Researchers say that honey is more effective than antibiotics and most over-the-counter medicines at treating coughs and colds.
The researchers, from Oxford University Medical School and Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, say that many medications for upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) are ineffective and can have harmful side effects. They see continuing prescribing of antibiotics for URTIs as a particular problem, because they are ineffective, and contribute to antimicrobial resistance.
The researchers say that, while there is ’emerging evidence’ of the usefulness of honey in treating URTIs, a systematic review of good quality published studies has been lacking.
Honey is more effective and less harmful than usual care alternatives and avoids causing harm through antimicrobial resistance
In the new study, published in the British Medical Journal, the researchers examined the results of 14 clinical trials, involving 1,761 participants of varying ages, comparing honey (although not differentiating honey types) preparations that included it as an ingredient with usual care – mostly antihistamines, expectorants, cough suppressants and painkillers.
The researchers found that honey was ‘superior to usual care for the improvement of symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections’, with the strongest evidence in the context of cough frequency and cough severity.
They said: “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.”