Mass Spectrometry & Spectroscopy

  • Can Honey Outdo Medicine for a Cough or Cold?

Can Honey Outdo Medicine for a Cough or Cold?

Sep 14 2020

Honey has been used as a home remedy for coughs and colds for centuries. Now new research from the Oxford University Medical School and Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences suggests the natural product could be a more effective treatment that antibiotics. Affordable, widely available and free from side-effects, the team say honey performs better than many over-the-counter medications when it comes to treating upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) and offering symptomatic relief.

According to scientists at the University of Oxford, honey loaded with therapeutic and antimicrobial properties that are highly effective at treating coughs, sore throats, blocked noses and other symptoms caused by URTIs. The team have given doctors the green light to recommend honey as an alternative to antibiotics, which are commonly prescribed but often ineffective.

Honey soothes URTI symptoms

To explore the effectiveness of honey to treat URTIs, the team dove into multiple research databases. In total, the researchers analysed the results of 14 clinical trials, involving more than 1760 patients. The results were promising, with data indicating honey can significantly improve symptoms, especially coughing. Honey also helps fight antimicrobial resistance and boost the immune system. In general, URTIs endured for one to two days less when treated with honey.

The findings were published in the journal BMJ Evidence Based Medicine, with authors Hibatullah Abuelgasim, Charlotte Albury and Joseph Lee saying “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.”

A natural alternative to antibiotics

For the team, the proven therapeutic properties and non-existent side effects of honey make it an exciting alternative to the usual antibiotics used to treat URTIs. “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,” concludes the study. “Honey is more effective and less harmful than usual care alternatives and avoids causing harm through antimicrobial resistance.”

Moving forward, the team are calling for high quality, placebo controlled trials to further explore the potential of honey as a treatment for URTIs.

While honey is highly coveted, not all products are created equal. ‘Tackling the Fraudsters: Using NMR to Detect Adulterated Honey’ explores how science is being used to regulate the industry and monitor purity.


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