Cocoa water and cherry juice for coughs

Basic recipe (the TL:DR version!)

2 heaping tablespoons cocoa
Honey to taste (preferably raw!)
1 cup tart cherry juice (must be pure cherry, should be tart, use black cherry juice if you can’t find tart)
Water, seltzer or almond/rice/coconut milk to taste. NOT dairy milk (and I don’t ever recommend soy for anyone but that’s another post.)

Mix cocoa and honey into a paste.
Add a tiny bit of hot water and stir
Add a little more and stir.
Once it is thin enough to mix well, add the rest of whatever liquids you want. They can be hot liquids if you prefer. The cherry juice is not just for flavor, it helps pain.
Drink up to half right away. Sip the rest as needed.

For more discussion, look behind the cut.

Note, I wrote this over the course of a couple years (hence references to being pregnant which I am not currently and will never again be) and I’m pasting it out from Facebook to make it easier to find. I’ll do the same for my magnesium post in a bit.

Most of the time home remedies are for the small stuff, and you pull out the big drugs for big sickness. But there are a few things I’ve found (and research supports) that work better than drugs for some fairly difficult illnesses.

I wrote about magnesium for asthma before, find that note here:

Another HUGE help is tapping into the cough suppressant powers of theobromine. Found mostly in chocolate, the darker the better.

Theobromine seems to work directly on the nerve responsible for the cough reflex, which is different from just about any other cough suppressant out there. Codeine and other narcotics suppress cough, but they also suppress the central nervous system and have a host of other side effects. Dextromethorphan (the DM in Robitussin DM) is so-so as a cough suppressant, and is not ideal in pregnancy or young children. Cough drops may help. But some coughs don’t respond to any of those things. I discovered cocoa as a cough cure while sick with the whooping cough when I was pregnant with Shiny.

If you’ve never had whooping cough (pertussis), you’re very fortunate. They’ve only very recently realized that the vaccine wears off and needs to be re-delivered every 5-10 years. Because people who’ve been vaccinated don’t have the typical “whoop” most of the time, it’s rare for doctors to diagnose that cough correctly. If you ever had bouts of coughing on and off for months on end with no apparent cause, when nothing would help it, and it was often triggered by drinking or eating so that you thought you were chronically getting something down the wrong pipe, it may well have been pertussis. Mine was more obvious than that. In full blown whooping cough, the nerve that triggers bouts of coughing is very irritated, the mucus in the lungs is very sticky, and the cilia that move the mucus out are damaged. This means you start coughing and your lungs stick shut and you can’t get much of a breath in, sometimes you even turn blue. I had a CPAP with me all the time to literally force my lungs back open. I tried codeine and dextromethorphan in desperation, but they did little, and I didn’t like taking them pregnant.

Then I read about cocoa, that it was more effective… and I popped a dark chocolate truffle in my mouth, and the coughing got a little better.

Then, leery of all the fat in dark chocolate and truffles, I mixed cocoa powder with a bit of sugar and water and sipped that. I didn’t want dairy, which seems to make coughs worse, so I just mixed it to a drinkable consistency and sipped it… and the coughing got manageable. It didn’t go away, but it improved.

Now, I use eryhthritol, which is a sugar alcohol most people tolerate very well. It is very, very low in calories. It can be found by itself in the health food aisle (read labels on the low calorie sweeteners) or in Purevia and Truvia in almost any grocery store. It doesn’t have the intestinal side effects of some of the other sugar alcohols. I don’t tolerate many sweeteners, but this one I do okay with.

So… the winter recipe uses hot water, the summer recipe uses cold.

Mix a few spoonfuls of cocoa with a granulated sweetener of choice. I prefer erythritol or coconut sugar. Granulated just helps the stuff blend better. Use a fork to mix the dry ingredients. You can always add more sweet later if it’s too bitter, so don’t go overboard. Then add a tablespoon or two of water, and mix to a thick paste. Then add a few more tablespoons of water, keep mixing, then add water until it’s a drinkable consistency. Sip. NOTE: Honey may actually improve the function of this recipe. But it is harder to mix. You can do this in a blender if you have the energy.

Most people find this helps for hours.

It is not only safe for pregnancy, it is beneficial. They’ve done analyses of births, asking moms about chocolate intake and testing infants’ cord blood samples for theobromine, and discovered that when babies had higher levels of theobromine, the rates of preeclampsia and high blood pressure in late pregnancy had been much less. Another study looked at mood in babies and found that at 6 months, babies whose mothers ate chocolate were calmer and happier than the babies of moms who abstained.

Cocoa is a good antioxidant, a mild anticoagulant, and an antiinflammatory. It does have small amounts of caffeine, but they’re very low indeed. Theobromine is related to caffeine, but is much less stimulating.

All that said… productive coughs should not be suppressed, not round the clock. This is best for nonproductive coughs, or before a rest period to allow for better sleep.


I’ve got a bad bronchitis or a medium nasty pneumonia, at 34 weeks pregnant there’s not a lot of testing we’re willing to do to distinguish between the two. It’s probably viral with a secondary bacterial infection, although it feels, oddly enough, more like a bacterial infection with a secondary viral infection, based on the course. Nevertheless, it’s something that’s spreading like wildfire, everywhere, and at 34 weeks pregnant, my treatment options include antibiotics and… Well, here’s the thing that helps the most:

We start with the Cocoa Water recipe above. 2-3 tablespoons (heaping) of cocoa. 2-3 tablespoons (to taste, level) of sweetener, be it erythritol, sugar, raw sugar or good raw honey. (Manuka raw honey may be very helpful if you want to go that route.)

Those get mixed in a large glass… 16-22 ounces is what we’ve been doing, because the low grade fever that comes along with this, plus the constant coughing demands TONS of fluids.

Then we add CHERRY JUICE, a few tablespoons at a time, shooting for between 1/2 and 1 full cup of cherry juice. The juice MUST be 100% cherry juice, no blends, the tarter, or darker, the better. (Tart cherries are the first choice, dark are the second.) Organic is even better still, as cherries are a high-pesticide crop. Stir well with a fork between each addition, to mix well.

Then we fill up the glass with water. You can use hot, you can use cold, you could even add seltzer. Whatever. Just not cow milk.

This is NOT the best tasting mixture in the world, but it’s not bad. What it does do is nearly instantly relieve throat pain, ease chest constriction, and stop coughing in its tracks. I sip about half, slowly, and then can usually manage to sleep 3-4 hours before waking in a panic to cough the goo that’s accumulated out. Then I sip the rest.

Between that and Halls cough drops (which are mainly to make breathing a little more comfy and numb the sore throat that comes with hacking up infectious mucus violently and often), the illness is just a little less scary.

Why cherry juice? Cherry juice, in studies, works as a pain reliever and anti-inflammatory  This is ESPECIALLY valuable in pregnancy, where something like cherry juice is harmless, but ibuprofen is forbidden in the third trimester. And the relief is rapid and immediate. Drinking cherry juice alone is helpful…but neither cherry juice alone or cocoa alone work as well as the two do together.

My sister notes that they can be done separately. Which is true, I just find it more efficient to do them at once. Her way probably tastes better…lol!

Posted in Health, Home Remedies, Recipes.

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