21/12/2010 07:14 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Chocolate: The Star Ingredient In New Cough Medicine

Hot chocolate may ease a persistent cough Hot chocolate may ease a persistent cough. Photo: Flickr, macinate

If you get a nasty cough every winter that just won't ease off until the spring, you may have read reports that eating chocolate could help. Talk about a great excuse to indulge in the sweet stuff.

And now a drug company is developing a chocolate-based cough medicine, which could be available the year after next. Experts at SEEK, a drug discovery group, are looking into the use of a substance in cocoa called theobromine as a remedy for a persistent cough (that is, a cough that lasts for more than two weeks).

The problem with persistent coughs - which, according to experts, are a nuisance for more than seven million Brits - is that the current cough medicines used to treat them are based on codeine, which not only makes you sleepy but can also be addictive.

Codeine works because it acts on the vagus nerve endings, which run through the airways in your lungs to your brain. It's these nerve endings that, when stimulated, make you want to cough.

However earlier studies suggest that theobromine also acts on the vagus nerve endings. In fact one study, carried out at the National Heart and Lung Institute in London, suggested theobromine is 33% more effective at treating a persistent cough than codeine. But unlike codeine, it has no side effects.

Of course once a chocolate-based medicine is available, cough sufferers won't have the same excuse to eat chocolate to soothe their airways. Until then, try having a big mug of hot chocolate whenever you feel a tickle in your chest (let us know if it works for you).

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