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Cannabis & Dry Mouth: Why It Happens and How to Solve It

Using cannabis and having a dry mouth seem to go hand in hand. Whether you call it dry mouth, cotton mouth or pasty mouth, it can be quite annoying! But do cannabis users just have to put up with it? Or is there a way to get rid of it? Here’s a look into studies that show probable causes, and what cannabis users can do to avoid a constant dry mouth.

Cannabis users all over the world are sure to be familiar with that sticky, dry, pasty sensation that affects the mouth after smoking cannabis. In fact, it is so inevitable that people rarely question the mechanism at work behind this strange little phenomenon—except for a handful of researchers who believe they know why it happens.

How is saliva formed?

First, we should take a brief look at the process of saliva production. It appears that saliva formation involves a two-stage process. Initially, specialised cells known as acinar cells secrete a fluid that is similar in composition to plasma. This fluid then passes through the salivary ducts on its way to the oral cavity, and as it does so, sodium and chloride are removed from it and potassium and bicarbonate are added to it. This process is what produces the final ‘hypotonic solution’ that is secreted into the mouth.

Secretion of saliva is controlled by the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS). The PSNS is responsible for various metabolic processes related to food intake, appetite, and anticipation of eating.

Receptors in the salivary glands are activated via impulses from the chorda tympani nerve. This important nerve originates in the taste buds before travelling through the submandibular ganglion (the cluster of nerve cells in the submandibular gland) and on to the brain. The chorda tympani nerve releases a compound known as acetylcholine, which is one of the body’s main saliva-stimulating substances and works directly on the receptors of the submandibular gland.

Another important compound involved in salivary secretions is known as norepinephrine. This compound is released by the preganglionic nerves that lie upstream from the submandibular ganglion. It works directly on the myoepithelial cells that surround the acinar cells by causing them to contract, which then leads to the secretion of saliva.

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CB-receptors in the salivary glands

Several studies show that cannabis use can cause oral dryness. In 1986, a study into the effects of cannabidiol (CBD) noted that the side-effects of administration of oral CBD included dry mouth. Since then, several other studies have also observed cannabinoid-induced oral dryness. The scientific name for oral dryness is xerostomia.

Perhaps the most in-depth study on cannabis-induced xerostomia to date was performed by researchers at the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2006. The researchers found that cannabinoid receptors type 1 and 2 are present in the submandibular glands, which lie beneath the floor of the mouth and are responsible for producing 60-67% of the saliva.

The researchers found that the endocannabinoid agonist anandamide (AEA) binds with high affinity to the glandular cannabinoid receptors and blocks the action of the saliva-inducing compounds norepinephrine and methacholine, leading to a decrease in the secretion of saliva.

As mentioned above, these saliva-inducing compounds are part of the normal working of the parasympathetic nervous system. THC is also an agonist of the CB receptors, and is likely to affect the receptors of the submandibular glands in a similar manner.

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The fundamental role of the endocannabinoid system

Interestingly, the Buenos Aires study also concluded that the role of the endocannabinoid system is not limited to blocking signals at the submandibular glands themselves. The nervous impulses that are expressed via the chorda tympani also originate in the brain.

The researchers hypothesized that intravenous administration of cannabinoids via the femoral vein not only exerted their primary effect via the submandibular glands, but may also have acted on the cannabinoid receptors in the brain itself. They argued that a central nervous system mechanism helps to control production of saliva at glandular level.

The fact that the endocannabinoid system is so fundamentally involved with the inhibition of salivary secretions implies that it also has a role to play in causing the production of saliva. If an agonist or antagonist of the cannabinoid receptors inhibits salivation, it is likely that an inverse agonist such as the synthetic cannabinoid AM-251 may cause a reversal of this effect and an increase in salivation.

Indeed, the Buenos Aires study also demonstrated that the presence of AM-251 partly reversed the effect of AEA (although there appears to be a lack of consensus as to whether AM-251 is an antagonist or an inverse agonist).

How to get rid of dry mouth after cannabis use

Experiencing a dry mouth and throat after cannabis use is extremely common, and often it does not take much cannabis to induce this effect. However, during a heavy session, the dry-mouth effect can often increase until it becomes extremely unpleasant.

If experiencing unpleasant cotton mouth, there are a number of things you can do to help alleviate it. A few of these include:

  • Stay hydrated! This will mitigate the issue to some extent
  • Chew gum – This can also help, as the action of chewing stimulates the salivary glands to produce more saliva
  • Use ice cubes or lollies to suck on, which can also help keep saliva flowing
  • Similarly, foods that require decisive chewing such as dried fruit or beef jerky can also help stimulate the production of saliva

For more complete relief, using a demulcent (a substance that coats a mucous membrane with a moist ‘film’) designed for oral use should suffice. Many different prescription medications can cause users to experience dry mouth, so there are numerous oral demulcents commercially available to combat the problem.

In the future, research into the specific nature of the endocannabinoid system and how it controls the process of salivation may yield targeted products that can reverse the effect of xerostomia. This would benefit not just those who have smoked a little too much cannabis, but also individuals suffering from a range of conditions (or taking certain medications) that cause a permanent state of cotton mouth.

