Honey: Better Than Cough Syrup?

Honey: Better Than Cough Syrup?

Home remedies for cold or flu symptoms are often scrutinized. Sometimes it is hard to know if they actually work. Sometimes the memory of grandma or mom administering them creates a placebo effect. However, evidence exists that some of the common cold and flu remedies may actually have health benefits. In fact, many parents are ditching the cough syrup in favor of a home remedy most of us have tried a time or two to knock out a cough: honey.

Why is cough syrup becoming less popular among medical providers?

A sick child causes much stress for parents and caregivers. Child illnesses may mean less sleep for everyone. This results in dangerous mistakes. There are many incidents reported of children accidentally being given a double dosage of cough medications.1 Few studies exist for over the counter medications  usage in small children. The proper dosage for children is not even known. Although bothersome, a cough in itself is not necessarily bad either. Coughing can help clear mucus from your airway. In otherwise healthy children, there is no reason to suppress a cough.

What are the health benefits of honey?

Honey has as many antioxidants as many vegetables and fruits. It can also kill funguses and bad bacteria. Some hospitals have seen success in using Manuka or Ulmo honey to combat methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).2 Honey is also said to help with diarrhea, although there is no proof found of this in research. Promising research shows that taking 1-2 teaspoons of honey on an empty stomach will lessen pain and treat Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a cause of peptic ulcers.3

Unfortunately, the effectiveness of honey from your local grocery store in many of these treatments is very low due to the manufacturing process. Manufactures heat honey during pasteurization to remove unwanted crystallization and improve texture and color. They also destroy good bacteria and remove antioxidants during this process. To experience the full benefits of honey, buy raw honey from a local farmer.

Is honey medically proven to effectively treat a cough?

Since the early years of this century, many researchers have concluded that honey is an effective alternative to cough syrup. Of course, other studies may disagree or provide inconclusive results. Given the other proven benefits of honey though, the low-cost and availability, it is certainly worth the effort to try to reduce coughing and improve sleep.

Researchers conducted on study of children age 2 and older. The children suffered from upper respiratory tract infections. the researchers gave each child buckwheat honey at bedtime. Parents reported improved sleep and reduced coughing. Researchers concluded that buckwheat honey may be as effective as dextromethorphan, a common, over-the-counter cough suppressant.4

So if you or your child are experiencing a cough, it may be worth it to ditch the cough syrup and give grandma’s old remedy a try. If you have a cough that last more than 8 weeks or your child has a cough that lasts more than four weeks, make an appointment to see your general practitioner. A chronic cough may be a sign of a more serious condition.  If you do not have a regular doctor, visit ccmhhealth.com/providers to find one of our doctors today.



1 Childs, Dan. ABCNews. 16 August 2017.Docs Support FDA Cough Medicine Warning.

2 Sherlock, Orla, et al. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2 September. 2010. Comparison of the antimicrobial activity of Ulmo honey from Chile and Manuka honey against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

3 Nzeako, Basil C. and Al-Namaani,Faiza. Sultan Qaboos University Medical Journal. 2006.The Antibacterial Activity of Honey on Helicobacter Pylori.

4 IM, Paul, et al. Department of Pediatrics, College of Medicine, Pennsylvania State University. 2007. Effect of honey, dextromethorphan, and no treatment on nocturnal cough and sleep quality for coughing children and their parents.



The Comanche County Memorial Hospital website does not provide specific medical advice for individual cases. Comanche County Memorial Hospital does not endorse any medical or professional services obtained through information provided on this site, articles on the site or any links on this site.

Use of the information obtained by the Comanche County Memorial Hospital website does not replace medical advice given by a qualified medical provider to meet the medical needs of our readers or others.

While content is frequently updated, medical information changes quickly. Information may be out of date, and/or contain inaccuracies or typographical errors.  For questions or concerns, please contact us at contact@ccmhhealth.com.