Are you experiencing an annoying cough that keeps you awake at night? Unfortunately, over-the-counter cough syrups aren’t as effective as the advertisements would lead you to believe, and codeine-based prescription ones can make you tired and nauseous. The side effects of cough syrups are even more pronounced in children, and parents are being encouraged to avoid them completely in very young kids for safety reasons. Natural remedies for cough are usually the best tolerated, but is there one that really works? An interesting study shows that there may be a tasty and effective way to stop a cough – by sipping hot chocolate.
Chocolate: A Natural Remedy for Cough?
In a study published in the FASEB Journal, researchers demonstrated the amazing ability of theobromine, a common ingredient in dark chocolate, to naturally suppress cough. To test this, they gave participants a capsule containing either codeine, theobromine, or a placebo. The participants then inhaled increasing amounts of capsaicin, an ingredient in red peppers, to stimulate them to cough. The results? When they were given theobromine capsules, the participants needed a third more capsaicin to induce cough than when they received a placebo. Surprisingly, codeine wasn’t much better than placebo for suppressing cough in this study.
How Does Theobromine Work as a Natural Cough Remedy?
Theobromine, a chemical found in large quantities in cocoa beans, suppresses cough by inhibiting activity of the vagus nerve which innervates the lungs from the brain. This is similar to the way in which dextramethorphan and codeine suppress cough, but theobromine doesn’t have the same undesirable side effects. In fact, in this study, participants experienced no significant adverse reactions to theobromine – suggesting it could be a safe, natural remedy for cough.
How Much Chocolate is Needed for Cough Suppression?
The amount of theobromine used in this study was equivalent to the amount contained in two cups of cocoa. Although chocolate and cocoa powder contains caffeine which could be a problem for some people, it’s a relatively small amount compared to coffee.
Cocoa or Dark Chocolate as a Natural Cough Remedy: Should You Use It?
Researchers are hoping to develop a theobromine based cough syrup. Until then, it’s unlikely doctors will be prescribing dark chocolate or hot cocoa for treating cough. But, because it’s safer than most cough syrups out there, it may be worth a try if you have an annoying cough. If the cough persists, see your doctor.
FASEB Journal. November, 17, 2004