The People's Perspective on Medicine

Will Chocolate Calm Your Cough?

Might chocolate calm your cough? Some research is suggestive but inconclusive. Treat it as a possible home remedy and try it yourself.

This is the time of year when lots of people have nagging coughs. Traditional cough medicine leaves a lot to be desired. But could chocolate calm your cough?

Might You Use Cocoa to Calm Your Cough?

Scientists in Great Britain say chocolate appears to be a good cough medicine. They conducted a randomized controlled trial comparing a common cough syrup (citric acid monohydrate in a sweet base) to a chocolate-based cough medicine (Birring et al, BMJ Open, Jan. 16, 2017). This ROCOCO study included 163 patients and was published as a real-world evaluation. The chocolate-based syrup also contains diphenhydramine, ammonium chloride and levomenthol, ingredients approved as OTC cough remedies in Great Britain.

People getting the chocolate-flavored cough medicine got relief from the coughs within a few days. That was a little quicker than those taking “simple linctus,” the cough syrup used for comparison. However, the difference was not significant.

The trial medicine contains chocolate compounds such as theobromine. One of the authors suggests that sucking on a piece of chocolate might be a tasty and effective way to calm your cough.

Why Might Chocolate Calm Your Cough?

This isn’t the first time chocolate compounds have been studied as a cough suppressant. Previous studies have used guinea pigs, who are very sensitive to cough, to test theobromine. The first one found that theobromine, a crucial component of chocolate, showed promise as an effective cough treatment (Usmani et al, FASEB  Journal, Feb. 2005). A few years later, scientists reported that both theobromine and theophylline, a related compound, reduced guinea pigs’ airway reactivity and cough (Mokry et al, Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, Nov. 2009).

It’s a shame that a clinical trial in humans did not provide evidence that theobromine will calm your cough (Morice et al, Journal of Thoracic Disease, July 2017). Some readers have found that sucking on a little bit of dark chocolate helps ease a cough. In addition to coughs, readers report that consuming chocolate can stop stubborn hiccups. We’d love to see more real research on both these possible uses of cacao compounds in their most delicious guise.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I think the best chocolate will be the 100% ones, no added sugar. I will try whether it works or not. I have a sore throat right now.

Tried it last week. Bought 2 bars of a name brand dark chocolate. Allowed 2 bits to dissolve in my mouth successively, followed by 1 menthol cough drop, until they were gone. (12 rotations). No real change. I had had 1 dose of dextromethoraphan a couple of hours earlier. At that time I was experiencing a productive cough from a full-blown cold. Maybe I should try again now that it has devolved into that nagging dry cough that lingers after a cold.

Actually when I eat chocolate , it makes my cough worse. I have suffered from LPR (silent reflux) for 7 years which causes me to cough especially right after eating or when I lie down.
I have tried numerous remedies to control the cough, but nothing works. Am now considering surgery.

I’d love it if Mary would get the book “Eat Right 4 Your Blood Type,” try the food plan for her type, and let us know if her cough eases. Terry might like to know if it works, too.
I have reflux sometimes, usually when I eat after 6 pm.
It takes about 4 hours to clear food out of the stomach, doesn’t it? Eating the right foods for the makeup of your body might offer more relief than just going to bed on empty. The book explains it all in detail.

Over the years, I’ve used chocolate many times to help with coughing that woke me up during the night. I let the chocolate slowly melt in my mouth and then down my throat to create a ‘coating’ of chocolate in my throat. Then I tried to limit swallowing as much as I could so it would stay there as long as possible. Doing this definitely helped with the coughing. When I had a cold I would keep some chocolate on my nightstand just for this.

Manuka honey (a type, not a brand), which is very expensive, works well for me,
is relish, and not as sweet as regular honey. A tiny amount is sufficient to stop my coughing spell tonight. Also N-A-C works well for cough and gets people to whom I have recommended the
sleep they needed.

Have you been tested for food sensitivities? I had a constant sore throat for two years straight (after many years of frequent bouts of sore throat) when an ENT advised me that he found nothing, and it must be reflux. I was not aware of reflux at all. I got tested for food sensitivities. Once I eliminated dairy, corn and egg from my diet, things got much better.

What do I think? I think I am trying this out right now. I don’t really have a cough, but so far, it is smooth, tasty, and delicious. Maybe it will be a preventive!

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