Honey for Cough and Honey for Sore Throat
"honey is more effective and less harmful than usual care alternatives"
Countless generations have used honey for cough and honey for sore throat. In fact, these may be two of the best known health benefits of honey. But did you know why honey is good for cough and honey is good for sore throat? Read on to find out more about this healing gift from nature.
Doctors Agree - Honey for Cough Works
Clinical studies support the use of honey for cough and honey for sore throat. In a 2007 study, 105 children with cough symptoms were given honey, cough syrup or nothing before bedtime. Honey ranked first for reducing cough frequency and severity. A similar study from 2010 ranked honey first for reducing cough frequency and severity. Honey also improved sleep quality. And in a 2012 study, children with respiratory infections were given honey or a honey-like placebo. The children taking the honey all fared better than the children receiving the placebo. In 2013, based on these and other studies, two pediatricians recommended honey for cough as the best treatment for young children (ages 1 to 5) with upper respiratory problems. NOTE: Raw honey should never be given to children under 1 year old.
More recently in 2020, scientists at the University of Oxford Medical School reviewed all relevant studies they could find about using honey for cough and honey for sore throat. They identified 14 separate clinical trials involving 1,761 participants of varying ages. Based on their analysis of the data, they concluded that "Honey is more effective and less harmful than usual care alternatives and avoids causing harm through anti-microbial resistance." Moreover, they found that honey is cheap, readily available and has virtually no side effects.
How and Why Does Honey for Cough Work?
The short answer is that raw honey has natural antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and antioxidant properties that help to calm a cough, soothe a sore throat and boost your immune system. The long answer follows.
Your nose and throat contain thin layers of skin called mucous membranes. These membranes secrete a thick fluid (mucus) that collects and traps dirt, dust, bacteria and viruses, and then expels them from your body. But when the mucus defenses are breached, and germs pass through to the membranes, these sensitive areas become inflamed and irritated. This is what causes you to cough. To make matters worse, mucus production is compromised and so the problem continues until the area heals.
To get quick relief you need a mucus substitute and honey is perfect for the job. Honey is sticky and thick, thus providing an ideal mucus substitute to cover your mucous membranes. Even better, however, honey contains natural anti-bacterial properties. Raw honey contains an enzyme that converts into hydrogen peroxide when it is combined with salt and water found in your saliva. So while coating your throat, some of the honey is changing into an all-natural disinfectant to kill the harmful bacteria. Next, honey is also hydroscopic (it attracts water). When honey meets bacteria, it actually pulls the water out of the bacteria cell, killing it through dehydration. Next, raw honey often contains small amounts of propolis - a sticky substance made by bees from tree resin. Propolis has anti-septic properties that prevent the growth of harmful microorganisms. Finally, raw honey contains a number of beneficial chemicals from plants (phytochemicals) that help to support the body's immune system. How's that for a 1-2-3-4-5 punch back against sore throats and coughing?
What Kind of Honey for Cough?
There is not much research on this question, but there is anecdotal evidence that darker and thicker honey is better for cough suppression. The most important thing is that the honey must be raw and unfiltered. Raw honey is unpasteurized (i.e., not heated to 160 degrees Fahrenheit). And when honey is unfiltered, the beneficial "tag-alongs" such as pollen and propolis remain in the honey.
Generally, any good quality raw honey is good for treating a cough. If we had to select a couple that are especially good, then we would recommend Wildflower (robust and dark) or Basswood. Basswood honey comes from the American Linden tree. Herbalists have long used dried linden flowers to make an herbal tea that is good for treating respiratory ailments. Since basswood honey will have some of the same pollen found in the linden flowers, we believe it is a good choice for treating coughs and sore throats.
How Much Honey Should I Take For My Cough
Use all-natural, raw and unfiltered honey for cough and sore throat relief. Take the honey one teaspoon at a time, as needed. You cannot "overdose" on honey as there are no synthetic chemicals or strong medicines to worry about. But it is a sweetener and should therefore be used in moderation.
Homemade Cough Remedy
A favorite cough remedy from earlier days is to blend raw honey with some fresh ginger and lemon juice. Wash a whole lemon very thoroughly and then cut into round slices. Remove as many seeds as possible. Peel a piece of fresh ginger and cut into thin pieces. Put the ginger and lemon slices in a wide mouth jar (Mason jars work well) and then cover with honey. Place the jar in the refrigerator and allow it to steep for a few days; shake the jar once or twice a day. Then use the infused honey as your homemade cough syrup. Make just enough to last a couple weeks as that is how long it will safely last in the refrigerator.
As an alternative "one dose" remedy, add several slices of both lemon and ginger to a large tea mug, add a teabag of your favorite herbal tea, and then pour in some hot water. After a few minutes of steeping, remove the lemon, ginger and tea bag and then add 1 or 2 teaspoons of raw honey.
An Even Better Honey Cough Syrup
Elderberry juice is also a favorite home remedy for coughs and for strengthening your immune system. So we figured that combining honey and elderberry together would make an ever better power food and cough remedy. And that's what we did. As one customer told us: "It's the best cough syrup I have ever found."