Honey relieves Coughs

Author Prof. J. Spranger, University Department of Pediatrics Mainz

A cough is a defensive reflex that enhances the clearance of secretions and particles from the airways. A persistent cough is distressing, disturbs the whole family’s sleep and is normally treated with one of the numerous cough medications on the market, whose effectiveness is rarely sufficiently tested. An old household remedy – honey – is another popular demulcent. In a randomised, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial, 45 children aged one to five years with an upper respiratory tract infection, defined by the presence of an acute cough and rhinorrhoea, received 10 ml of buckwheat honey at bedtime [1]. The 45 children in the randomised control group were administered a sucrose solution of the same colour, viscosity, flavour and taste. Parents completed two 5-item questionnaires, one regarding the night before and one regarding the night of the intervention. Their responses on cough frequency and severity and disturbance of child and parental sleep were graded on a validated 7-point Likert scale. All of these items significantly (p<0.01) improved post-intervention.

Comment: This study may not qualify as a highly scientific investigation, but it is a sound basis for prescribing a cough medication containing honey. It is possible to find recipes for a soothing honey and onion syrup on Google, whereby there is no risk that this might be secretly guzzled, as sweet cough syrups frequently are, and so the risk of overdose can be avoided [2].

[1] Mani SJ, Laxman S, Merina S (2019) Role of honey in children with acute cough in upper respiratory tract infection: randomized placebo-controlled study. J Pediatr Neonatal Care 9(3): 71-75.
[2] Schaefer MK, Shehab N, Cohen AL, Budnitz DS (2008) Adverse events from cough and cold medications in children. Pediatrics 121(4): 783-787.