Chocolate could hold the key to a new kind of cough medicine according to researchers at the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London.


Early tests carried out by the researchers showed that a naturally occurring chemical called theobromine, which is present in cocoa beans, was effective at tackling coughs.


The researchers found that in the ten healthy non-smokers that they tested, theobromine was better than a placebo or codeine, a traditional ingredient of cough medicine, at treating an artificially provoked cough.


Experts have stressed, however, that the research is still in its early stages and that people should not start eating lots of chocolate bars if they have a cough.


Dr Omar Sharif Usmani, respiratory physician at the National Heart and Lung Institute and member of The British Thoracic Society, which led the research, told BBC News Online it was not clear if theobromine suppressed the action of coughing or cleared mucus from the lungs.
 
“We don’t know how this drug works, but it gives us an insight into possible applications and treatments.”
 
But he added: “If it does work, it will just be a white tablet that is tasteless, and colourless – it will not be chocolate flavoured.”


Around £100m (US$156.9m) is spent annually on cough medicines in the UK and experts say more research is needed into treatment for persistent coughs.