The researchers looked at 14 different studies and 1,761 study participants to analyze the effectiveness of honey in treating URTIs. They compared honey and preparations that included it as a component with regular care - primarily antihistamines, expectorants, cough suppressants, and painkillers. The team discovered that honey's antimicrobial properties helped it to outmatch the standard of care when tackling symptoms and reducing a cough's intensity.
"It provides a widely available and cheap alternative to antibiotics," the authors wrote in the study. "Honey could help efforts to slow the spread of antimicrobial resistance."
Is honey a better alternative to antibiotics?
The healing properties of honey have been used for thousands of years. However, its efficacy in treating common illnesses has not been thoroughly researched. This new study could be a good step in that direction.
The researchers noted that the overuse of antibiotics for treating URTIs is primarily because doctors are incorrectly prescribing them to treat viral infections, which don’t react to antibiotics.
"Upper respiratory tract infections are the most frequent reason for antibiotic prescription," study authors Hibatullah Abuelgasim of the Oxford University Medical School and Charlotte Albury and Joseph Lee of the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences wrote. "Since the majority of URTIs are viral, antibiotic prescription is both ineffective and inappropriate," write the researchers.
Since antibiotics are known to cause side effects and antibiotic resistance is on the rise, the advantages of using honey as an alternative remedy to treat cough and cold could be quite significant.
When the team compared honey with placebo, though, the authors couldn’t reach the same conclusion, like they did when looking at the other comparative studies. They added that more studies need to be conducted on honey since it's a complex substance.
They conclude: “Honey is a frequently used 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.
Other benefits of raw honey
Related Article: Is Raw Honey Better For You Than the Regular Variety?
Even if you are unwilling to believe that honey could be an effective treatment for coughs and colds, there are innumerable benefits of raw honey that simply can't be ignored.
Over the years, several other studies have proven that honey can kill unwanted bacteria and fungus and is effective against dozens of strains, including E. coli and salmonella. Honey even naturally contains hydrogen peroxide, which is an antiseptic.
Furthermore, a specific type of honey from New Zealand called manuka, and Malaysian tualang honey, have been shown to combat staph infections and the digestive bacteria responsible for peptic ulcers, H. pylori. In fact, manuka honey is used in medical settings to treat wounds. Further studies have indicated that this honey can boost healing time and reduce infection.
Another study conducted on 139 children had found that honey did a better job of alleviating nighttime cough and improving sleep than cough suppressant dextromethorphan and Benadryl.
Honey also has phytonutrients that have antioxidant properties, along with antibacterial and antifungal power. If that’s not enough, honey is also a powerful probiotic. This means that it nurtures the good bacteria that live in the intestines, crucial for digestion and overall health.
Find out more about different honey remedies for common health problems in this article.
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