Is it true that honey calms coughs better than cough medicine does?

Answer From Pritish K. Tosh, M.D.

Drinking tea or warm lemon water mixed with honey is a time-honored way to soothe a sore throat. But honey alone may be an effective cough suppressant, too.

In one study, children ages 1 to 5 with upper respiratory tract infections were given up to 2 teaspoons (10 milliliters) of honey at bedtime. The honey seemed to reduce nighttime coughing and improve sleep.

In fact, in the study, honey appeared to be as effective as a common cough suppressant ingredient, dextromethorphan, in typical over-the-counter doses. Since honey is low-cost and widely available, it might be worth a try.

However, due to the risk of infant botulism, a rare but serious form of food poisoning, never give honey to a child younger than age 1.

And remember: Coughing isn't all bad. It helps clear mucus from your airway. If you or your child is otherwise healthy, there's usually no reason to suppress a cough.


Pritish K. Tosh, M.D.

Aug. 06, 2020 See more Expert Answers

See also

  1. Acute bronchitis: Is it contagious?
  2. Acute sinusitis
  3. Acute sinusitis: Do over-the-counter treatments help?
  4. Adjuvant therapy for cancer
  5. Albuterol side effects
  6. Allergies
  7. Allergy medications: Know your options
  8. Allergy-proof your home
  9. Alternative cancer treatments: 10 options to consider
  10. Aortic aneurysm
  11. Asbestosis
  12. Ascariasis
  13. Asthma attack
  14. Asthma: Colds and flu
  15. Atelectasis
  16. Atypical cells: Are they cancer?
  17. Avoid rebound nasal congestion
  18. Barrel chest: What causes it?
  19. Barrett's esophagus
  20. Barrett's Study Results
  21. Bile reflux
  22. Biopsy procedures
  23. Bird flu (avian influenza)
  24. Blood tests for heart disease
  25. Mitral valve clip to treat mitral regurgitation: Bob's story
  26. Mitral valve overview
  27. Video: Aortic Surgery: What Patients Need to Know
  28. Fact or Fiction? Debunking Exercise & Nutrition Myths for Preventing Heart Disease and Risk Factors
  29. Healthy Heart Numbers
  30. Heart disease in women
  31. Heart Failure
  32. Sports Cardiology Program
  33. Treating Pericarditis
  34. Video: Valve-Sparing Aortic Root Replacement
  35. Bronchitis
  36. Can chicken soup cure a cold?
  37. Can COVID-19 (coronavirus) spread through food, water, surfaces and pets?
  38. COVID-19 and vitamin D
  39. Can vitamins help prevent a heart attack?
  40. Cancer
  41. Cancer blood tests
  42. Myths about cancer causes
  43. Infographic: Cancer Clinical Trials Offer Many Benefits
  44. Cancer diagnosis: 11 tips for coping
  45. Cancer diagnosis? Advice for dealing with what comes next
  46. Cancer-related fatigue
  47. Cancer pain: Relief is possible
  48. Cancer risk: What the numbers mean
  49. Cancer surgery
  50. Cancer survival rate
  51. Cancer survivors: Care for your body after treatment
  52. Cancer survivors: Late effects of cancer treatment
  53. Cancer survivors: Managing your emotions after cancer treatment
  54. Cancer survivors: Reconnecting with loved ones after treatment
  55. Cancer treatment decisions: 5 steps to help you decide
  56. Safe cancer treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic
  57. Cancer treatment during COVID-19: How to move ahead safely
  58. Cancer treatment for men: Possible sexual side effects
  59. Cancer treatment for women: Possible sexual side effects
  60. Cancer treatment myths
  61. Cancer Vaccine Research
  62. Cardiac asthma: What causes it?
  63. Infographic: Cardiac sarcoidosis: A heart under attack
  64. Castleman disease
  65. Chelation therapy for heart disease: Does it work?
  66. Chemotherapy side effects: A cause of heart disease?
  67. Chicken soup: Can it treat a cold?
  68. COPD
  69. Chronic sinusitis
  70. Churg-Strauss syndrome
  71. Cold and flu viruses: How long can they live outside the body?
  72. Cold or allergy: Which is it?
  73. Cold remedies
  74. Cold symptoms: Does drinking milk increase phlegm?
  75. Common cold
  76. Common cold in babies
  77. Control your portions, control your weight
  78. Coronavirus safety tips for going out
  79. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)
