If your throat is getting scratchy, you might be better off reaching for a chocolate bar over cough syrup.
At least that’s what one leading expert is advising — as he says that chocolate is better for a cough and respiratory problems than standard medicine.
Professor Alyn Morice, head of cardiovascular and respiratory studies at the University of Hull and a founding member of the International Society for the Study of Cough, says that “chocolate can calm coughs.”
He says that the results of the largest real-world study of an over-the-counter cough remedy ever undertaken in Europe have just come in.
It proves that medicine which contains cocoa is better than the standard stuff.
The study involved a head-to-head comparison of 163 patients who reported a “significant improvement” in their symptoms within two days of taking the chocolate-based medicine.
And this isn’t the first time that chocolate has been touted as a potential cough soother.
Scientists from Imperial College London previously found that a compound in cocoa was better at suppressing a cough than codeine.
According to Morice, this new chocolate medicine, Unicough, has been shown to reduce cough frequency and sleep disruption within 48 hours.
So what is it about the sweet stuff that’s so good for dodgy throats?
“There are two possible reasons that chocolate might soothe a sore throat,” Dr. Sarah Jarvis tells The Sun.
“The first is that, like honey, it forms a sticky coating on the throat that can protect the nerve endings which get irritated when you have a cold and can trigger coughing.”
“The second is that cocoa contains an alkaloid substance called theobromine, which has proved to be quite promising in studies looking at suppressing coughs.”
Theobromine is believed to help with coughs by cutting down the body’s need to splutter.
Cocoa is a “demulcent,” meaning that it’s stickier and thicker than standard cough medicines — and therefore forms a thicker coating which protects nerve endings in the throat.
These little nerves can trigger the urge to cough, so chocolate sticks them down.
Honey has a similar effect, but, Jarvis warns, forking out on expensive Manuka honey doesn’t soothe coughs any more effectively than standard honey.
And Morice says chocolate has even more to offer than other sugary syrups.
“I’m sure it has a pharmacological activity, some sort of inhibitory effect on the nerve endings themselves,” he writes.
However, downing a load of hot chocolate won’t have the same effect as cocoa isn’t in contact with the throat for long enough to form the protective coating.
Instead, you’re better off sucking on a piece of dark chocolate which has less sugar and fat than the milky version — as well as higher doses of cocoa.
Nutritionist Sarah Flower tells The Sun that she believes chocolate’s zinc may also play a role in combating discomfort.
On a diet? Don’t worry, she’s got a number of waist-friendly alternatives that she swears by for soothing sore throats:
Salt Water Gargle
Salt water helps to alkalize the mouth, making it less acidic and therefore less prone to unhealthy bacteria. It is also known to help soothe inflammation in the gums and throat. The salt also helps flush out the infection, aiding healing. Just dissolve ½ tsp of salt in a glass of water and gargle.
Herbal teas such as sage, chamomile, clove, licorice root, slippery elm and green tea can help ease a sore throat.
Fresh turmeric (not powder) tea is really light and is perfect as an anti-inflammatory. You can also take turmeric capsules but make sure they also contain black pepper as this helps your body absorb and utilise the curcumin effectively.
We know that vitamin C can help fight infection, so increasing our intake by eating plenty of berries, citrus fruits, papayas, broccoli and red peppers will help keep us protected, all year long.
“At the first sign of a cold, I would highly recommend you take vitamin c supplements, either in powder or tablet form to boost the effects. I take lots of vitamin C at the first sign of feeling under the weather. Take 1-4 grams per day until your symptoms improve.
Zinc is a great anti-inflammatory and is great not just to soothe the throat but can also attack the virus and has been shown, alongside vitamin C, to shorten the length of the infection.
This is great in tincture form as you can gargle with the diluted mixture before swallowing. It not only helps to boost the immune system but can help ease your sore throat and fight the infection.
Drink Cold Liquids
Keeping yourself well hydrated is absolutely vital to help “flush” out the cold, help break down congestion and keeps your throat lubricated.
Drinking very cold drinks and even sucking on ice-cubes can help soothe a burning throat, ease pain and reduce inflammation.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has many properties, including being antibacterial and can fight infection. It does not taste great, so mix it with water before gargling and swallowing.
Make a broth
A broth would have traditionally been made using bones and whatever spare vegetables were around. Bone stock is packed full of nutrients, including gelatine, collagen and a whole host of vitamin and minerals to help heal and get you back on your feet.
Add some garlic, as it is a powerful anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-catarrhal.
Don’t fear adding chili, this acts as a natural decongestant.
Flower also suggests adding some turmeric and cinnamon, as well as a dash of fresh ginger to speed up your metabolism.