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.

From Mayo Clinic to your inbox

Sign up for free, and stay up to date on research advancements, health tips and current health topics, like COVID-19, plus expertise on managing health.

To provide you with the most relevant and helpful information, and understand which information is beneficial, we may combine your email and website usage information with other information we have about you. If you are a Mayo Clinic patient, this could include protected health information. If we combine this information with your protected health information, we will treat all of that information as protected health information and will only use or disclose that information as set forth in our notice of privacy practices. You may opt-out of email communications at any time by clicking on the unsubscribe link in the e-mail.

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. Aortic aneurysm
  10. Asbestosis
  11. Ascariasis
  12. Asthma attack
  13. Asthma: Colds and flu
  14. Atelectasis
  15. Atypical cells: Are they cancer?
  16. Avoid rebound nasal congestion
  17. Barrett's esophagus
  18. Barrett's Study Results
  19. Bile reflux
  20. Biopsy procedures
  21. Bird flu (avian influenza)
  22. Blood tests for heart disease
  23. Aortic Surgery: What Patients Need to Know — Mayo Clinic
  24. Treating Pericarditis
  25. Video: Valve-Sparing Aortic Root Replacement
  26. Bronchitis
  27. Can chicken soup cure a cold?
  28. COVID-19 and vitamin D
  29. Can vitamins help prevent a heart attack?
  30. Cancer
  31. Cancer blood tests
  32. Myths about cancer causes
  33. Infographic: Cancer Clinical Trials Offer Many Benefits
  34. Cancer diagnosis: 11 tips for coping
  35. Cancer diagnosis? Advice for dealing with what comes next
  36. Cancer-related fatigue
  37. Cancer pain: Relief is possible
  38. Cancer risk: What the numbers mean
  39. Cancer surgery
  40. Cancer survival rate
  41. Cancer survivors: Care for your body after treatment
  42. Cancer survivors: Late effects of cancer treatment
  43. Cancer survivors: Managing your emotions after cancer treatment
  44. Cancer survivors: Reconnecting with loved ones after treatment
  45. Cancer treatment decisions: 5 steps to help you decide
  46. Cancer treatment for men: Possible sexual side effects
  47. Cancer treatment for women: Possible sexual side effects
  48. Cancer treatment myths
  49. Cancer Vaccine Research
  50. Cardiac asthma: What causes it?
  51. Infographic: Cardiac sarcoidosis: A heart under attack
  52. Castleman disease
  53. Chelation therapy for heart disease: Does it work?
  54. Chemotherapy side effects: A cause of heart disease?
  55. Chicken soup: Can it treat a cold?
  56. COPD
  57. Chronic sinusitis
  58. Churg-Strauss syndrome
  59. Cold and flu viruses: How long can they live outside the body?
  60. Cold or allergy: Which is it?
  61. Cold remedies
  62. Cold symptoms: Does drinking milk increase phlegm?
  63. Common cold
  64. Common cold in babies
  65. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)
  66. COVID-19: How can I protect myself?
  67. Cough
  68. Herd immunity and coronavirus
  69. COVID-19 and pets
  70. COVID-19 and your mental health
  71. COVID-19, cold, allergies and the flu
  72. COVID-19 drugs: Are there any that work?
  73. Long-term effects of COVID-19
  74. COVID-19 in babies and children
  75. Coronavirus infection by race
  76. COVID-19 travel advice
  77. COVID-19 vaccines for kids: What you need to know
  78. COVID-19 vaccines
  79. COVID-19 variant
  80. COVID-19 vs. flu: Similarities and differences
  81. COVID-19: Who's at higher risk of serious symptoms?
  82. Croup
  83. Curcumin: Can it slow cancer growth?
  84. Daily aspirin therapy
  85. Debunking coronavirus myths
  86. Cancer-related diarrhea
  87. Different COVID-19 vaccines
  88. Dilated cardiomyopathy
  89. Does honey offer sweet relief for allergies?
  90. Does zinc work for colds?
  91. Dust mite allergy
  92. Dysphagia
  93. Early HIV symptoms: What are they?
  94. Eating during cancer treatment: Tips to make food tastier
  95. Ebola transmission: Can Ebola spread through the air?
  96. Ebola virus and Marburg virus
  97. Egg allergy
  98. Ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis
  99. Enlarged heart
  100. Esophageal cancer
  101. Infographic: Esophageal Cancer
  102. Esophagitis
  103. Fasting diet: Can it improve my heart health?
  104. Fight coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission at home
  105. Flu masks
  106. Flu shots
  107. Flu shots and heart disease
  108. Flu: When to see a doctor?
  109. Flu vaccine: Safe for people with egg allergy?
  110. Football Spinal Cord Injury - The Chris Norton Story
  111. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  112. GERD: Can certain medications make it worse?
  113. Goiter
  114. Granulomatosis with polyangiitis
