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.

With

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, current health topics, and expertise on managing health. Click here for an email preview.

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