms.

Visit the Puffr Wholesale Smoke Shop Today

We can’t claim that a visit to our wholesale head shop to gaze at our selection of wholesale hand pipes will solve your cotton mouth, but it won’t make it worse. Drop by our Denver smoke shop today or browse our selection online!