Skip to main content

An Age-Old Home Remedy for Coughs

I don't know about you, but I've noticed a lot of sniffles and coughing going on this season (and unfortunately, that includes me!). Whether it's from an allergy, a cold, an upper respiratory tract infection, post nasal drip, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), there's an age-old remedy for coughing that has been recently proven by science to be effective. The ingredient is easily available, and is often a staple in your own kitchen.

What is it? Honey. "An 8,000 year old cave painting in Spain depicts honey harvesting, and we know it's been used for food, medicine, and more by cultures all over the world since," according to Ullman's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry.

"Coughing is a protective reflex action triggered by irritation or obstruction of the airwaves," according to this study in Pediatric Reports. "There is a high prevalance in children and it impacts a child's ability to sleep, play and eat. It is the largest single cause of primary care doctor visits."

Honey was found to be more effective than dextromethorphan, found in common over-the-counter cough medicines, according to this study reported in Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine. In fact, the results found the medicine was no better than the placebo.

In another study, coughing was reduced and sleep was improved in 2-year-olds with upper respiratory tract infections when they were given 2 teaspoons of honey before bedtime. In the study, honey was as effective as dextromethorphan, according to the Mayo Clinic.

A similar conclusion was found in a review of studies published in Cochrane Database Systematic Reviews, when children aged 1 to 18 were tested.

The World Health Organization identifies honey as a potential treatment for cough.

Honey is an especially good potential remedy for children, as it could be a natural way to avoid overuse of drugs like antibiotics (but check with your doctor first!).

Honey Cough Syrup

1-1/2 Tablespoons Zest of 2 Lemons1/4 Cup Peeled, Sliced Ginger or 1/2 teaspoon of Ground Ginger1 Cup Water1 Cup Honey1/2 Cup Lemon Juice

In a small saucepan combine lemon zest, sliced ginger ad 1 cup of water. Bring mixture to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Then strain into a heat-proof measuring cup. Rinse the saucep and and pour in 1 cup of honey. On low heat, warm the honey but don't allow it to boil. Add the strained lemon ginger water and the lemon juice. Stir the mixture until it combines to form a thick syrup. Pour into a clean jar with a lid. This can be refrigerated for up to 2 months.

* Recipe by the National Honey Board