Depending on where it is harvested, honey can vary in flavor: It can be nutty, smoky, floral, or fruity, but it’s always delicious and a great natural sweetener. You may have also heard that a spoonful of honey can help cure a variety of illnesses. But is that really true? Here, we’ll discuss the benefits of ingesting honey during cold and flu season.
Composition of Honey
Honey is produced by honeybees, which make the sweet substance out of nectar from flowering plants. It is removed from the hives and then processed, first via filtration (which removes pollen, beeswax, and other matter), then via heat (which decreases the moisture, kills microorganisms, and prevents it from fermenting).
Honey is mainly composed of sugar, but it does have a mix of vitamins, iron, zinc, antioxidants, and minerals. It can also be an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory agent. Therefore, honey can be used orally to treat cold and flu symptoms and topically to soothe wounds and burns.
Effectiveness of Honey
In a study published in 2020 by Oxford University Medical School, scientists reviewed 14 relevant clinical trials on the effectiveness of honey for a range of respiratory tract symptoms. They found that honey was more effective than antihistamines, expectorants, cough suppressants, and painkillers in improving RTI symptoms.
Honey specifically made a noticeable difference in the frequency and severity of coughing. Two of the studies analyzed revealed that coughing symptoms lasted 1-2 days less when treated with honey. More research is needed, especially since honey is not a uniform substance, but it is a promising natural way to treat RTIs.
Treating Older Children With Honey
According to a 2018 study, honey may relieve cough symptoms in children better than diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or no treatment, but it made little to no difference compared to dextromethorphan (Robitussin). It’s important to note that you should never give honey to children under 1. Honey often contains botulinum spores, which can lead to infant botulism.