Next time you’ve got a cough, skip the honey and lemon — and grab some chocolate. A leading cough and respiratory medicine expert claims that new research proves it’s a more effective method of treatment.
“Chocolate can calm coughs,” Professor Alyn Morice, head of cardiovascular and respiratory studies at the University of Hull, and a founding member of the International Society for the Study of Cough, wrote in The Daily Mail. “I know that might sound like something out of Mary Poppins, but as an independent clinician who has spent years researching the mechanism of cough, I can assure you the evidence is actually as solid a bar of Fruit and Nut.”
Morice points to a new European study of over-the-counter cough remedies. Patients who took a new medicine containing cocoa were found to have a significant improvement in their cough and sleeplessness within two days (compared to those taking standard cough syrup).
Even better: It’s not the first study that shows chocolate can calm coughs, Morice adds. Researchers at London’s Imperial College found that theobromine, an alkaloid in cocoa, suppresses coughs better than codeine, a common ingredient in cough medicine.
Why does chocolate work so well? Researchers claim it’s because cocoa has demulcent properties, which means it relieves inflammation or irritation. Essentially, it’s stickier than typical cough syrup, and better forms a coating to protect the nerve endings in the throat that trigger the urge to cough. (This effect is also why honey and lemon work, albeit not as well.)
“However drinking hot chocolate won’t have the same effect, as the cocoa isn’t in contact with the throat long enough to form a protective coating,” Morice noted. “Slowly sucking on a piece of chocolate may provide some relief, but I think it is the way the chocolate compounds work with other ingredients in the [cough syrup] which make it so effective.”
So the next time you’re feeling the urge, grab one of the newly-licensed products that include cocoa — or just suck on a dark chocolate square.