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