Cannabis Cotton Mouth

Everyone that smokes or consumes cannabis in any way has more than likely experienced cotton mouth, an extremely dry feeling in the mouth that clearly comes from cannabis consumption. This disgusting sensation actually has a scientific explanation and it doesn’t always indicate top quality cannabis. Day by day we’re learning more and more about this amazing plant, its medicinal properties and the effects it has on our bodies. Today we’re going to talk about cannabis cotton mouth; why it happens, and what you can do to avoid it.

Saliva is essentially an enzymatic solution that we secrete to help with digestion and protect our teeth and gums. The process begins in cells called acinar cells that secrete a liquid similar to the plasma we have in our blood; when this liquid passes through our saliva ducts, it gets rid of sodium and chloride as well as adding potassium and bicarbonate which complete the solution we know as saliva.

The parasympathetic system is in charge of producing saliva. The process even uses a nerve in the eardrum. This nerve produces a substance called acetylcholine, a neurotransmissor that was discovered in 1914 by Henry Hallett Dale. This substance has been proven to be involved in saliva production as well as memory, so maybe it has something to do with why cannabis affects short term memory.

Another neurotransmissor involved in saliva production is norepinephrine which is also in our blood and it has two functions; as a neurotransmissor and as a hormone that works on myoepithelial cells. These cells are located next to the acinar cells and when they contract, they secrete saliva.

Now that we know how saliva is produced, let’s find out how xerostomia (cotton mouth) works. This side effect was discovered in 1986 during a study on the oral administration of CBD. Another study was done in Buenos Aires in 2006, where type 1 and 2 cannabinoid receptors were found in submandibular glands, which are 70% responsible for saliva production.

Endocannabinoids, Anandamide and 2-Araquidonoilglycerol have also been found in the saliva glands of ticks; both of these endocannabinoids have anesthetic and anti-inflammatory properties, which is why you can’t feel it when a tick bites you. Rats also possess glands that respond the same way as ours and it’s been proven that with high levels of anandamide, saliva production is drastically reduced therefore causing cotton mouth.

Like we said at the beginning of this article, saliva is managed by the parasympathetic system, the same system that regulates our appetite which is why when you consume cannabis, your mouth gets dry and you get hungrier due to the fact that THC works in a similar way to anandamide, stimulating the CB1 and CB2 receptors.

You’ll feel a dry mouth sensation and much hungrier, but the effects go away after a while and they are in no way bad for your health, although cotton mouth might be a big uncomfortable but not dangerous.

In the study done in 2006, Buenos Aires, cotton mouth was proven to work when synthetic cannabinoids were injected into the femoral vain. This most likely means that the THC doesn’t interact with the glands, rather than it produces stimulation in the brain receptors in charge of these processes.

It has been proven that the strains with the most THC tend to provoke this kind of effect, and those with high CBD levels don’t. These kinds of situations have fast and easy solutions; drink water or eat something that doesn’t have any sugar or salt in it. Fruit tends to work quite well.

Other foods that are harder to eat and make you chew a lot can also help with saliva production. A synthetic cannabinoid called AM-251 has also been made that actually increases saliva production, and this cannabinoid might be studied further in the future.

Translation: Ciara Murphy

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