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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

Irish Creme Chocolate Trifle

I was given a bottle of Irish cream liqueur as a gift and had leftover peppermint candy, so I created this delicious trifle. It's always rich and decadent. —Margaret Wilson, Sun City, California

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Coconut-Pecan German Chocolate Pie

This pie combines the ingredients everyone loves in its classic cake cousin. It's so silky and smooth, you won't be able to put your fork down. —Anna Jones, Coppell, Texas

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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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Chocolate Chip Cookie Delight

This is a simple chocolate delight recipe for any type of potluck occasion, and the pan always comes home empty. —Diane Windley, Grace, Idaho

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Ultimate Double Chocolate Brownies

As someone who grew up in the country, I love getting out into nature whenever I can. I also love home-style recipes, including these yummy brownies. —Carol Prewett, Cheyenne, Wyoming

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Warm Chocolate Melting Cups

These cakes have become a favorite of our guests. They're always surprised that these little desserts are so light. —Kissa Vaughn, Troy, Texas

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Yummy Zucchini Chocolate Cake

As a confirmed chocoholic, this is my all-time favorite treat. I found the original recipe more than 20 years ago, but have lightened it up quite a bit. Everyone asks for the recipe, and no one suspects that it's lighter than most chocolate cakes. —Carleta Foltz, Sunrise Beach, Missouri

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Chocolate & Peanut Butter Mousse Cheesecake

This no-bake cheesecake with distinctive layers of chocolate, peanut butter mousse and a silky ganache on top will take some time to assemble, but it's worth the effort to create a homemade dessert with grand-champion appeal—and definitely worth the wait. —JaNon Furrer, Prescott, Arizona

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Three-Chocolate Fudge

I make this fudge at Christmastime to give to friends and neighbors. That tradition started years ago when I made more candy than my husband, three sons and I could eat, so we shared it. It's a tasty tradition I'm glad to continue. —Betty Grantham, Hanceville, Alabama

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Chocolate Thumbprints Cookies

My group of friends had a weekly "movie night" during winters on Martha's Vineyard, and we'd take turns making a chocolate treat to share. These terrific cookies were an instant success. Once they debuted, I had to make them many more times. —Laura Bryant German, W. Warren, Massachusetts

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T. Lacoma
I have owned a freelance writing business for the past three years, writing a variety of articles on finance, technology, environmental issues, home repair and other topics.