Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Sweet minty relief for cough

Date:
June 11, 2012
Source:
Monell Chemical Senses Center
Summary:
New findings suggest that sucrose and menthol, ingredients commonly regarded as flavorings in cough drops or syrup, each act independently to reduce coughing. Implications range from medicinal to tobacco products.

Peppermint. Sugar and menthol each act independently to reduce coughing.
Credit: Dionisvera / Fotolia

Millions of Americans reach for their cough drops or syrup at the first sign of a cough. However, scientists are unsure if and how these popular remedies work. Now, new findings from the Monell Center suggest that sucrose and menthol, ingredients commonly regarded as flavorings in these preparations, each act independently to reduce coughing.

Related Articles


Cough is a vital protective reflex that clears the respiratory tract of threats from mechanical stimuli like food and chemical stimuli such as airborne toxins and pollutants. As such, cough is necessary to protect the lungs, keep airways clear, and preserve life.

"Individuals with a weak cough reflex are at increased risk of pneumonia and of choking. Conversely, many acute and chronic conditions involve frequent coughing, leading to 30 million health care visits annually, with billions spent on over-the-counter medications and billions more lost due to reduced productivity," said lead author, Paul M. Wise, Ph.D., a sensory psychologist at Monell.

However, many aspects of coughing remain poorly understood, including how chemicals act to trigger and modulate cough.

In the current study, which appears in the June 2012 issue of Pulmonary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 12 healthy young adults inhaled from a nebulizer containing capsaicin, the burning ingredient in chili peppers and a potent chemical stimulus for cough. After each inhalation, the amount of capsaicin was doubled. This procedure continued until the subject coughed three times within 10 seconds. The capsaicin concentration that induced the three coughs was labeled as the individual's cough threshold.

In some sessions, the subjects held either a very sweet sucrose or plain water in their mouths for three seconds, spat the liquid into a sink, and then inhaled from the nebulizer.

In other sessions, subjects inhaled three breaths of either menthol-saturated air or clean air before each capsaicin inhalation. The menthol concentration was selected to approximate the cooling intensity of a menthol cigarette.

Both sucrose and menthol increased the amount of capsaicin needed to elicit a cough relative to plain water or clean air, respectively. Sucrose increased cough threshold by about 45 percent, while menthol increased it by approximately 25 percent.

"This is the first study to empirically show that sweet taste reduces cough. This also is the first study to show that menthol alone can reduce coughing in response to a cough-eliciting agent," said Monell sensory scientist Paul Breslin, Ph.D., an author on the study.

The findings support the hypothesis that adding menthol to cigarettes, popularly known as "menthols," may make it easier to begin smoking by suppressing the cough reflex, thus making the first cigarettes less distressing.

"Menthol may dull the sensitivity of sensory nerves in the airways and thereby actually disable an important reflex mechanism that would otherwise protect smokers from the chemical and particulate irritants present in cigarette smoke," said Wise.

Studies at Monell will continue to explore the chemical elicitation of cough, along with the receptors and genes involved in this system.

Also contributing to the research was Pamela Dalton, Ph.D., of Monell. Breslin also holds a position as professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Rutgers University. Funding was provided by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders of the National Institutes of Health.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Monell Chemical Senses Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Paul M. Wise, Paul A.S. Breslin, Pamela Dalton. Sweet taste and menthol increase cough reflex thresholds. Pulmonary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 2012; 25 (3): 236 DOI: 10.1016/j.pupt.2012.03.005

Cite This Page:

Monell Chemical Senses Center. "Sweet minty relief for cough." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 June 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120611152848.htm>.
Monell Chemical Senses Center. (2012, June 11). Sweet minty relief for cough. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120611152848.htm
Monell Chemical Senses Center. "Sweet minty relief for cough." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120611152848.htm (accessed October 24, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Friday, October 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

WHO: Millions of Ebola Vaccine Doses by 2015

WHO: Millions of Ebola Vaccine Doses by 2015

AP (Oct. 24, 2014) The World Health Organization said on Friday that millions of doses of two experimental Ebola vaccines could be ready for use in 2015 and five more experimental vaccines would start being tested in March. (Oct. 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctor in NYC Quarantined With Ebola

Doctor in NYC Quarantined With Ebola

AP (Oct. 24, 2014) An emergency room doctor who recently returned to the city after treating Ebola patients in West Africa has tested positive for the virus. He's quarantined in a hospital. (Oct. 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) Conflicting studies published in the same week re-ignited the debate over whether we should be eating breakfast. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Fears Keep Guinea Hospitals Empty

Ebola Fears Keep Guinea Hospitals Empty

AP (Oct. 23, 2014) Fears of Ebola are keeping doctors and patients alike away from hospitals in the West African nation of Guinea. (Oct. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins