Honey better treatment for coughs and colds than antibiotics, study claims.
Backing for honey remedy – Honey may be better than other treatments for coughs,
blocked noses and sore throats, Oxford university researchers have said. They combed
through studies that compared honey and preparations containing it, against antihistamines,
expectorants, cough suppressants and painkillers. Honey seemed more effective than usual
care for improving symptoms, especially the frequency and severity of coughing, they found.
The authors say more research is needed but honey might be considered by doctors as a way
to safely treat upper respiratory tract symptoms. “Upper respiratory tract infections are the
most frequent reason for antibiotic prescription. Since the majority of URTIs are viral, antibiotic prescription is both ineffective and inappropriate.”
Honey may be better than conventional treatments for coughs, blocked noses and sore throats, researchers have said. The substance is cheap, readily available, and has virtually no side-effects. Doctors can recommend it as a suitable alternative to antibiotics, which are often prescribed for such infections, even though they are not effective, scientists from the University of Oxford said. Upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) affect the nose, throat, voice box and the large air passages (bronchi) that lead from the windpipe to the lungs. There is evidence for honey being used in children, and it has long been used as a home remedy to treat coughs and colds. But the evidence for its effectiveness for a range of upper respiratory tract symptoms in adults has not been systematically reviewed.
To address this, the scientists looked at research databases for relevant studies comparing honey and preparations that included it as an ingredient with usual care – mostly antihistamines, expectorants, cough suppressants and painkillers. They found 14 suitable clinical trials, involving 1,761 participants of varying ages. Data analysis of the studies indicated that honey was more effective than usual care for improving symptoms, especially the frequency and severity of coughing. Two of the studies showed that symptoms lasted one to two days less among those treated with honey. However, the researchers, Hibatullah Abuelgasim, of the Oxford University Medical School, and Charlotte Albury and Joseph Lee, of the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, noted that honey is a complex substance and not a uniform product. They also pointed out that only two of the studies involved a placebo, saying more such studies need to be done before definitive conclusions can be reached.
The researchers suggest honey might therefore provide an alternative when doctors want to prescribe something to safely treat upper respiratory tract symptoms.Writing in the journal BMJ Evidence Based Medicine, the authors said: “Upper respiratory tract infections are the most frequent reason for antibiotic prescription. Since the majority of URTIs are viral, antibiotic prescription is both ineffective and inappropriate.”
They conclude: “Honey is a frequently used lay remedy that is well known to patients. It is also cheap, easy to access, and has limited harms. When clinicians wish to prescribe for URTI, we would recommend honey as an alternative to antibiotics. “Honey is more effective and less harmful than usual care alternatives and avoids causing harm through antimicrobial resistance.”