Does chocolate cure cough?
You would have seen them in recent times— vendors selling chocolate-based cough syrup or so they claim. I saw one this past December. Choco-cough syrup he called the stuff he peddled in a corner at Oshodi Bus Stop. I am sure you would probably think he was a promoter of quack medicine. I would have thought so too, if I had not heard that cocoa does give relief to cough. Still, this does not mean we should buy anything offered us, just because some people say so. We still need to be careful what we give our children in terms of drugs and food.
Personally, I welcome chocolate cough syrup, because it means less fuss in making your baby take his/her medicine. However, reminding you once more of the production of the chocolate-based cough syrup may help you make a safe choice, when such medicines find their way to our counters or come within reach of our favourite hawkers.
Research lends credit to the efficacy of chocolate cough syrup in what can be said to be a long drawn-out study. In the initial research done in 2004 on the effects of cocoa on cough, it was found that theobromine, an ingredient contained in cocoa was more effective than codeine, the medicine that has been thought to be the most effective cough medicine.
People who undertook the initial study had called on researchers to study Theo bromine to see if it could be used in making cough syrups because it could have fewer side effects than the drugs already in use.
In the study, 10 healthy volunteers were exposed to different levels of capsaicin, a property found in cayenne pepper. Capsaicin is used to stimulate coughing. The result was that when the volunteers took theobromine, the concentration needed to cause cough was a third higher than when compared with the placebo. They found no difference between placebo and codeine.
The belief then was that theobromine worked by suppressing the nerve activities, which make people cough. It was also observed that there were no negative side effects, such as drowsiness.
In a later research, it was said that cough medicine, which contained chocolates, did better than other home remedies, such as lemon and honey. Another observation was that the medicines were stickier than the usual cough preparations. The stickiness forms a protective coating for the nerve endings in the throat, which brings the urge to cough.
Further, comparisons noted that patients, who took the chocolate-based drug, had significant improvement within two days.
Theobromine, they said, possesses some pharmacological quality that affects the nerve endings themselves. However, drinking your regular hot chocolate will not have the same effect, because the cocoa does not stay long enough to form a protective coating, they said.
Professor Alien Maurice, Head, Cardiovascular and Respiratory studies, University of Hull, and member, International Society for the Study of Cough said: “While slowly sucking on a chocolate might give some relief, but the benefit may be in the way the chocolate ingredients work with other properties in the cough syrup that make it effective. Apart from the cocoa, the demulcent effect ensures the other ingredients, such as diphenhydramine, levomenthol and ammonium chloride are in contact with nerve endings for as long as possible.
They equally said there is only one type of cough, and not many as we have always thought, and that the wrong belief in the existence of many types of coughs has led to the production of different types of cough mixtures in the market. Dry, throaty and chesty coughs are what manufacturers come up with to make people buy more.
Cough is caused by an upper respiratory infection, which often follows a cold or flu. When a cough is the result of flu, there is no difference between the one that does not produce phlegm or dry one, they said, noting that infection brings the urge to cough, not the presence of mucus.
When there is mucus, it means an infection has taken over the body’s defence mechanism and made the upper respiratory tract hypersensitive.