Honey: A Sweet Cough Remedy

December 26, 2016

It’s that time again.

Cold and flu season is underway, and many are seeking a natural way to alleviate symptoms, especially the dreaded cough.


Honey is one of the oldest known medicines and has been used to treat cough for ages. Modern research has also started to accumulate to back up this traditional usage.

Many studies have focused on the effectiveness of honey for cough in children. Honey has a fantastic safety profile with very limited risks and side effects, making it an ideal candidate for treatment of children. Individual studies have shown honey to be more effective than placebo, and as effective or more effective than dextromethorphan (the DM in cough syrups),  albuterol (an inhaler commonly used for asthma) and diphenhydramine (the active ingredient in Benedryl). [1]–[5]

A short 2014 review published in the Journal Canadian Family Physician suggests a dose of 2.5 mL  (about 1/2 tsp) of honey given as a single dose at bedtime to quiet a child’s night time cough. [6]

Honey has also been studied in combination with coffee in adults for the treatment of persistent post-infectious cough (PPC), which is when a cough lingers after the infection has cleared up. The study showed that one tablespoon of honey served in one cup of coffee, three times daily for one week, was more effective than the steroid prednisone or guaifenesin (an over the counter cough medication) [7].

Overall, the evidence agrees with traditional wisdom:
Honey offers safe, effective (and tasty) relief from cough symptoms for both children and adults.
Add a tablespoon to your coffee or tea to enjoy sweet relief!

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References (with links)

[1]         O. Oduwole, M. M. Meremikwu, A. Oyo-Ita, and E. E. Udoh, “Honey for acute cough in children,” in Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, no. 12, O. Oduwole, Ed. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 2014, p. CD007094.

[2]         A. Waris, M. Macharia, E. K. Njeru, and F. Essajee, “RANDOMISED DOUBLE BLIND STUDY TO COMPARE EFFECTIVENESS OF HONEY, SALBUTAMOL AND PLACEBO IN TREATMENT OF COUGH IN CHILDREN WITH COMMON COLD.,” East Afr. Med. J., vol. 91, no. 2, pp. 50–6, Feb. 2014.

[3]         S. Miceli Sopo et al., “Effect of multiple honey doses on non-specific acute cough in children. An open randomised study and literature review,” Allergol. Immunopathol. (Madr)., vol. 43, no. 5, pp. 449–455, Sep. 2015.

[4]         M. P. Nitsche and M. Carreño, “Is honey an effective treatment for acute cough in children?,” Medwave, vol. 16, no. Suppl2, pp. e6454–e6454, May 2016.

[5]         H. A. Cohen et al., “Effect of Honey on Nocturnal Cough and Sleep Quality: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Study,” Pediatrics, vol. 130, no. 3, pp. 465–471, Sep. 2012.

[6]         R. D. Goldman, “Honey for treatment of cough in children.,” Can. Fam. Physician, vol. 60, no. 12, pp. 1107–8, 1110, Dec. 2014.

[7]         M. A. Raeessi, J. Aslani, N. Raeessi, H. Gharaie, A. A. K. Zarchi, and F. Raeessi, “Honey plus coffee versus systemic steroid in the treatment of persistent post-infectious cough: a randomised controlled trial,” Prim. Care Respir. J., vol. 22, no. 3, pp. 325–330, Aug. 2013.

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