Honey: A Cure for the Common Cough

honey cures cough
Dr. Lindsey Mcilvena, MD

In her day job, treating patients living with chronic disease, nutrition and lifestyle are not after-thoughts, they’re central to helping her patients get well. She’s also our go-to expert on plant-based diets.

With so many “natural remedies” touted on the internet, sometimes it’s hard to know what really works and what doesn’t.

Upper respiratory infections (URIs) like colds, coughs, and flu are very common; these illnesses are the second-highest reason for visits to the doctor’s office. Most of the time, these ailments are caused by viruses, meaning that traditional antibiotics won’t work. In that case, your doctor usually will recommend “supportive care,” which means lots of rest, fluids, and symptom control.

Cough is one of the most common symptoms of a URI, and sometimes can linger for many days, causing interrupted sleep. Many people find that over-the-counter cough syrups don’t help much, or they don’t like the chemicals or alcohol in those products, so they look for a better alternative.

Meet honey.

Not only does honey have antiviral properties, helping to kill the bug fueling your cough, but it also has been shown in several studies to help with nighttime cough. In a controlled trial,  honey suppressed cough better than common over-the-counter medicines. Taking 2 teaspoons of honey at bedtime (or giving it to your sick little one) can help decrease mucus secretion, allowing for less cough and more restful sleep. It’s best to use this remedy at night, allowing your body to naturally clear the mucus during the day (by coughing it up); after all, your lungs are producing that mucus for a reason!

Another benefit to using honey is the simplicity of the ingredients. Many over-the-counter cough and cold medicines contain not only cough suppressants, but also mucus busters, pain relievers, and fever reducers. It’s important to not exceed the recommended dosage of these medicines; with honey, repeated doses are not a problem.

Parents Beware! You should not give honey to any child less than one year of age. It may contain spores of the bacteria botulism, which can be a very devastating disease in small children. When in doubt, ask your doctor.

Sources: Mayo Clinic, Journal of American Pediatrics,


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