Are you a cannabis user trying to get rid of a dry mouth? Here is the scientific reasoning behind cotton mouth syndrome and some remedies to fix it.

The Potential Side Effects of CBD

CBD: Benefits and Side Effects

Wendy Rose Gould is a lifestyle reporter with over a decade of experience covering health and wellness topics.

Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Generally speaking, CBD is considered a safe substance when applied topically or taken orally. There are, however, some potential side effects to keep in mind when using this substance, the majority of which are mild.

Common Side Effects of CBD

The most comment side effects of CBD include drowsiness, gastrointestinal issues, dry mouth, reduced appetite, nausea, and interaction with other medications. Those are outlined in detail below.

Drowsiness

Some common side effects when using CBD include drowsiness and sedation. This is also considered a benefit, but Dr. Jas Matharu-Daley, a physician and chief medical officer for a CBD brand, notes that the effects might be too strong if you’re also taking CBD with other sedating medications.

Gastrointestinal Issues

Some people may get diarrhea or liver problems [when using CBD]. This is dependent on the individual and their medical history, so monitoring is important,” says Dr. Matharu-Daley.

Dry Mouth

Also known as “cotton mouth,” CBD can potentially cause your mouth and eyes to feel very dry, notes Dr. Brent A. Bauer via Mayo Clinic. Though this side effect is more likely to occur with THC, it can happen with CBD, as well.

Can Interact With Other Medications

CBD might interfere with the other medications you take. Dr. Matharu-Daley says it’s important to talk to your doctor about whether CBD could affect your existing prescriptions.

Nausea

In some cases, those who ingest CBD supplements might experience nausea, says Dr. Matharu-Daley. This depends on how sensitive the person is to CBD, as well as the amount they ingest.

Because CBD supplements come in so many different forms—such as oils, gummies, tinctures, and vapors—the amount that’s actually absorbed can vary drastically. This, combined with each person, will ultimately affect which (if any) CBD side effects you might experience.

What Is Cannabidiol (CBD)?

CBD—the abbreviation for cannabidiol, a substance that’s generally derived from the hemp plant—has skyrocketed in popularity over the last five years. In fact, according to some research, “CBD” as a Google search term remained stable from 2004 to 2014 but has since ballooned by up to 605%.

CBD is one of the many chemical compounds that is found in the cannabis plant—referred to as cannabis sativa. There are two primary parts of the plant that humans use. One is THC, or Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol, and the other is CBD. Though they’re from the same plant, THC and CBD are quite different from each other.

“CBD is not an intoxicating substance, whereas THC is a psychoactive that can get you high,” explains Dr. Jas Matharu-Daley, a physician and consultant for a brand that specializes in CBD production.

Are There Any Benefits Associated With Using CBD?

There are several reasons why someone might want to use CBD. The substance can be found in a multitude of products ranging from pain-relieving creams to edible tinctures to skincare. Research is still underway, but over the last few decades scientists have become more aware of how CBD might prove beneficial when applied either topically or ingested.

“Since discovering the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the body in the 1990s, CBD has been researched more extensively. The ECS is a central regulatory system restoring normal balance and homeostasis in a range of human physiologic systems throughout the body and brain and has cannabinoid receptors and chemicals in its function,” explains Dr. Matharu-Daley.

CBD benefits include the following:

  • CBD can have positive impact on the brain. In fact, Dr. Matharu-Daley says that the substance is legally prescribed in a specific medication for certain severe forms of epilepsy in children.
  • It has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, which is why you often see CBD in topical products such as oils, creams, and lotions.
  • Some research points to CBD’s ability to relieve stress and anxiety.
  • It has been used as a nausea treatment in some countries.
  • CBD may potentially reduce pain symptoms.
  • It has antioxidant properties, which means it can help fight off free radical damages that leads to premature aging.
  • Regarding skincare, CBD may help reduce excessive oil production in those with very oily skin types.

Ultimately, the primary reasons why people use CBD is because it tends to have calming, relaxing, pain-reducing effects. It has been used to alleviate joint pain and nerve pain, reduce anxiety and stress, treat insomnia, improve migraines, and address nausea.

CBD Is Still an Unregulated Substance

It’s important to point out that CBD is not regulated by the FDA and therefore dosages might not be accurate. It’s also difficult to know what an appropriate dose is the first time you try a new product.

“If the CBD is from a reputable source and one that has been inspected by a third-party independent lab, the content of CBD is more reliable,” notes Dr. Matharu-Daley. “The CBD should be organically grown, free of pesticides and heavy metals, and not sourced in food which can affect absorption. Generally, CBD is safe and side effects are few at low doses.”

A Word From Verywell

CBD is technically an unregulated substance in the United States and therefore it ought to be used with caution. This is especially important for those taking additional medications and/or those with ongoing medical issues. That said, preliminary research on CBD and its benefits are promising in relation to helping with mild to moderate health concerns and it is generally considered a safe substance. Health professionals do not consider CBD a cure-all for serious medical issues, including cancer.

As with any sort of supplement, we recommend speaking to your medical doctor about whether using CBD makes sense for you. Your doctor can also recommend certain products that align with your needs and help ensure you get the correct dosage.

You have probably heard of the benefits surrounding CBD, but what are the potential side effects you ought to be aware of?