While a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down might have led to more troubles including a sugar rush on the guidance of fictional character Mary Poppins, the advice was actually sounder than it seemed. Scientists are finding that chocolate may be the key to reducing the symptoms of a cough and may help those coughers enjoy a more restful sleep during the duration of their cold.
Within the past few years, researchers have been studying a chocolate-based cough medicine, better known as ROCOCO, as a substitute for cough syrup. The substitute, which is sold under the guise of Unicough, has been found to be quite effective in the reduction of signs and symptoms of those suffering from a persistent cough.
According to a London-based study from 2016 where 163 individuals suffering from an acute cough and temporary respiratory infection, a chocolate-based cough suppressant led to improvements of cough frequency, decreased sleep disruptions, and overall improvement during the life of a cough. Participants found that after an average of 4 days, they ranked a better quality of life versus those that had taken standard over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicine and cough suppressants syrups.
The study found that the stickiness of properties within chocolate, and more specifically found in cocoa, help to coat the throat easing the nerve endings found there.
As the cocoa coats the nerves, the throat is less likely to itch and therefore induce coughing, which we all know can be quite an embarrassing and unwelcome moment to begin coughing uncontrollably in a store, movie theater, or work environment.
Part of why when we get a respiratory infection, cold, or flu, is we feel the need to cough and therefore spew items like bacteria, germs, and mucus from our lungs. Even though coughing during an infection is irritating, it is the best way to rid your body of microbes that are working against you to stay sicker longer.
But coughing uncontrollably at night and thus disrupting valuable rest and sleep periods can wreak havoc on your immune system even when you need it to be working with you the most.
Additionally, following a cold or infection, many people suffer from a dry, lingering cough that is no longer ridding the body of anything. In fact, a dry, chronic cough can actually cause a significant increase in damage to your body including impacting the health of your rib cage, leading to torn throat tissue, and internal damage like an abdominal hernia, diaphragm, and blood tissue damage, as well as cracked ribs and severe muscle pain.
During the main London-based study, 163 people that were included consisted of participants across a wide range of ages, gender, education, economic status, and varying levels of their cold, nearly 4 days following the start of a control group of cough medicine versus the ROCOCO found that the chocolate-based medicine worked far better.
While it may seem like studying 163 participants is a statistically insignificant number for a study, this was the largest over-the-counter cough medicine report to have been completed as of yet. This has also spurred an array of subsequent studies that have all reinforced the idea of chocolate as a more beneficial source over cough medicine.
An additional study was done by the Imperial College in London also found that ‘theobromine,’ which is found in cocoa, far outweighed the impact of codeine in cough medicines. This is great news for the medical community, especially when considering the dangers of medications like codeine that are habit forming and leading to an onslaught of those suffering from the opioid epidemic.
Now, you shouldn’t just mix a cup of instant cocoa and hot water to sip on thinking your cough will be improved immediately, it is suggested that you take a small bite of chocolate and suck on it. Sucking on a piece of chocolate slowly may actually help improve your symptoms and offer you a better night’s rest.
Coincidently, researchers are also studying the properties of marshmallows, and while the research is still out on whether the two main properties of a smore would work in tandem to help you feel better when fighting a cold and cough, you can’t help but be hopeful. The results of the study are not offered as medically sound yet, but the next time you feel a respiratory infection coming on, head to the cabinet and make yourself you smore and don’t feel guilty at all about it.