  80. Coronavirus: What is it and how can I protect myself?
  81. Coronavirus grief
  82. Coronavirus travel advice
  83. Coronavirus vs. flu: Similarities and differences
  84. Cough
  85. Herd immunity and coronavirus
  86. COVID-19 and high blood pressure
  87. COVID-19 and pets
  88. COVID-19 and the risk of suicide
  89. COVID-19 and your mental health
  90. COVID-19 and holidays
  91. COVID-19 (coronavirus) drugs: Are there any that work?
  92. COVID-19 (coronavirus) in babies and children
  93. Long-term effects of COVID-19
  94. COVID-19 (coronavirus) stigma: What it is and how to reduce it
  95. COVID-19 (coronavirus) vaccine
  96. COVID-19: How much protection do face masks offer?
  97. Coping with unemployment caused by COVID-19
  98. COVID-19 (coronavirus): Quarantine, self-isolation and social distancing
  99. COVID-19: Social distancing, contact tracing are critical
  100. COVID-19: Who's at higher risk of serious symptoms?
  101. Croup
  102. Cryptogenic organizing pneumonia
  103. Curcumin: Can it slow cancer growth?
  104. Daily aspirin therapy
  105. Debunking coronavirus myths
  106. Cancer-related diarrhea
  107. Dilated cardiomyopathy
  108. Does honey really help with allergies?
  109. Does zinc work for colds?
  110. Dust mite allergy
  111. Dysphagia
  112. Early HIV symptoms: What are they?
  113. Eating during cancer treatment: Tips to make food tastier
  114. Ebola transmission: Can Ebola spread through the air?
  115. Ebola virus and Marburg virus
  116. Echinacea: Is it effective for the common cold?
  117. Egg allergy
  118. Ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis
  119. Heart transplant to treat dilated cardiomyopathy: Elmo's story
  120. Enlarged heart
  121. Esophageal cancer
  122. Infographic: Esophageal Cancer
  123. Esophagitis
  124. External Drive: Charles' Artificial Heart
  125. Surgery during the COVID-19 pandemic
  126. Fasting diet: Can it improve my heart health?
  127. Flu masks
  128. Flu shots
  129. Flu shots and heart disease
  130. Flu: When to see a doctor?
  131. Flu vaccine: Safe for people with egg allergy?
  132. Fluzone High-Dose: What distinguishes it from other flu vaccines?
  133. Football Spinal Cord Injury - The Chris Norton Story
  134. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  135. GERD: Can certain medications make it worse?
  136. Getting safe emergency care during the COVID-19 pandemic
  137. Goiter
  138. Granulomatosis with polyangiitis
  139. Grass-fed beef
  140. Group B strep disease
  141. H1N1 flu (swine flu)
  142. Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome
  143. Have a cold? Common sense rules
  144. Have a cold? Fight back with humidity
  145. Have a cold? Fight it with fluids
  146. Healthy eating: One step at a time
  147. Healthy Heart for Life!
  148. Healthy heart for life: Avoiding heart disease
  149. Heart cancer: Is there such a thing?
  150. Heart disease
  151. Heart disease in women: Understand symptoms and risk factors
  152. Heart failure
  153. Heart failure and sex: Is it safe?
  154. Heart-healthy diet: 8 steps to prevent heart disease
  155. Heart murmurs
  156. Heartburn medicines and B-12 deficiency
  157. Kids, loneliness and COVID-19
  158. High-dose vitamin C: Can it kill cancer cells?
  159. Histoplasmosis
  160. HIV/AIDS
  161. Hodgkin's lymphoma (Hodgkin's disease)
  162. Hodgkin's vs. non-Hodgkin's lymphoma: What's the difference?
  163. Holiday Heart
  164. How do COVID-19 antibody tests differ from diagnostic tests?
  165. How to safely go to your doctor during the COVID-19 pandemic
  166. How to talk to your kids about COVID-19
  167. How well do you wash your hands?
  168. Humidifier care 101
  169. Humidifiers
  170. Influenza (flu)
  171. Interstitial lung disease
  172. Is antibacterial soap a do or a don't?
  173. Laryngitis
  174. What causes laryngospasm?
  175. Legionnaires' disease
  176. Low blood counts
  177. Lung cancer
  178. Infographic: Lung Cancer
  179. Lung nodules: Can they be cancerous?
  180. Mayo Clinic Minute: You're washing your hands all wrong
  181. Mayo Clinic Minute: How dirty are common surfaces?
  182. Measles
  183. Measles vaccine: Can I get the measles if I've already been vaccinated?
  184. Menus for heart-healthy eating
