The Journal of Primary Care Respiratory Health published a very interesting research study last year. The topic being investigated was the issue of persistent post-infectious coughing in individuals recovering from the common cold or an upper respiratory infection. Two of the treatments they examined in the study were systemic steroids and honey mixed with coffee. These two treatments could not be more opposite in their physical composition, theoretical and philosophical approach or treatment modality. So let’s take a closer look at the outcome of this research.
The study was a double-blind randomized controlled trial (meaning that researchers and participants had no idea as to who would receive which treatment). Included in the study were 97 participants who had experienced a persistent post-infectious cough for more than three weeks. The participants were divided into three groups. Group one received a jam-like paste which consisted of honey and coffee. The second group received a jam-like paste containing a steroid and the third group received a jam-like paste mixed with guaifenesin (a common cough syrup ingredient). Everyone participating in the study took their particular treatment dissolved in warm water and they were told to drink this solution every eight hours for one week. And the results? Well, surprise, surprise, the honey and coffee combination solution was found to be the most effective treatment for those pesky coughs that persist post cold or flu. Yum!
In 2014, coffee plus honey made it into research headlines again. This time, researchers looked at oral mouth sores – one of the most common complications of cancer chemotherapy. About 40% of patients undergoing chemotherapy will experience this painful and irritating problem. In this study the aim was to draw a comparison between the therapeutic effects of a topical steroid, honey on its own or honey plus coffee for patients suffering from oral mouth sores (also known as oral mucositis). Participants were given either a steroid solution, 300 grams of honey or a mixture of 300 g of honey plus 20 grams of instant coffee to take home. They were then told to ‘sip’ the equivalent of 10 mls of their prescribed product every three hours for one week. And the results? Once again, the honey plus coffee successfully treated the oral mouth sores in a relatively short time period. Impressive.
Honey has also been used in research with breast cancer patients. One study found that Manuka honey (a type of New Zealand honey) may prevent radiation-induced dermatitis (skin burns/irritations).
Also in 2014, the Archives of Medical Research published a study which compared the anti-influenza viral effects of honey as compared to anti-influenza viral drugs. Their results showed that honey in general, and Manuka honey in particular, has very potent inhibitory activity against the influenza virus. In other words, honey stops the flu in its tracks.
In a study involving 139 children, it was found that honey was much more effective at easing night-time coughing and improving their sleep than a common cough suppressant called dextromethorphan.
Honey is amazing and has a very long medicinal history from ancient times through to today. Holistic health practitioners consider honey to be the ultimate natural remedy for its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Honey is currently even being used by allopathic healthcare practitioners to treat chronic leg ulcers and pressure sores. Manuka honey, from New Zealand is now the basis for a product called Medihoney which works very well to stimulate wound healing. It is not used for burns however because it can cause pain to a burn wound. It is the slightly acidic pH level of honey (somewhere between 3.2 and 4.5) which is believed to help to inhibit the growth of bacteria.
So, stock your medicine chest with honey but remember to never give honey to children under 1 year. This is because of the potential risk of botulism. Botulism spores can live in dust and soil and could potentially find their way into honey. Infants under 1 year have not yet fully developed their immune system and would therefore not be able to defend themselves against this type of infection. Cooked honey for babies is fine – it’s the honey straight out of the bottle that is not safe.
Good health can be so sweet.