Honey is More Efficient Than Medication for Curing Respiratory Symptoms

​Honey has been proved to be more effective and less harmful than common medication used to improve symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections, more so when it comes to cough frequency and cough severity, as per a systematic review and meta-analysis of previous research, published in the journal BMJ Evidence Based Medicine.​

Upper respiratory tract infections are the most common reason for antibiotic prescription. Because most of these infections are viral, antibiotic prescription is ineffective, inappropriate, and also extremely harmful.

Honey vs. Usual Medication

Still, a lack of effective drugs and medical misinformation, as well as a desire to maintain the patient-doctor relationship, contribute to antibiotic overprescription. 

“Honey is a well known traditional therapy for symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections,” said lead author Hibatullah Abuelgasim from the Oxford University Medical School and fellow colleagues. “Guidelines recommend it for acute cough in children but the evidence base for honey use for other upper respiratory tract infections symptoms and populations has not been evaluated.”

The team, therefore, systematically reviewed the use of honey for the improvement of symptoms linked to these infections, in patients of all ages and coming from any setting.

Abuelgasim and University of Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences researchers Charlotte Albury and Joseph Lee assayed numerous studies that drew comparisons between the effect of taking honey – in forms including teas, neat, or mixed with other ingredients – to either regular ‘care,’ such as antibiotics, over-the-counter syrups, and drugs, or placebos.

The researchers included 14 different studies in their analysis, all of which were completely randomized controlled trials. They discovered that, in comparison to the usual medication, honey was associated with a significantly greater reduction in symptoms, more so in cough severity and frequency.

Use Honey for Cough and Tract Infections​

“Honey has long been known as a traditional treatment for symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections, such as coughs and sore throat,” Dr. Lee said. “Since 2018, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and Public Health England (PHE) have recommended the use of honey to treat the symptoms of acute coughs in adults and children five years or older.”

The findings have so far been found in three randomized controlled trials, with more to come. The work of the team adds to this evidence base and concentrates on upper respiratory tract infections.

“Doctors often prescribe antibiotics for upper respiratory tract infections, even when they could be fairly certain they might offer no clinical benefit, often due to a lack of alternative treatments and an earnest desire to help patients feel better,” Dr. Albury said. “This research gives us good quality evidence that can help doctors be confident when suggesting people use honey.”

Honey is not expensive at all, as well as widely available. Many people will most likely have a jar of honey sitting in the cupboard anyway, so it is worth giving it a try before visiting the doctor, the researchers said.

“Of course, if symptoms are getting worse, or you feel very unwell, then contact your GP,” Dr. Lee added.

Overall, three to four teaspoons of honey per day should help relieve the symptoms, but you can consume more if the cough or infection is a bit severe because it has no side effects whatsoever.

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