Science Says: Honey is better than Cough Syrups!
Updated: Mar 29
Night time coughing associated with an upper respiratory cold is one of the most common symptoms that are reported during family doctor visits. It's no wonder since it usually causes disruption in sleep, a very visible sign of illness, and is highly common with any common cold.
In 2018 the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) took a big stand against the continued use of codeine or opioid based anti-cough medications. According to extensive research reviews, the risks of taking these medications far outweighed any benefit gained from taking them, especially in children. Known side effects of taking these opioid cough syrups included: misuse/abuse, addiction, overdose, death, and slowed/ineffective breathing.
Since this new FDA warning, doctors have been relying more on over the counter dextromethorphan (Delsym and Robitussin are two common brand names of this medication), to treat coughing. Dextromethorphan helps to reduce coughing by suppressing the medullary region of the brain (nervous system) that is responsible for the cough reflex. It does not however treat the underlying cause of the cough, which is usually from mucosal congestion dripping into the airway.
Recent research indicated that honey was actually much better at suppressing coughing than dextromethorphan or placebo (not to mention honey tastes a lot better too!). A research survey went on to indicate that parents rated honey significantly higher as a children's cough remedy when polled about the amount/duration of coughing, child's sleep, and parent's sleep when honey was used during a common cold infection.
Many honeys, like Manuka Honey, have well established antimicrobial and antioxidant effects which could help to treat the actual underlying cause of the cough.
Dextromethorphan continues to be currently widely used in the US but does have known side effects such as: nausea, dizziness, abdominal pain, drowsiness, and fatigue. In contrast, honey has relatively few side effects, mostly allergy related and are extremely rare.
Next time you get a cough and cold, we recommend you head to your honey market!