chocolate may be the newest breakthrough in cough treatment

UK scientists are working on a breakthrough in treating common coughs associated with seasonal illnesses such as colds and flus that can often lead to nagging, hacking coughs lasting weeks. We’ve all experienced it; even after other symptoms have diminished, the cough persists, responding poorly to prescription cough medicine, over-the-counter remedies, cough drops and herbal teas. The active ingredient in this new remedy may surprise you; it is not some fancy new test tube chemical or wonder drug. In fact, it’s something you may have even eaten today: it’s chocolate.  Well, sort of.

Many frequently-used cough medicines can contain harsh ingredients such as the drug codeine, an opiate that can cause severe drowsiness and lethargy, allergies and can even become addictive — making them unsuitable treatment options for many adults and certainly for most children.

Chocolate, while most often associated with guilty pleasures and decadent desserts is not new on the medicinal scene. A recent study linked it to heart health in women, and its mood boosting properties are likened to the after effects of sex or alcohol consumption.

Theobromine, a chemical compound naturally occurring in chocolate is known for its similarity to caffeine and has been shown to have a therapeutic effect on circulation — improving vascular function — which can be beneficial for individuals with heart disease. Researchers have also recently discovered that theobromine has cough suppressing properties, which work by blocking the nerves that trigger coughing episodes. Studies published by Imperial College London suggest theobromine may even be more effective at controlling coughs than codeine.

With theobromine based cough remedies still years away from launching into the mass market, consumers wanting to self-treat with Kit Kat bars may be sorely disappointed. The therapeutic process involves an isolated concentrate of the ingredient that would require eating obscene amounts of chocolate to experience the cough-reducing benefits. Perhaps not such a bad thing… bring on the bon-bons!

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Photo: Steven Depolo courtesy of Creative Commons