  115. Grass-fed beef
  116. Group B strep disease
  117. H1N1 flu (swine flu)
  118. Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome
  119. Have a cold? Common sense rules
  120. Have a cold? Fight back with humidity
  121. Have a cold? Fight it with fluids
  122. Healthy eating: One step at a time
  123. Healthy Heart for Life!
  124. Heart cancer: Is there such a thing?
  125. Heart disease
  126. Heart disease in women: Understand symptoms and risk factors
  127. Heart failure
  128. Heart failure and sex: Is it safe?
  129. Heart-healthy diet: 8 steps to prevent heart disease
  130. Heart murmurs
  131. Heartburn medicines and B-12 deficiency
  132. High-dose flu vaccines: How are they different from other flu vaccines?
  133. High-dose vitamin C: Can it kill cancer cells?
  134. Histoplasmosis
  135. HIV/AIDS
  136. Hodgkin's lymphoma (Hodgkin's disease)
  137. Hodgkin's vs. non-Hodgkin's lymphoma: What's the difference?
  138. Holiday Heart
  139. How do COVID-19 antibody tests differ from diagnostic tests?
  140. How does COVID-19 affect people with diabetes?
  141. How well do face masks protect against COVID-19?
  142. Humidifier care 101
  143. Humidifiers
  144. Influenza (flu)
  145. Interstitial lung disease
  146. Laryngitis
  147. What causes laryngospasm?
  148. Legionnaires' disease
  149. Low blood counts
  150. Lung cancer
  151. Infographic: Lung Cancer
  152. Lung nodules: Can they be cancerous?
  153. Mayo Clinic Minute: You're washing your hands all wrong
  154. Mayo Clinic Minute: How dirty are common surfaces?
  155. Measles
  156. Measles vaccine: Can I get the measles if I've already been vaccinated?
  157. Menus for heart-healthy eating
  158. Mesothelioma
  159. Milk allergy
  160. Mitral valve stenosis
  161. Monoclonal antibody drugs
  162. Mort Crim and Cancer
  163. Mouth sores caused by cancer treatment: How to cope
  164. Nasal Cleaning
  165. Nasal spray addiction: Is it real?
  166. Neti pot: Can it clear your nose?
  167. No appetite? How to get nutrition during cancer treatment
  168. Nonallergic rhinitis
  169. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
  170. Nuts and your heart: Eating nuts for heart health
  171. He's the bravest kid I've ever seen
  172. Oil of oregano: Can it treat sinusitis?
  173. Omega-3 in fish
  174. Omega-6 fatty acids
  175. Opera Star's Surgery
  176. Pectus excavatum
  177. Pectus excavatum
  178. Pericardial effusion
  179. Pericarditis
  180. Pet allergy
  181. Photodynamic therapy: An effective treatment for lung cancer?
  182. Pleurisy
  183. Plugged ears: What is the remedy?
  184. Pneumonia
  185. Pneumonitis
  186. Polypill: Does it treat heart disease?
  187. Pregnancy and COVID-19
  188. PrEP to prevent HIV
  189. Protein: Heart-healthy sources
  190. Pulmonary edema
  191. Pulmonary embolism
  192. Pulmonary fibrosis
  193. Put fish on the menu
  194. Q fever
  195. Recurrent breast cancer
  196. Red wine, antioxidants and resveratrol
  197. Researchers Develop New Stents for Complex Aortic Aneurysms
  198. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
  199. Roseola
  200. Safe outdoor activities during the COVID-19 pandemic
  201. Safety tips for returning to school during COVID-19
  202. Sarcoidosis
  203. Self-care for the flu
  204. Self-Image During Cancer
  205. Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)
  206. Sex and COVID-19
  207. Sinus headaches
  208. Sinus infection and toothache: Any connection?
  209. Sjogren's syndrome
  210. Sjogren's syndrome: Can it cause recurrent UTIs?
  211. Radiation simulation
  212. Small cell, large cell cancer: What this means
  213. Spinal cord injury
  214. Stevens-Johnson syndrome
  215. Heart disease prevention
  216. Stuffy nose? Try saline spray
  217. Super Survivor Conquers Cancer
  218. Thalidomide: Research advances in cancer and other conditions
  219. Thoracic aortic aneurysm
  220. Throat cancer
  221. Treating COVID-19 at home
  222. Tuberculosis
  223. Tuberous sclerosis
  224. Tularemia
  225. Tumor vs. cyst: What's the difference?
  226. Unusual symptoms of coronavirus
  227. Valley fever
  228. Vascular rings
  229. Vicks VapoRub: An effective nasal decongestant?
  230. Asthma attack video
  231. Cryotherapy
  232. Video: Heart and circulatory system
  233. How cancer spreads
  234. PICC line placement
  235. Radiofrequency ablation
  236. Vitamin C: Can it prevent colds?
  237. Walking pneumonia
  238. Warm-mist versus cool-mist humidifier: Which is better for a cold?
  239. Heart failure action plan
  240. What is MERS-CoV?
  241. What's the difference between H1N1 flu and influenza A?
  242. When cancer returns: How to cope with cancer recurrence
  243. Whipple's disease
  244. Whooping cough
  245. Whooping cough
  246. Infographic: Women and Heart Disease
  247. Your secret weapon during cancer treatment? Exercise!
  248. Do zinc supplements shorten colds?