Three weeks ago, one of my patients told me that she had experienced an annoying cough, after few days of cold symptoms. To help her cough, she began consuming 1 to 2 teaspoons of honey at bedtime.
This treatment helped her cough and her symptoms improved. She told me that she was close to trying over the counter medications, but the honey treatment was so effective, that she ended up not needing any medications.
Hearing this story reminded me of my childhood, since my mother gave me a glass of warm milk with one teaspoon of honey every night. That was a kind of tradition in our family. She believed that drinking milk and honey could improve sleep and also prevent cold symptoms.
I was curious and excited about my patient’s experience and I wanted to know more.
What does the research say?
Does having honey relieve the cough?
I looked at research papers and found that — as I expected– there are no high quality studies examining the validity of honey in the treatment of coughs. Most studies were small and examined the effect of eating honey, mostly in children suffering from coughs.
A systematic review looking at several studies in children, concluded that consuming honey might be better in relieving coughs in children, compared to not doing anything at all or taking Benadryl.
Honey is not for babies
Honey could contain botulinum (clostridium botulinum) spores. The toxin from these bacteria could cause muscle weakness. The most susceptible population for this infection are children younger than 12 months. That is why you should not give your babies honey.
Raise your hand, if you have heard of “Botox”. Probably, most of you are familiar with this blockbuster medication. Botox is a clostridium toxin causing controlled muscle paralysis and now increasingly used in many areas, including cosmetics treatment of headaches and muscle spasm therapy.
Cough is a symptom, not the cause
It is important to understand that a cough is usually a symptom of an underlying problem. You will not be able to eliminate the cough, without treating the its main cause. The causes of cough are multifactorial.
I have discussed several causes of cough in my previous articles. For instance, one of the frequently missed reasons for coughs are medications. You should read the article and review the list of the drugs shown to cause coughs.
Some other causes of coughs are listed below.
Lung tissue changes
If you can avoid medications and achieve your healthy goal, then you should do it.
I prefer all forms of treatments that rely more on a person’s own healing power, that is combined with natural remedies.
You might wonder whether you read the sentence above correctly. How can I say that I prefer natural remedies and a person’s own healing power over taking medications?
Be assured that you are reading an article that is written by a medical doctor.
Do I hate medications?
I do not love or hate medications. I know that medications are sometimes necessary to save lives. However, I also know that we use, prescribe and rely too much on drugs
We can often manage many conditions with simple and straightforward steps. However, unknowingly we make things too complicated and rely too often on chemicals and technology.
I believe it is easy to put every human being in a box and treat everybody the same way. However, it is difficult to understand each person’s needs and capabilities and tailor an effective treatment plan for every individual.
Some people’s medication might improve with conservative and less aggressive treatment and some might require more intrusive treatments. The art of practicing medicine is to know when to do what, to which patient and nothing more than necessary.
Let us go back to our honey and cough discussion.
It looks like, based on the available data, honey might be beneficial in relieving a cough. However, it is important that you have a clear idea about the source of the cough, before trying to manage it on your own.
Any cough that lasts longer than 7-10 days, should be examined by your doctor. If you cough up blood or have a fever, you should see your doctor sooner.
This is exactly the point. Every treatment should be tailored specifically for each person and this can only happen together with your own physician.
Next time you have a cold and you do not have any other alarming symptoms, such as weakness, dizziness, shortness of breath, fever or coughing up blood, you might want to try taking one teaspoon of honey. However, do not forget to contact your doctor, if the symptoms do not improve after 5-7 days or sooner, if your condition worsens.
Let me know if you have tried honey and were able to improve your cough.
Nevertheless, I wish you all sweet dreams. 🙂