CLAIM

A study has proved that pineapple juice is five times more effective than cough syrup.

RATING

ORIGIN

A graphic proclaiming that pineapple juice is a much more efficient remedy for coughs than over-the-counter cough syrups are has been shared via social media multiple times over the last several years, most commonly on alternative health sites:

The provided advice given is certainly specific (and compelling, as few of us find Robitussin more palatable than pineapple juice), and most versions cite purported research proving that cough syrups pale in comparison to this better-tasting household cough remedy. However, few versions of the claim explained the mechanism by which the pineapple cough cure supposedly worked: some touted it as a cough suppressant, while others claimed that pineapple juice speeds recovery and dissolves mucus.

Most articles proffering this claim referenced a research study conducted in 2010, but locating the data in question has proved difficult. Few articles linked to any evidence at all, and most merely provided links to additional unsourced articles about the purported cough-battling properties of pineapple juice. One version referenced a particular study before adding that a second (unspecified) study bolstered the first:

Drinking pineapple juice helps soothe a sore throat and aids the body to expel mucous easily. Thick and stubborn mucus in your lungs or sinuses can cause seemingly endless spasms of coughing, sneezing and painful infections. In a study published in “Der Pharma Chemica” in 2010, researchers attempted to find beneficial treatments for patients who have tuberculosis, an infectious disease often caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. As part of their studies, they discovered that a mixture of raw pineapple juice, pepper, salt and honey given to patients every day helped to dissolve the mucus in the lungs.

In a subsequent study, research found that raw extracts from pineapple could decrease mucus five times faster than over-the-counter cough syrups. Patients recovered 4.8 times faster and exhibited a decrease in all symptoms related to coughing, especially hacking.

While we were unable to locate any other research indicating “patients recovered 4.8 times faster” when treated with pineapple juice in lieu of cough syrup, we found that the underlying source material (to which nearly all other claims referred) appeared to be a 2011 article from a small publication called Der Pharma Chemica. The article [PDF] did not appear to be a “study,” and its title had nothing to do with pineapple juice (“Use of Secondary Metabolite in Tuberculosis: A Review”).

The content of the article pertained to alternative treatments for tuberculosis, not the efficacy of pineapple as a cough suppressant, anti-viral supplement, or cold remedy. The word “pineapple” appeared a single time, and only in a context that did not in any way imply that pineapple is five times (or 500%) more effective than cold syrup for any function related to coughs:

Pineapple Juice

pepper and a dash of salt and honey can be administered to patients once everyday

This is found to be extremely helpful in dissolving mucus of the lungs in tuberculosis.

The quote above represents the entirety of the “study” so commonly cited that purportedly proves pineapple juice outstrips cough syrup on a number of efficacy metrics. How that brief and vague mention about its helpfulness in dissolving mucus (in an unrelated article about tuberculosis) morphed into a ringing endorsement of Dole over Dimetapp is anyone’s guess. It’s possible pineapple juice will someday be deemed beneficial for cough symptoms in the course of a study, but we found no current research proving pineapple juice is five hundred percent, five times, or any other multiplier more effective than cough syrup at alleviating cough symptoms, suppressing cough, dissolving mucus, or hastening recovery time from a cold.

Bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapple juice, is used by some people for a variety of medical purposes (including reducing swelling of the nose and sinuses after surgery or injury and for the treatment of hay fever), but scientific evidence documenting its usefulness for treating coughs is lacking.

Pineapple juice may not cure your cough, but bromelain works as a nifty meat tenderizer, which is why your mouth prickles when you eat it — it’s breaking down the collagen bonds on your tongue and in your cheeks.

Kumar, N.   “Use of Secondary Metabolite in Tuberculosis: A Review.”
    Der Pharma Chemica.   2011.

Toole, Michelle.   “Pineapple Juice Is 5 Times More Effective Than Cough Syrup.”
    Healthy Holistic Living.   12 September 2014.

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