Honey offers better treatment for coughs and colds than antibiotics
Honey has often been touted as a “superfood” with unique properties that promote a number of medicinal benefits A new study has now revealed that honey is better at treating sore throats, blocked noses, coughs and congestion than conventional medicines, including antibiotics. So what gives one of nature’s golden treasures its special health benefits?
Honey has been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years and its antimicrobial properties are well documented. In fact, it has long been a household staple – and far more than simply sweetening teas and spreading over toast – has commonly been used as a home remedy to treat coughs and colds.
Its high viscosity also provides a protective barrier to prevent infection, making honey effective in wound healing. Manuka honey especially – a type of unprocessed monofloral honey derived from the Manuka flower native to New Zealand – has traditionally been used to treat infections, earning it the label as one of nature’s miracle “healers” (alongside worldwide acclaim and celeb approval).
Now, has proven that honey is effective in treating upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs), the most frequent reason for antibiotic prescription. In the medical world, this has very important connotations, as antibiotics are powerful, life-saving medications used to treat a number of infections – however, the more they are used, the more likely they are to become ineffective. Antibiotic resistance is a huge global public health challenge.
When it comes to URTI especially, this is caused by a viral infection, against which antibiotics – which target bacteria – are powerless.
The golden rule
The study, which has led NICE and PHE to suggest that honey can be used to relieve cough symptoms (in people over 1 year of age), is a major breakthrough. It shows that honey is a more effective treatment than traditional medical care (e.g. antihistamines, expectorants, cough suppressants, and painkillers), especially for improving symptoms such as severity of coughing. It means doctors can effectively recommend honey as a suitable alternative to antibiotics.
One key note that emerged from the research, however, is that honey is a complex substance, not a uniform product. The golden rule is knowing how to get your hands on the real deal.
The darker, the better
Not all types of honey are the same – in fact, the darker it is, the higher the .
Most honey found on supermarket shelves is processed, meaning they are pasteurised and filtered to increase their shelf life and improve their taste and appearance.
This heating process is responsible for stripping some of the beneficial nutrients and antioxidants found in raw honey. These types of regular ‘culinary honey’ are runny and available in a golden liquid form.
What makes Manuka honey special?
Manuka honey is subjected to very little processing. This means it is honey in its natural state (which is why it is darker and thicker), with all the natural ingredients retained, helping it to offer more than regular honey.
This is because it contains very high levels of methylglyoxal, an antibacterial compound found in most types of honey, but usually only in small quantities.