  185. Mesothelioma
  186. Milk allergy
  187. Mitral valve regurgitation
  188. Mitral valve stenosis
  189. Monoclonal antibody drugs
  190. Mort Crim and Cancer
  191. Mouth sores caused by cancer treatment: How to cope
  192. Nasal Cleaning
  193. Nasal spray addiction: Is it real?
  194. Neti pot: Can it clear your nose?
  195. Neti pot solution: Can I make my own?
  196. Neurosurgery during the COVID-19 pandemic
  197. No appetite? How to get nutrition during cancer treatment
  198. Nonallergic rhinitis
  199. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
  200. Nuts and your heart: Eating nuts for heart health
  201. He's the bravest kid I've ever seen
  202. Oil of oregano: Can it treat sinusitis?
  203. Omega-3 in fish
  204. Omega-6 fatty acids
  205. Opera Star's Surgery
  206. Parenting and special needs during a pandemic
  207. Pectus excavatum
  208. Pectus Excavatum
  209. Pericardial effusion
  210. Pericarditis
  211. Pet allergy
  212. Pet allergy: Are there hypoallergenic dog breeds?
  213. Photodynamic therapy: An effective treatment for lung cancer?
  214. Pleurisy
  215. Plugged ears: What is the remedy?
  216. Pneumonia
  217. Pneumonitis
  218. Polypill: Does it treat heart disease?
  219. Pregnancy and COVID-19
  220. PrEP to prevent HIV
  221. Protein: Heart-healthy sources
  222. Pulmonary edema
  223. Pulmonary embolism
  224. Pulmonary fibrosis
  225. Put fish on the menu
  226. Q fever
  227. Coronavirus infection by race
  228. Recurrent breast cancer
  229. Red wine, antioxidants and resveratrol
  230. Researchers Develop New Stents for Complex Aortic Aneurysms
  231. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
  232. Robotic heart surgery treats mitral regurgitation: Ed's story
  233. Roseola
  234. Routine cancer screening during coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
  235. Safe outdoor activities during the COVID-19 pandemic
  236. Safety tips for returning to school during COVID-19
  237. Sarcoidosis
  238. Self-care for the flu
  239. Self-Image During Cancer
  240. Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)
  241. Sex and COVID-19
  242. Sinus headaches
  243. Sinus infection and toothache: Any connection?
  244. Sjogren's syndrome
  245. Sjogren's syndrome: Can it cause recurrent UTIs?
  246. Skin care tips during a pandemic
  247. Radiation simulation
  248. Small cell, large cell cancer: What this means
  249. Sodium: Smarten up
  250. Spinal cord injury
  251. Stay healthy during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic
  252. Stay on track with medications during a pandemic
  253. Stevens-Johnson syndrome
  254. Heart disease prevention
  255. Stuffy nose? Try saline spray
  256. Super Survivor Conquers Cancer
  257. Telemedicine online doctor visits
  258. Teleworking during the coronavirus
  259. Thalidomide: Research advances in cancer and other conditions
  260. Infographic: The blueprints to your heart
  261. Thoracic aortic aneurysm
  262. Throat cancer
  263. Video: Travel safely for medical care during the COVID-19 pandemic
  264. Treating COVID-19 at home
  265. Tuberculosis
  266. Tuberous sclerosis
  267. Tularemia
  268. Tumor vs. cyst: What's the difference?
  269. Unusual symptoms of coronavirus
  270. Valley fever
  271. Vascular rings
  272. Vicks VapoRub: An effective nasal decongestant?
  273. Asthma attack video
  274. Cryotherapy
  275. Video: Heart and circulatory system
  276. How cancer spreads
  277. Mitral valve regurgitation
  278. PICC line placement
  279. Radiofrequency ablation
  280. Vitamin C: Can it prevent colds?
  281. Walking pneumonia
  282. Warm-mist versus cool-mist humidifier: Which is better for a cold?
  283. Fight coronavirus transmission at home
  284. Heart failure action plan
  285. Contact tracing and COVID-19: What is it and how does it work?
  286. What is MERS-CoV?
  287. What's the difference between H1N1 flu and influenza A?
  288. When cancer returns: How to cope with cancer recurrence
  289. Whipple's disease
  290. Whooping cough
  291. Whooping cough
  292. Infographic: Women and Heart Disease
  293. Your secret weapon during cancer treatment? Exercise!
  294. Do zinc supplements shorten colds?