Thursday, January 3, 2008
A Bit of Medicine: Cocoa as Cough Suppressant
I wrote this February 16, 2007 and it’s been sitting in my drafts folder ever since. I opened it up because I was researching some of the info in here because my husband has a bit of a cough right now. I’m not sure why I never posted this.
So I went to the doctor today. Because I’ve lost my voice. Because I’ve been coughing a lot. Because I have asthmatic bronchitis.
Blah, blah, blah.
I go round and round with this. I’ve been getting bronchitis rather regularly since I reached adulthood. (However, this is the first case since I started on Singulair two years ago, so cutting my incidence in half is a success in my book.)
While I was waiting for the doctor (who kindly fit me in on a Friday late in the afternoon on a holiday weekend) I was reading a magazine called WebMD. Mostly because all of the other magazines available were either golf related or about parenting. This one had Hugh Laurie on the cover, who is not a doctor but plays one on TV (and plays an American, to boot).
It was filled with lovely factoid pages, with a special section that advised me to use the first stall in a public bathroom because it’s the least used and least germy and to never, ever touch the handrails on an escalator ... because after all, I don’t want some rhino virus on my fingers when it’s much better to stumble face first into those spiky edges of the moving stairs ... much better to embed those germs into open wounds. But again, I digress. Somewhere there was a page that mentioned that chocolate is a good cough suppressant.
At that moment I think I hacked up part of my lung and then went and had it X-rayed to be sure. (To clarify, they X-rayed my chest, I discretely disposed of the thing I coughed up.)
I made a mental note that I had to research this further, however, I went home with a lovely prescription for a promising cough medicine called Tessalon (you remember him from the Lord of the Rings books, right?), so it was only kind of in the back of my mind at that point.
After several hours of feeling better (though still unable to speak above a whisper), I recalled my mission:
In November 2004, the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology published a study that examined the efficacy of using theobromine in chocolate as an anti-tussive (cough suppressant). The study found that 1000 mgs suppressed coughs as well as codeine for four hours with no side effects. (Check this out: Theobromine inhibits sensory nerve activation and cough.)
Last time I tried to go to the store and buy pure theobromine I was stymied.
Now, my big question is how much chocolate do you have to eat to get that 1,000 mgs of theobromine?
Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate Bar (1.45 oz) has 184mg of Theobromine
It’s obvious the best bang for the buck is gonna be straight cocoa. So, one tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa has 12 calories and 111 mgs of theobromine. So if I need to consume 1,000 mgs every four hours, I’ll need to eat ... um, a lot of cocoa (9 tablespoons/108 calories per dose and figure I’m awake for 16 hours a day that’d mean 36 tablespoons/432 calories). That’s a lot of calories with very little enjoyment. (I’d figure I would put them in gelatin capsules and swallow them.)
Now of course the tastier way to do involves actual chocolate. I don’t think I’d be able to stomach the amount of baker’s chocolate required, so let’s just go with the assumption that an ounce of high quality very dark chocolate (70%+) has about 300 mgs of theobromine. So 3.5 ounces is required, which just so happens to be the normal size for many premium bars. I would figure I would buy them by the box, because I’ll be needing to eat four of those a day. And logging 550 calories on average with each one ... um, yeah, that’s pretty much whole whole day’s caloric intake (on days where I’m particularly active, I might add).
The average price for a premium super dark bar is about $3.50 ... so it would cost $14 a day. But then again, because it’d be my full day’s worth of calories, I wouldn’t have to cook or eat anything else!
The thing to take away from all this though is that a strong cup of hot chocolate when you have a serious cough just might be the best thing for you. Try one quarter cup of good quality cocoa, 2 tablespoons of sugar and 8-10 ounces of milk. Heat over the stove in a small saucepan or in the microwave. Be careful not to boil. Drink. Feel better.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.