Cough is a common and protective reflex, but persistent coughing is debilitating and impairs quality of life. Antitussive treatment using opioids is limited by unacceptable side effects, and there is a great need for more effective remedies. The present study demonstrates that theobromine, a methylxanthine derivative present in cocoa, effectively inhibits citric acid-induced cough in guinea-pigs in vivo. Furthermore, in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study in man, theobromine suppresses capsaicin-induced cough with no adverse effects. We also demonstrate that theobromine directly inhibits capsaicin-induced sensory nerve depolarization of guinea-pig and human vagus nerve suggestive of an inhibitory effect on afferent nerve activation. These data indicate the actions of theobromine appear to be peripherally mediated. We conclude theobromine is a novel and promising treatment, which may form the basis for a new class of antitussive drugs.