Here’s What You Need to Know About Cottonmouth

woman drinking water because of cottonmouth

If you've ever been near cannabis in any sense – be it the culture, the lore, the consumers, or the herb itself – and probably even if you haven't, there is a very strong chance that you’ve heard of cottonmouth.

Even more likely, you've probably experienced it first hand, and wondered why the heck your mouth suddenly felt like the Sahara Desert after enjoying some marijuana.

This dry mouth sensation is one of the most common side effects that comes from toking up. It's a pretty mild experience, though what it lacks in intensity is made up with annoyance. Cottonmouth from weed is one of those things that, when it pops up, there is an understandable degree of exasperation – no one likes their mouth feeling like a desert, regardless of how low-level or temporary it might be.

So, cottonmouth. What is it, why does it happen, and how can you help ease – or even possibly prevent – it from happening? Keep reading to better understand the details surrounding marijuana's most famous side effect.

Cottonmouth from Weed: What is It?

sahara desert dry

Cottonmouth, simply put, is the dry sensation that the mouth feels after consuming cannabis, as well as several other types of narcotics. It's a grainy feeling where it seems hard to swallow and moisture seems to have disappeared from your mouth entirely. Suddenly, your tongue sits in a desert.

It's sometimes referred to as "the pasties," though the scientific name for cottonmouth is xerostomia; it is uncomfortable and is usually pretty likely to happen after smoking weed. In fact, the effects and strength of cottonmouth are thought to be dependent on dose: the more marijuana that is consumed, the worse the cottonmouth is.

While it's not a serious condition – and one that doesn't usually defer consumers away from their favorite herb – it is annoying and also a low-level of physically irritating.

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Why Does it Happen?


Though cottonmouth was initially thought to be a direct result from inhalation and the irritation of burning particles that is associated with smoking, but it actually has nothing to do with how it's consumed, and instead has everything to do with weed's main ingredient, THC. So, it probably won’t happen after consuming CBD products.

In short, cannabis causes a dry mouth because it blocks the saliva-producing glands in the body.

How Does That Work?

THC is the psychoactive agent at work in marijuana. The way that THC works – including giving a high, or working its magic with any associated therapeutic qualities – is through the endocannabinoid system, binding to receptors throughout cells in the human body.

The endocannabinoid system is made up of cannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors. Cannabinoids are found throughout cells in the cannabis plant, while the receptors are pretty much everywhere in the human body – throughout several different systems of operation.


In this situation, a.k.a. the fast track to cottonmouth, THC is binding to receptors in the salivary glands. Specifically, the submandibular glands. These pair of bad boys are located right under the floor of the mouth and, surprise, are responsible for producing the bulk of our body's saliva – a whopping 70 percent.

Because of this, the glands are less active and unable to produce as much saliva they usually would. The THC is masking the messages from the nervous system that normally instructs these glands to produce that saliva. You can't spit for the life of you because THC is doing its job. Thus, cottonmouth from weed is born.

This is why consumers get cottonmouth regardless of how they enjoyed their marijuana. Smoking, vaping, eating, it can all lead to the same result if the product is made with cannabis strains with THC.

Can Cottonmouth Be Prevented?

cartoon man chugging water

The best preventative measure for cottonmouth from weed is to combat the issue head on. The key? Hydration. If you want to lessen the dry mouth side effects, the ideal move is to drink plenty of water before you decide to consume marijuana. Do the work that your glands cannot do, beforehand.

Another option goes back to cottonmouth's dose dependency. If you want to avoid a harsh case of dry mouth, you always have the option of consuming less. A lower dose will most likely yield the best results and lower the side effects.

If it's too little too late, fear not. There are methods of dealing with the familiar parched feeling if it still pops up after flirting with a dose of THC.

Remedies for Cottonmouth

When cottonmouth strikes, the sensation is almost similar to eating something a little too spicy. The knee-jerk reaction is to reach for a liquid to soothe the sensation and jump-start your mouth into working properly again. Some remedies seem to work better than others.

Water is a Given

Obviously, water is a good first step when cottonmouth first approaches. To maximize its efficiency, there's one surefire tip: drink it out of a straw (a reusable one, preferably). The suction movement of the mouth has been known to stimulate those saliva-producing glands.

Tea, Please

One of the best substances to help ease out of cottonmouth's grip is a good tea. Herbal tea is a great option, especially one that is specifically for throat soothing. However, be sure to avoid teas containing tannins, which will further dry the mouth out even more.

Candy Will Do the Trick

Back to the sucking motion. Smaking down on candy, such as a lozenge, lollipop, or even a stick of gum can reboot the mouth's saliva production. Snacking on something sour will further up the ante, and will have those glands working overtime. Lemon drops are the ultimate quick fix for cottonmouth, as they produce one of the strongest puckers, and there are even some candies designed specifically for alleviating cottonmouth.

Spice, Too

If candy isn't an option (sugary indulgences aren't for everyone), spicy foods have a similar effect. Whether it's Thai food or your favorite brand of hot chips, they'll clear out your sinuses, as well.

Humidity Helps

To combat the drying effects and feeling of a sore throat, a humidifier can help out significantly. Mainly the machine can help to reduce the level of dryness in the mouth specifically by keeping the air around it moist. Putting it on full blast before, during, and after the smoke session is probably the best choice for added environmental hydration.

No Booze

As tempting as it might seem, reaching for alcohol isn't the wisest choice when you're experiencing cottonmouth from weed. Though perhaps satisfying for a fleeting moment, the effects of alcohol will only lead to a cross-fade (not recommended for anyone other than masters of both substances) as well as drying and dehydrating the body further. Coffees operate similarly.

Breathe Through Your Nose

Mouth breathing will not help your case of cottonmouth. In fact, keeping the mouth open wide will allow any existing moisture to escape, ensuring a cycle of dryness. Instead, try to use your nose to take breaths in and out. It might be a big help.

Fresh Breath

A minty smell is only one of the benefits of using mouthwash during a bought of cottonmouth from weed. Some products are made specifically with dry mouth in mind, and can help to eliminate the sensation quickly. Swish after toking up for the best results, and consider adding it into your regular routine for preventative purposes.

It'll Pass

When cottonmouth from weed strikes, grab your water, candy, or preferred home remedy method and remember that the dryness won't last.

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