Does honey really help against coughs?

The throat hurts and the bronchi whistle: coughing attacks are among the most unpleasant symptoms of a cold. Can honey ease the agony?

Coughing is a practical thing in itself: it removes foreign bodies from the airways and lets us breathe freely again. This is especially useful in the case of a cold , when tough mucus forms in the bronchi that has to be transported outside. That makes us cough and cough – sometimes without ceasing.

Now you have to drink a lot, for example herbal teas with thyme are useful . A spoon with honey often goes into the glass – this sweetens the tea and is also said to help against the cough. But does that even bring anything?

The thought does not seem completely absurd. Bee products are known for their healing properties, such as the putty resin of animals, also called propolis. Bees collect it from tree buds and use it in the beehive for disinfection . In experiments, propolis was bactericidal and fungicidal, i.e. it killed bacteria and fungi. Applied as a tincture, the remedy is supposed to combat skin eczema and inflamed corners of the mouth.

Honey – an ancient home remedy

Similar beneficial effects are attributed to honey, and the bee product is particularly popular in folk medicine . In any case, the list of potential health makers is long: Honey consists of more than 200 ingredients – in addition to various sugars, it contains minerals , vitamins , antioxidants, enzymes and phenols. The latter should have disinfecting and antiseptic properties.

In a small study, US researchers investigated the question of whether honey can relieve cold symptoms. To do this, they divided 105 boys and girls with a cold into three groups: The first group received some buckwheat honey before going to bed, the second a common cough suppressant and the third none of the two. The next morning the parents were asked: How well had the child and parents slept? Were you often woken up by coughing attacks at night? In fact, the honey got the best results: it relieved the kids’ nightly coughing fits and made them sleep better.

Sore throat The name of the sage plant is derived from the Latin word "salvare", meaning to heal. In fact, the plant has an antibacterial effect and inhibits the growth of viruses and fungi. In addition to the antiseptic effect, there are also decongestant and vascular sealing properties, the thujone contained in the essential oil has a pain-relieving effect. The experts of Commission E, an expert committee for herbal medicines, therefore advise gargling with sage tea in the case of mouth and throat infections. Recipe ➝ Pour half a liter of boiling water over a teaspoon of dried sage leaves. ➝ Let it steep for ten minutes and drain the tea. ➝ Gargle with it several times a day until the symptoms subside.

What could be responsible for the effect?

Another small study from 2012 seems to confirm this effect: The researchers divided 300 children with a cold between one and five years into groups. They each administered one of three types of honey to the first three groups, while the fourth received a placebo. And here, too, it was found that the children who received honey before going to bed tended to sleep more calmly. Although the cold symptoms improved in the placebo group, the changes were not statistically relevant here.

The conclusions that can be drawn from these small studies are limited, but at least there is evidence that could explain an effect: It is known that honey accelerates wound healing and has anti-inflammatory effects. Antioxidant and antimicrobial properties are also attributed to it. It also contains a lot of sugar and stimulates saliva production. This moisture could settle on irritated mucous membranes and help provide relief.

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The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends tea and honey for a cold: “Most home remedies are harmless, in contrast to commercial remedies, which may contain harmful substances.” The use of gentle and safe means should therefore be supported.


The definitive proof that honey works against coughs is still pending. However, a corresponding effect is being discussed – at least it appears theoretically possible. If you want, you can take one or two spoons of honey before going to bed, preferably before brushing your teeth. On the other hand, the product is not suitable for children under one year of age: honey is a natural product and can contain germs that lead to symptoms of poisoning in young children.

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