Valentine’s Chocolate for. . . Coughing?

Normally, I wouldn’t post about a 4 year-old piece of asthma-related research, but this one’s entirely too entertaining to pass up. Plus it involves chocolate, so I may as well post it in honor of Valentine’s Day.

This is pretty much the only way I’ll celebrate Valentine’s Day besides my annual *Buying of the Good Quality Candy for Cheap* the day after. I mean, we all recognize this holiday as a totally ridiculous one, right? Sure, it’s fun for the red glitter and lace doily crowd in school, and my girls have already signed, sealed, and affixed lollipops to Valentines for their classmates, but organized affection for adults? Kind of makes me want to bludgeon random strangers in protest.

I recognize my aversion to the enforced emotion of Valentine’s Day is a wee bit unreasonable, so today I relent. A little.

We’ve been hearing for the past year about the benefits of dark chocolate in small doses, but chocolate research isn’t really new. The study I’m linking to published its results back in 2004 and examined the effects of theobromine, an ingredient in cocoa powder. London researchers tried to induce coughing in volunteers who took either theobromine, codeine, or a placebo in the study. The amount of theobromine equivalent to two cups of hot cocoa prevented coughing for four hours, longer than the codeine or the placebo.

I can’t find any further or more recent research, and one little study isn’t going to find me buying up all the dark chocolate off the shelves, but isn’t this fun to think about? Especially since the link above mentions possible–emphasis on the possible–implications for lung disease patients. Let’s see what the medical folks have to say, but bear in mind they’re addressing viral coughs, not asthma ones.

Dr. Greene points out the solid reputation of the research group:

FASEB is the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, a coalition of biomedical and life scientists committed to enhancing life through solid scientific research. This is a mainline technical scientific group, not a wishful thinking group.

And Dr. Weil offers a common-sense approach:

Based on the results of this small study I cant tell you to rush out and buy lots of chocolate to cure your cough. The researchers suggested that their findings might lead to more effective cough remedies. . . . The amount of theobromine used in the study was equivalent to what you would get from two cups of cocoa so, if you can afford the calories, you might try drinking cocoa made from good quality chocolate to see if it helps your cough, though my preference would be to eat an ounce or two of dark chocolate with at least a 70 percent cocoa content.

My take?

If you’re going to eat chocolate anyway, you might seek out the best-quality dark chocolate you can find and hope you’re getting some health benefits at the same time you’re satisfying a craving. Who really knows? Choosing the higher cocoa content certainly won’t hurt you, as long as the caffeine in chocolate doesn’t aggravate your asthma (or your digestive system, if you’ve got a sensitive one) or you don’t have a food allergy or intolerance.


You could even try a cup of super-strong hot cocoa rather than honey-lemon tea the next time you’ve got a cold, too, but not in lieu of your bronchodilator or if chocolate triggers your flares. This morning, I experimented on my non-asthmatic kindergartener to her utter delight. Remember how her allergies have already started attacking her nose? Well, now I’m thinking something viral could be percolating in there. Possibly, it’s both. She perked right up with a mug of cocoa at breakfast, although I’ve a sneaking suspicion the placebo effect went into play, especially when she asked for more marshmallows:

They probably help my coughing, too. Because they’re soft.

Nicely reasoned for a six year-old, don’t you think?

Hershey’s even makes a dark chocolate cocoa powder now, but my hands-down favorite is Green & Black’s Organic Fair Trade Cocoa Powder. Remarkably smooth and chocolatey, yes, but also sustainable and socially responsible like all Green & Black chocolate. It’s a London-based company that started exporting to the U.S. in 2003, and now I can even find its products my tiny Southern town.

Believe me, considering the tiny number (2) of whole food groceries in my rather large geographical area, that’s saying a lot.

11 responses to “Valentine’s Chocolate for. . . Coughing?”

  1. Asthmagirl says:

    What a wonderful idea! Anything for Chocolate. I love Green and Blacks!

    And I’m against the organized affection as you so eloquently put it. Although I like romance as much as the next woman (or man), I dread the marketing of Valentine’s day where people feel obligated to public displays of affection (Who got the biggest flower bouquet in the office?). Fortunately, my beloved doesn’t roll that way either and we save it for heartfelt times… Although I’m going on record as saying I’m all for someone else making dinner!

  2. Amy says:

    Ooh, that reminds me–I do, of COURSE, also celebrate V-day by raiding the girls’ treat bags from school. Can’t forget that tradition.

  3. kristi says:

    Wow-that’s some pretty interesting research. And your daughter is correct: I’m certain I read somewhere that marshmallows also help coughing . ;)

    I’m so glad you posted to my blog last week! I’ve missed you, and now I know where you wandered off to. I’m bookmarking you, and I will certainly be back.

  4. Blessedmomof4 says:

    Hi Amy!
    Yum…..I’m going to look for Green and Blacks here too. We dont have any Whole foods, and the closest Trader Joes is about an hour from here……maybe they have it at our Harris Teeter? I will have to do a search for it! :) Thanks for the great tips. I know my ag would love to have a cup of cocoa eveyday! HA! :)
    Have a great day!

  5. Blessedmomof4 says:

    I just found out our Target sells Green and Blacks! :)
    Learn something new everyday….thanks!

  6. Amy says:

    Hey, Kristi. I can’t imagine why anyone would want more marshmallows, but then you’d say the same thing about chocolate. Blogging stole my life for awhile, but I sure missed it and all my blog friends.

    Blessedmom–that’s just where I buy it b/c when I say *whole foods groceries* I mean very small, very local establishments with poor selections. SO jealous you’re an hour from Trader Joe’s. Let me know how you like the chocolate! (I’m sure your asthmagirl will thank you.)

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