If you love chocolate, recent hubbub about the cough-soothing effects of cocoa sounds like great news. It may entice you to shop in the candy aisle instead of the cold product aisle the next time you start hacking. But are the claims that a piece of chocolate or cocoa-infused syrup is more effective than a prescription for codeine-laced syrup true? Before you add extra calories while treating your cough, check out these facts to determine if a dose of chocolate really beats a dose of cold medicine.
6. Studies on Chocolate for Coughs
The effects of chocolate, or more specifically, cacao, on the common cough have been studied for several years. In 2007, the Mayo Clinic conducted a study to determine the effectiveness of treating cancer patients with dark chocolate. The goal was to ease a cough without the side effects of stronger antitussive agents. More recently, Professor Alyn Morice from the University of Hull in the UK has reported on the cough-soothing effects of chocolate to the Daily Mail. Researchers found that chocolate provided relief from coughing two days earlier than did codeine, which is commonly used for persistent coughs.
5. Chocolate Contains Theobromine
Theobromine is a bitter compound found in cacao seeds. It is similar to caffeine and may open up your airways, improving breathing. Theobromine appears to act on nerve endings involved in the process of coughing—the nerve endings that provide that annoying little tickle. One of the ways chocolate may soothe those nerve endings is simply by coating them and preventing that tickle. This means sucking on a piece of chocolate may soothe a cough the same way sucking on a lozenge does. Unsweetened dark chocolate has the highest concentrations of theobromine when compared to milk chocolate or sweetened dark chocolate.
4. Chocolate vs. Over-the-Counter Cough Medicines
When perusing the shelves of your local pharmacy, you will find a variety of a cough and cold products. There are two main types of products used for coughs. The first is antitussives, which block the cough reflex. The second is cough expectorants, which thin out the thick mucus that your lungs are trying to clear. Chocolate appears to act as an antitussive, preventing the cough reflex, so you are not needlessly hacking and clearing your throat. Chocolate does not contain the mucus-thinning properties of an expectorant. However, the very best expectorant of all is simply water. Keeping well hydrated is the first step in breaking up the mucus in a productive cough.
3. Chocolate vs. Codeine
A study reported by the National Institutes of Health lists a cough as one of the most common reasons for doctor visits. Codeine has long been used in cough syrups for its ability to suppress the area of the brain that stimulates coughing. However, recent studies are showing that codeine does not seem any more effective than placebo in the prevention of a cough. In contrast, studies at the Imperial College London found chocolate to be one-third more effective than codeine in suppressing incessant coughs.Related: 13 Plants You Can Use as Medicines
2. Other Home Remedies for Cough
Your sweet tooth might not be the only reason chocolate appeals to you as a treatment for a cough. If you avoid traditional medications and prefer natural treatments, you may be interested in other home remedies for a cough and cold. Honey may also provide an antitussive effect that rivals traditional cough medicines. Add honey to a cup of tea and provide your body with the hydration of water, the calming warmth of heat, and soothing antitussive effect of honey. Squeeze in a splash of lemon for vitamin C. Gargling with warm salt water can soothe a throat that aches from coughing and break up mucus and phlegm in the back of the throat.
1. When to See a Doctor for Your CoughRelated: 7 Signs of Lung Cancer
Sometimes home remedies, time, and rest aren’t enough to ward off a cough. While a cough is commonly seen with the common cold or flu, there can be other conditions that trigger coughing. A chronic cough can be a sign of asthma, esophageal reflux, tuberculosis, or lung infection. If your cough lasts for several weeks, contact your physician to determine the underlying cause. Call your doctor if your cough is accompanied by wheezing, a fever of over 100 degrees F, or if you are coughing up green or yellow phlegm.