Coughing is one of the main symptoms of COVID-19. So it’s not surprising that people with the illness are using cough syrup.
That could be a bad idea.
New research shows that dextromethorphan, a common active ingredient in dozens of over-the-counter cough syrups, capsules, and lozenges appeared to boost replication of the coronavirus when tested under laboratory conditions.
This doesn’t necessarily mean it does the same thing in the human body. But it is possible, researchers say, that dextromethorphan could make COVID-19 worse.
Researchers at the Pasteur Institute in Paris introduced dextromethorphan into African green monkey cells. The monkeys are widely used for medical research because they are genetically similar to humans. African green monkeys are susceptible to COVID-19, just like people are.
When scientists added coronavirus to the monkey cells that were dosed with dextromethorphan, the germs grew faster and more abundantly than normal.
This effect has yet to be confirmed in humans. But in the meantime, the researchers recommend that people avoid medications containing dextromethorphan if they have or think they may have COVID-19.
5 Natural Cough Remedies
In addition to potentially worsening COVID-19, dextromethorphan has other dangers. It works by interfering with signals in the brain that trigger the cough reflex. That means it can have mental side effects. They include confusion, sedation, dizziness, and nervousness.
Here are five safe and effective natural remedies:
- Dark chocolate. A study led by Imperial College London and published in FASEB journal looked at theobromine. It’s a nutrient in chocolate. It was 33 % more effective at stopping coughs than codeine. And it caused no adverse effects.
While theobromine is found in chocolate, a Snickers bar isn’t going to cut it. The darker the chocolate, the better. Unsweetened dark chocolate has 450 mg of theobromine per ounce. An ounce or two should help your cough. Sweetened dark chocolate contains 150 mg per ounce. Milk chocolate only has 60 mg per ounce.
It’s best to stick with organic dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao. Lightly roasted cacao nibs are also a great choice. You can find both at health food or grocery stores.
- Ginger. A review of the medical literature published in the American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology found that ginger’s anti-inflammatory compounds relax membranes in the airways. This can relieve coughing.
Make a tea using 20 to 40 grams of fresh ginger. Allow it to steep for a few minutes in hot water before straining it. Enhance the flavor with honey and lemon juice, which will also soothe your throat.
- Bromelain. This enzyme is found in pineapples. It suppresses coughs and mucus production.
Eat sliced fresh pineapple for cough relief. You can also take bromelain supplements. They’re available in health food stores and from online retailers. Avoid bromelain if you’re on a blood thinner or an antibiotic such as amoxicillin.
- Peppermint. The menthol in peppermint leaves soothes the throat. It also works as a decongestant. Take it in the form of peppermint tea. Or make a steam bath. Add three or four drops of peppermint oil to a bowl of hot water. Lean your face directly over the cup with a towel over your head and breath in the vapors.
- Thyme. This herb contains flavonoids that reduce inflammation and soothe the muscles involved in coughing. One study found that thyme extract mixed with ivy relieves cough and bronchitis.
You can get thyme supplements in capsules and liquid extract form. Follow the suggested dosage on the label. Thyme causes stomach upset in some people if used excessively.
If you have or suspect you have COVID-19, the last thing you need is a medication that could make it worse. Stick with a natural remedy for cough relief.
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