Cannabis, Cotton Mouth, the Munchies, and Sex

Although medical cannabis has been legal since 1996, it is still either illegal or limited in twelve states. The states that have medical or recreational programs have studied some of the positive and negative impacts on the human body. Scientists have worked to uncover the infamous “cotton mouth” effect associated with cannabis. Other studies have sought to explore the ravenous hunger experienced by cannabis users known as the “munchies.”

Some of these studies have focused on the effects of cannabis use and sexual intercourse. While much remains to be studied, the research that is being done has provided great insight into the beneficial uses and side effects of cannabis.

One interesting side effect on the body that cannabis is known for is “cotton mouth” or a dry grainy feeling in your mouth mimicking a mouthful of cotton. Most people believe the smoke from cannabis gives you the dry mouth but even edibles like brownies will give you the cotton mouth effect. Saliva is the fluid that keeps our mouths lubricated for smoother speech, moistens food to swallow easier, and begins the digestion process via the enzyme amylase. The salivary glands responsible for saliva production are the parotid, the sublingual, and the submandibular gland (SMG). The SMG is responsible for 65 to 70 percent of saliva production and contains cannabinoid receptors. When THC (or another cannabinoid) comes into contact with these receptors the glands fail to receive the signals from the nervous system to keep producing saliva. Even if an edible were to be placed in your stomach without touching the mouth, the cannabinoids would still travel through the bloodstream to those receptors in the SMG. Common aids to help combat cottonmouth include drinking a throat-coating herbal tea before and after using cannabis, as well as sucking on sour or fruity candy. Compared with all the positive benefits cannabis gives, the minor inconvenience of cottonmouth is generally accepted as part of the experience.

Another potential inconvenience of using cannabis are the “munchies.” The munchies are a voracious, almost insatiable, attack on all the food in the house. Regular cannabis users are very familiar with this side effect and often have a snack on hand. Scientists hypothesize that the pathways to the brain that control fullness might be turned off (like a light switch) when cannabinoids are present in the body. A set of neurons in the hypothalamus, known as pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons, secrete a chemical, alpha-MSH (one of the melanocyte-stimulating hormones), which plays a crucial role in regulating the metabolism. When POMCs are exposed to cannabis they release an entirely different chemical, beta endorphins, which stimulate appetite and promote cravings. After cannabis use, the neurons that normally signal a full stomach become a driver of food intake. This incredible appetite stimulant is unappealing to some, but anorexia patients and chemotherapy patients who suffer from limited appetites benefit greatly from this particular aspect of cannabis.

For generations people have praised cannabis as a sexual aid, claiming that it adds extra orgasms, heightens the senses, opens the mind to deeper intimacy and mindfulness, and leads some to relaxation, which can break down anxious and uncomfortable barriers. Many dispensaries sell a medicated lubricant that is designed to help stimulate blood flow and increase the amount of sensitivity partners may feel without a psycho-active high. Female customers using products like this often report experiencing their climax faster, or even achieving multiple climaxes. To unravel this mystery, scientists examined how the body and the human endocannabinoid system worked during sex. Scientists hypothesized that sex in humans would produce the endocannabinoid Anandamide; instead they found that healthy individuals who had self-stimulated climaxes had elevated levels of 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), a different endocannabinoid made by humans. Cannabidiol (CBD) is known to boost levels of 2-AG, which means CBD products could complement the release of 2-AG in sexual intercourse. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) may help in the bedroom as well. THC binds to CB1 cannabinoid receptors located in the hippocampus and amygdala, two areas linked to memory and emotions such as fear and anxiety. Under the influence of THC, a person is less likely to experience anxiety, or other negative feelings surrounding sex. This property of THC could help victims of sexual trauma and folks who suffer from PTSD. THC also impairs short-term memory, which is perfect for keeping one’s mind in the moment during sex. CBD and THC could also be helpful for newer sexual partners by relieving stress and reducing anxiety.

There is still plenty of Cannabis research to be done and scientists are making new breakthroughs all the time, as a plant it has proven its usefulness repeatedly. Worldwide interest in this plant is only accelerating, and continuing to uncover cannabis’s potential will be a boon to all.

Since 2009, High Country Healing has dedicated their time and energy to creating the best and most effective medicine possible. These stores feature a live grow, visible to patients, where one can directly observe the cultivation of cannabis by hand. This transparency allows patients to see the love and care that goes into their medicine. Visit for more information or call (970) 468-7858 to talk to a professional.