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28 September 2020

Honey better than over-the-counter cold treatments, study finds

Could your doc start prescribing honey for coughs and colds?

Taking honey when you’ve got a cold could be a better option than reaching for pricey over-the-counter products.

A July 2020 review published in the British Medical Journal Evidence-Based Medicine concluded honey was superior to “usual care” alternatives for improving symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) – think aliments such as coughs and colds.

The review looked at 14 studies comparing honey with other treatment options, such as cough syrups, and found honey had the edge, particularly for reducing cough frequency and severity.

The authors concluded opting for honey could also cut down on antibiotic overprescribing and help slow the spread of antibiotic resistance.

Evidence suggests antibiotics continue to be prescribed for colds and flu. However, these illnesses are caused by viruses, not bacteria, and taking antibiotics won’t help. New Zealand data shows some antibiotics are prescribed 37 percent more in winter – when cold and flu cases are higher – than in summer.

Most of the 14 studies included in the review involved children. While more research is needed, the authors recommended honey could be used by doctors who want to provide treatment for URTIs.

Does it matter what type of honey? The review didn’t suggest one type was any better than another. The varieties used in the studies ranged from eucalyptus to wildflower honey.

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