’Tis the season for colds and flus. But before you stock up on cough syrup, consider this time-worn piece of advice that now has clinical backup: honey does a better job at quieting a child’s cough than a common, over-the-counter cough suppressant.
In a study that came out last year, researchers at Penn State University found that a spoonful of honey given before bedtime helped children sleep better and cough less than dextromethorphan or nothing at all. These are the same researchers who found in 2004 that the two most common ingredients in a cough syrup performed no better than a placebo.
But honey’s medicinal properties don’t stop with coughs. According to researchers at the Honey Research Unit at the University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand, honey has been used as medicine for centuries. Its anti-bacterial properties make it effective as a treatment for skin wounds – even in modern clinical trials – and as a treatment for digestion issues. And, at the University of Natal in South Africa, children with diarrhea who were given a honey solution recovered almost twice as quickly as the children who were given a traditional sugar solution.
Until sterile honey treatments are available, it might be best to stick to the honey as a mild cough suppressant, and a sweetener. Don’t forget that honey should not be given to children under the age of 2.