What exactly is Cotton Mouth?
The feeling you get after smoking marijuana is popularly known as ‘cotton mouth.’ Some people say that it is quite relatable to shoving quite a few cotton balls into your mouth to dry out the saliva. If you’ve been smoking marijuana, you would be familiar with this common side effect. In fact, the cotton mouth effect has been around for years and it’s just recently that a group of researchers were able to explain what really causes the side effect.
Scientists at the University of Buenos Aires were researching this rather uncomfortable symptom of getting high on marijuana and cannabis. The study led by the Argentinean geniuses was carried out in 2006.
Discover the Cannabinoid System
As scientists continued to investigate the side effect caused by the hot marijuana smoke when inhaled, they came across a number of interesting findings. Of course eating and smoking cannabis will cause your mouth to dry but you cannot really blame the smoke.
It is seen that the side effect is due to your body’s own cannabinoid system. The special cannabinoid receptors present in your system act as a binding site for cannabis components and these receptors are found in many different parts of your body including your salivary glands.
Studies show that the pair of glands responsible for producing the saliva has both kinds of cannabinoid receptors i.e. CB1 and CB2. Whenever cannabis component like tetrahydrocannabinol or THC binds to these receptors, the pair of salivary glands located beneath the floor of your mouth fails to receive the electrical impulses from the parasympathetic nervous system. This faulty transmission of messages causes the glands to stop producing saliva and your mouth starts feeling dry.
Interestingly, further research shows that the cannabinoid(s) blocks the incoming messages from the parasympathetic system in one of the two ways. Either the component binds to the salivary glands – i.e. the specialized anatomical structures that produce saliva. Components contained in cannabis may also occupy the cannabinoid receptors present in the brain and inhibit the signal transmission directly from where they originate.
The Role of Saliva
Marijuana and cannabis interestingly can help you understand the important role played by saliva. Of course, your biology textbook teaches that saliva is needed for efficient digestion. You are guaranteed to start salivating at the first sight of scrumptious munchies!
It’s not surprising that your salivary glands produce saliva to lubricate the food particles and help them pass through from the mouth to the stomach. In addition, the saliva secreted also contains a number of powerful digestive enzymes that enhance the breakdown of starches and fats contained in the food you eat for efficient digestion. Since you know that marijuana and cannabis have a tendency to dry your mouth, let’s discover some more interesting details about this valuable watery secretion.
Human saliva is almost 98% water and it is secreted from 3 specialized pairs of salivary glands known as the parotid, submandibular and sublingual glands. If you talk about the cotton mouth effect, you should be more interested in the submandibular glands, i.e. the glands located right beneath the floor of the mouth.
Every time you smoke marijuana or ingest cannabis, the chemical components bind to the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the submandibular glands and inhibit the production of saliva. As stated earlier, it is the activation of the cannabinoid that creates the dry mouth effect and that it is not the specific THC or any other component.
While the primary goal of the researchers is to investigate the side effects of smoking marijuana, they have also started looking to use this research as a tool to treat the problems commonly associated with altered or faulty saliva production.
Targeting Cannabinoid Receptor Response
The scientists discovered that resolving the cotton mouth problem can also help them treat a number of medical conditions associated with faulty saliva production. There are a variety of health concerns that increase or decrease the saliva production in patients and sometimes, conditions can even cause a permanent state of cotton mouth.
What Does the Future Hold for Us?
The bottom line is that consuming cannabis will cause your mouth to dry out, even if you decide not to use it in the smoked form. That’s right. Studies show that cannabis even when consumed as a liquid or solid will cause dry mouth and this means it’s time we stop blaming the smoke for all the mess.
Now that the medical experts know the real science behind the ‘mouth drying action’ of cannabis, it can be assumed that the information and research is used to help treat medical conditions characterized by overproduction or underproduction of saliva. What’s better is that this research can help the medical experts find new ways to use the magical herb for the treatment of different medical conditions in the future.