KEY POINTS

  • New research review shed light on honey’s effectiveness against coughs and colds
  • Honey found more effective than antibiotics and over-the-counter cough medicines
  • Despite its health benefits, honey should still be taken in moderation

A new review is shedding light on honey’s efficiency in soothing coughs and colds in adults and also comparing the sweet food substance to over-the-counter medications.

In a new research review published in the journal BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine, a team of University of Oxford researchers led by Hibatullah Abuelgasim examined the effectiveness of honey for symptomatic relief in upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) commonly caused by viruses. 

According to the researchers, there is a need to find an effective alternative for antibiotics when treating URTIs because the latter could lead to antimicrobial resistance. Since honey has been recommended by physicians and medical professionals for acute cough and URTIs in children, it is a good candidate. 

Abuelgasim and his colleagues did not just focus on honey’s effects on children but on all ages. They reviewed several studies involving adults and found that honey was just as effective in clearing up respiratory infections as with children. The researchers also found honey superior to antibiotics when it comes to addressing symptoms of URTIs. 

However, they indicated that in the studies they reviewed, honey wasn’t taken solely. Some people who used honey as a natural remedy to the common coughs and colds took the substance in combination with coffee. Others combined it with herbal syrups. 

Honey is rich in antioxidants, so the researchers believed that this may have helped relieved the cold symptoms. As for the cough symptoms, the viscosity of the substance could have helped it coat the irritated throat, soothing it in the process, Live Science said.

Previous research revealed that over-the-counter drugs did not really provide that much relief for sore throats and colds. A 2004 study published in the journal Pediatrics found that OTC cough medicines dextromethorphan and diphenhydramine did not work better than a placebo. A follow-up study published in 2007 found that honey did better than the cough medicines in reducing cough frequency in children.

Aside from URTIs, honey is also considered a nutritional product that has been linked to the management of multiple diseases. A 2017 study published in the journal PubMed Central suggested that honey could help treat asthma, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, gastrointestinal diseases, neurological diseases, and even cancer. 

Despite its health benefits, the European Food Information Council warned that honey should be taken in moderation only because of its high sugar and calorie content. 

honey-823614_1920 Pure honey. Photo: Photo by Pixabay (CC0)