Instead of Echinacea, Try Chocolate for a Cough or Cold

Theobromine, a chemical found in chocolate and cocoa, could be more effective than echinacea in curing a cold.

It’s sniffles season, and you’ve probably heard that an over-the-counter herbal treatment, echinacea, can lead to a speedy recovery. But according to a couple of recent studies, you may want to try a sweeter solution: chocolate.

Recently, researchers at University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Medicine and Public Health put echinacea’s health claims to the test. They rounded up more than 700 people with common colds, and gave some of them Echinacea, gave others a placebo pill, and gave the rest of the subjects no pills at all. The herbal remedy had some effect—those who’d taken the pills felt better seven to 10 hours before the other subjects—but it wasn’t what the researchers were hoping for.

“This dose regimen did not make a large impact on the course of the common cold, compared either to blinded placebo or to no pills,” lead researcher Bruce Barrett wrote in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Instead, you might want to try your mother’s remedy: a cup of hot cocoa (marshmallows optional). It’s more than just a simple comfort—chocolate and cocoa contain a chemical called theobromine, which is known to be effective in suppressive coughs.

British scientists are currently working to develop a drug based on the chemical, which can be used as an alternative to cough syrups that contain opiates and aren’t advised for people under 18. The drug is likely to be on the market within two years—but until then, when you’re feeling unwell, just eat a piece of chocolate instead.

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