Hacks Health Science

The Same Compound In Chocolate That Harms Dogs Can Also Fight Your Cough

Nature works in crazy ways sometimes. One of the more bewildering food examples of this comes from chocolate, which us as humans love to eat but is actually poisonous to some other animals, like dogs.

Turns out, though, that there’s even more nuance to that story. The compound in chocolate that’s bad for dogs is the exact same one that our bodies can use to fight coughs, and it could be even more effective than cough syrup.

Photo: Tim Sackton // Flickr, CC 2.0

Called theobromine, this chemical has been shown in extensive research to treat and suppress coughs as far back as at least 2005. It works by helping to inactivate the sensory nerves that cause coughing to occur, meaning that it has the potential to be more effective than even cough syrup.

Research has been ongoing since to confirm that this is the case. One of the more recent studies uses a treatment that was derived from cocoa that was proven to be more effective than codeine, the key ingredient in cough syrups and similar medications. Called Unicough, it enabled twice as many patients out of a group of 163 to stop cough treatments early when compared to cough medicines.

The actual study will be published in a medical journal within the next year, but one of the principal scientists behind the study, Professor Alyn Morice of the University of Hull, revealed its findings in a guest column for The Daily Mail. He also commented on the potential effectiveness of real chocolate, saying that while drinking hot chocolate wouldn’t help with a cough so well, “slowly sucking” on a piece might help.

Of course, theobromine is also the same compound that is toxic to man’s best friend, and why chocolate is such an issue for them. Thus, if you do try this new medicine (when it does come out) or straight-up chocolate in an attempt to help with your cough, just make sure to keep it out of reach of your furry friend.