Active Ingredients

Noscapine – Effect, Application & Risks


The drug noscapine is extracted from the opium poppy . It is used to relieve cough irritation .

What is noscapine?

Noscapine is an antitussive . This means that the active ingredient is used to treat a cough . The alkaloid noscapine is obtained from the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum), which belongs to the poppy family (Papaveraceae) and from which opium can also be produced.

As an opium extract, noscapine was already known to the French pharmacist and chemist Antoine Baume (1728-1804). In 1817, his compatriot Pierre-Jean Robiquet (1780-1840) succeeded in isolating the active ingredient from opium. From a chemical point of view, the substance is a methoxy derivative of the alkaloid hydrastine. In Germany, noscapine is available as a monopreparation under the name Capval®.

Pharmacological action

Noscapine is one of the antitussives, also called cough suppressants . Antitussives have the property of inhibiting the cough center located within the brainstem . The same applies to the sensitive receptors in the lungs . However, the use of antitussives such as noscapine only makes sense if the cough is dry and does not produce mucus. Because by inhibiting the cough center, the mucus cannot be coughed up, which can, under certain circumstances, aggravate the infection.

Noscapine develops its effect exclusively peripherally. The substance has bronchodilator and respiratory stimulating effects. However, because noscapine has no pain-relieving properties, it does not belong to the opiates. In addition, no euphoric effects are triggered, so there is no potential for addiction.

Due to its peripheral properties, noscapine cannot suppress breathing or have a sedative effect. Another advantage of the drug is that the side effect of constipation , which is often associated with taking opioids, does not occur.

According to recent studies, noscapine also has the advantage of inhibiting the enzyme CYP2C9, which means that the agent has antitumor effects.

The plasma half-life of noscapine is between 2.6 and 4.5 hours. This results in an individually variable bioavailability of around 30 percent.

Medical Application & Use

Noscapine is used to treat nonproductive nocturnal dry cough. This means coughing without phlegm. The cough is not an independent disease, but is caused by certain causes. This can be acute or chronic bronchitis , chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or whooping cough (pertussis). Sometimes anatomical changes or tumors are responsible for the development of a dry cough.

Noscapine is also considered useful if the cough causes a significant strain on the heart and circulatory system . This includes, for example, the risk of an aneurysm threatening to burst due to the intense coughing. Noscapine is taken orally in the form of dragees or juice. The usual dose for children aged 6 to 12 years is three tablets a day, while children over 12 years of age and adults take 2 tablets three times a day. For babies over six months and toddlers up to five years of age, other dosage forms such as juice or drops are available that are more suitable for them.

The noscapine dragees usually contain 25 milligrams of noscapine. The juice contains 25 milligrams of noscapine in 5 grams. Coughing in adults is achieved with a dosage of 50 to 100 milligrams of noscapine. How long the antitussive has to be taken depends on the course of the disease.

Since noscapine is subject to a prescription in Germany, the drug can only be obtained from a pharmacy in this country upon presentation of a prescription.

Risks & side effects

Undesirable side effects are only rarely seen when taking noscapine. The most common are drowsiness and headaches . In some cases, itching , skin reactions and dizziness can also occur. Rarely, Quincke’s edema occurs in the face and neck region , which becomes noticeable through swelling . Other conceivable side effects are pain in the upper abdomen , shortness of breath and a feeling of anxiety . If noscapine is dosed too high, there is a risk of seizures .

Noscapine should not be taken if the patient is hypersensitive to the drug. The same applies to an allergy to components of the antitussive such as methyl hydroxybenzoate. The administration of noscapine in the case of pronounced mucus formation is not considered sensible. This prevents the mucus from being coughed up by the active ingredient. Noscapine is not suitable for children younger than six months.

You should also refrain from taking noscapine during the first trimester of pregnancy . A possible miscarriage caused by the antitussive cannot be clearly ruled out. When breastfeeding , on the other hand, there are no concerns about giving the cough suppressant, since only small amounts pass into breast milk , so that the baby is not at risk.

After taking noscapine, the patient should refrain from driving cars or other motor vehicles. The same applies to the operation of complicated machines or electrical tools, as the ability to react can be negatively affected by the drug .

In addition, interactions between noscapine and other drugs are possible. It is therefore advisable not to administer the antitussive together with expectorant preparations, as otherwise there is a risk of secretion congestion. A joint administration with opioids, sleeping pills , neuroleptics , antidepressants , sedatives and alcohol also does not make sense .

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.