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Is Chocolate the Next Big Cough Remedy? (We Hope So.)

Research has shown that properties of chocolate might work as a cough remedy. I think I feel a cold coming on.

Photo: Shutterstock / Alliance

Wouldn’t it be great if something as delicious as chocolate could help treat your cough and make your throat feel better? Fortunately, that’s the world we live in: Studies suggest chocolate could function as part of a successful cough remedy. Let’s take a look at why!


A Little Chocolate With Your Cough Syrup

Our first research comes from the ROCOCO study, which is 1) fun to say and 2) included almost 150 participants. The study was primarily focused on whether linctus (a traditional cough syrup mixture) or a chocolate-based cough syrup worked better to help stop a cough.

The full results of the ROCOCO study should be published later this year, but scientists are already saying that the results show that the chocolate-based syrup was more effective at stopping a cough (reducing cough frequency and sleep disruption, and leading to earlier reports of feeling better).The secret might be the tasty chocolate syrup. Cocoa has demulcent properties–which means that it’s really good at coating stuff with a protective film to help reduce inflammation. In other words, it excels at covering up tender throats and nerve endings long enough so that the active ingredients in cough syrup can work where it’s needed most.

And the active ingredients in the syrup? An antihistamine to reduce the cough reflex, menthol to cool and soothe, and ammonium chloride to loosen the cough.

While we’d like to suggest that you can switch out cough syrup for a drink of hot chocolate, that’s not the case. For one thing, hot chocolate isn’t in contact with the throat long enough to have the same effect. And, another really important point: The cocoa added viscosity to the syrup so it could coat the throat, but it was likely the three active ingredients that worked together to calm coughs.

So, stay tuned for possible chocolate-based cough syrup on pharmacy shelves someday! It would have to taste better than the fruity-cherry kind.


Eating Theobromine With a Cough

You may be wondering, “Why not just skip to the heart of the matter and start gnawing on a chocolate bar when you have a cold?” We have more good news! A chemical in chocolate called theobromine has shown promise as a way to stifle coughs.

A study from the Imperial College in London compared theobromine and codeine, the long-used chemical in many cough syrups that disrupts the coughing reflex, and it found that theobromine was better than codeine at stopping a cough before it started! What’s even better is that theobromine has none of the known side effects of codeine, like drowsiness. Plus it’s not addictive so there would not be the same problems of abuse that comes with codeine.

That’s a pretty old study, but with the new interest in cocoa as a soothing coating to stop coughs, who knows? We might see a new, chocolaty cough medicine in the future.


Bottom Line

For right now, scientists caution that a lot more research is needed. Who knows how much chocolate you’d have to eat to get the same effects as the study, or what the role of other active ingredients is? But when it comes to chocolate, we have a pretty good reason to try out this remedy anyway.

The next time your throat is a little ragged, break out the very best chocolate and start looking for good recipes!

Our Top 10 Best Chocolate Recipes

Chocolate Maple Bars

My family runs a maple syrup operation, and I'm always looking for new ways to incorporate maple syrup into my cooking and baking. These bars are delicious! —Cathy Schumacher, Alto, Michigan

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Chocolate Strawberry Punch Bowl Trifle

I threw this dessert together when I needed something quick to take to my in-laws’. Because it’s beautiful, everyone thinks it requires a lot of effort. It’s easy. And the recipe makes a lot, making this perfect for potlucks and large gatherings. —Kristi Judkins, Morrison, Tennessee

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Dream Cupcakes

My grandchildren love these cream-filled cupcakes. They're a special treat yet easy to make. And they keep nicely in the refrigerator. —Dorothy Bahlmann, Clarksville, Iowa

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Chocolate Swirl Delight

I made a few updates to a great recipe and ended up with an impressive dessert. Everyone loves its light texture and chocolaty flavor. —Lynne Bargar, Saegertown, Pennyslvania

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Cherry Chocolate Chunk Cookies

These rich, fudgy cookies are chewy and studded with tangy dried cherries. It’s a good thing the recipe makes only a small batch, because we eat them all in one night! —Trisha Kruse, Eagle, Idaho

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Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake

If you delight in the taste of chocolate, then this is the cheesecake for you. Every creamy bite melts in your mouth. It's so impressive yet not difficult to prepare-I whip up this dessert each time I want a yummy treat for my family, friends or co-workers. —Mary Jones, Cumberland, Maine

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Sandy's Chocolate Cake

Years ago, I drove 4-1/2 hours to a cake contest, holding my entry on my lap the whole way. But it paid off. One bite and you'll see why this velvety beauty was named the best chocolate cake recipe won first prize. —Sandra Johnson, Tioga, Pennsylvania

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Macaroon Ice Cream Torte

My family loves frozen treats. With chocolate four ways, this one is so beautiful, people think it came from an ice cream shop. —Barbara Carlucci, Orange Park, Florida

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Crispy Chocolate Squares

Folks will think you slaved away on these fast and fudgy treats. People often request the recipe and are surprised to find out how easy they are to make. Even kids can make 'em! —Karen Speidel, Wheeling, Illinois

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Chocolate Bavarian Torte

Whenever I take this eye-catching torte to a potluck, I get so many requests for the recipe. —Edith Holmstrom, Madison, Wisconsin

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