Is Honey More Effective Than Cough Medicine?

A research study has determined that children who get a dose of honey cough less and sleep better than those who get cough medicine with dextromethorphan (DM), the ingredient in most over-the-counter products for coughs.

DM cough medicines, which earn about $50 million in sales each year, have previously been shown to be of little benefit to children.

Honey has long been used as a natural remedy for sore throats and coughs. A common natural cure is  tea with honey and lemon.

Parents are advised not to give honey to any child under the age of 1 year; infants younger than that are at risk for botulism from honey.
Dr. Mercola's Comments:

On the average, every person in the United States has about two colds a year; that’s right, half a billion colds occur every year in the United States, with a total price tag of about $40 billion per year.

Although this is an interesting trick, and certainly less dangerous than using  cough syrups that are typically not effective (the FDA recently moved to ban many children’s cold medications due to their ineffectiveness coupled with dangerous side effects), it is far better to avoid any cough suppressants and use the strategies described below instead.

However, we all like relief from nagging challenges and certainly want the same for our children, so if you do chose to use honey, make sure it is raw as it will have far less damaging consequences than processed and refined honey.

Remember that even raw honey, if eaten in large amounts, will increase your insulin and leptin levels, and lead to poor health.

What Causes Colds, and How do You Prevent Them?

First of all, it is important to understand the causes of colds. Most people believe that colds are caused by bacteria, but this, of course, is not correct. Colds are triggered by viruses, which is why rushing to your pediatrician for antibiotics to treat your child’s cold symptoms is an exercise in futility.

However, it is important to recognize that although the virus actually triggers your cold symptoms, it is in no way, shape or form the "cause" of your cold. Believing that a virus "causes" a cold is a very dangerous perspective to take, for once you allow external forces to "control" your health, you lose the ability to improve it. Taking responsibility for your own health is vitally important here.

So what is the real cause of colds?

The simple and short answer is an impairment in your immune system. There are many ways this can result, but the more common contributing factors are:

1. Eating too much sugar and too many grains
2. Not getting enough rest
3. Using insufficient strategies to address emotional stressors in your life
4. Any combination of the above

The first approach to avoiding colds is to be careful and avoid food choices that will sabotage your health. You simply cannot allow your child to eat sugar if he or she is sick as this is asking for a health disaster.

Maintaining a robust immune system is your best bet to ensure staying healthy throughout the year, regardless of what “bugs” are circulating. Gary Null’s video, How to Supercharge Your Immune System offers great tips on how to optimize your natural defenses.

Also, don’t underestimate the simple advice to wash your hands frequently to ward off colds. Washing your hands will decrease your likelihood of spreading a virus to your nose, mouth or other people. If your immune system is strong, it should be able to fight off the virus if it does enter your body, but washing your hands provides a bit of extra protection.  

Be sure you don’t use antibacterial soap for this -- antibacterial soaps are completely unnecessary, and they cause far more harm than good.

How to Treat a Cold

A simple, safe and inexpensive home remedy for colds is to put a few drops of hydrogen peroxide in your ear. I am constantly amazed at how effective this treatment is, even though I have no idea how it works exactly.

You can also use zinc lozenges, but it’s important to keep in mind that they need to be sucked on, NOT swallowed, and smaller doses taken more frequently seem to work better. I usually recommend sucking on a quarter lozenge every 30 minutes. If started early, this approach seems to work well for the majority of people.

One caution should be heeded though: if the lozenges make you nauseous they should be stopped immediately as this is a sign of zinc toxicity.

Although articles like these above may make it sound as though these insights are somehow new, it’s no surprise honey works better than OTC cough medicines, which have been proven to be virtually useless at best, and dangerous at worst.

Honey can also help with diarrhea, insomnia, and sore throats, but as I mentioned before, make sure you buy raw honey, as the vast majority of honey for sale in the United States is processed or refined. And, like most refined foods, it can promote disease and damage your health rather than help.

If for any reason the hydrogen peroxide and zinc lozenges didn’t do the trick, it’s quite easy to make your own homemade cough and cold remedy, using all natural ingredients, such as raw honey, spices and herbs.

The Organic Consumers Association has published several great recipes, including this simple honey lemon cough syrup:

Honey Lemon Cough Syrup

Lemon helps promote health by quickly alkalinizing your body, and honey will kill any bacteria. This is a perfect choice for a quick cough remedy.

  • Put a pint of raw honey in a pan on the stove on VERY low heat (Do not boil honey as this changes its medicinal properties) .
  • Take a whole lemon and boil in some water in a separate pan for 2-3 minutes to both soften the lemon and kill any bacteria that may be on the lemon skin.
  • Let the lemon cool enough to handle then cut it in slices and add it to the pint of honey on the stove.
  • Let mixture cook on warm heat for about an hour.
  • Then strain the lemon from the honey making sure all lemon seeds are removed.
  • Let cool, then bottle in a jar with a lid and store in the refrigerator.  

This syrup will keep for 2 months in the refrigerator.

To soothe a cough, take 1/2 teaspoon for a 25 lb. child and 1 teaspoon for a 50 lb. child, about 4 times a day, or as often as needed. Adults can take 1 tablespoon doses.

For even more great recipes for dry cough, wet cough, antiviral syrup, plus several soothing tea recipes, please see the Organic Consumers Association article.

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