Honey Better Than Dextromethorphan At Treating Coughs

Score another win for folk treatments: a new study says that honey is more effective than over-the-counter dextromethorphan syrups at treating a child’s cough: “The results were so strong that we were able to say clearly that honey was better than no treatment and dextromethorphan was not.”

The study’s authors point out that honey isn’t recommended for children under one year old due to “the rare but serious risk it might cause a type of food poisoning known as botulism.”

For older kids, however, it is generally safe. He and his colleagues used a dosage identical to that recommended for cough syrups: half a teaspoon for two- to five-year-olds, a teaspoon for six- to eleven-year-olds, and two teaspoons for children twelve and older.

“Honey eases nighttime cough” [Reuters]
(Photo: Getty)


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  1. parad0x360 says:

    The only “medicine” that really gets rid of a cough are opiates like hydro and oxycodone. I had pneumonia and bronchitis at the same time once and before i went to the DR i tried every OTC remedy i could find to ease my pain and nothing worked. My cough was terrible.

    By the time i made it to the DR i was near death and they gave me vicodin for my cough and some antibiotics. Well 30 min after taking the vicodin i didnt cough again for about 3 hours. Now im not promoting the use of narctotics for a common cough…my point is OTC cough medicine is just a waste of money, it does nothing at all.

  2. Yeah well if you use enough opiates you pretty much kill the bodie’s coughing reflex. I think the idea is to soothe any throat irritation with the honey.. hopefully we won’t see a wave of kids doped on on painkillers they don’t need, lol.

  3. parad0x360 says:

    @rainmkr: My long winded post was just to say OTC stuff doesnt work…i ramble. I dont think they would give them to kids anyways, i was 21 at the time.

  4. FLConsumer says:

    @rainmkr: I disagree. The kids would benefit greatly from the painkillers to numb them to the bad parenting which is so prevalent in today’s society.

  5. Smackdown says:

    Yeah, it may be more effective at stopping coughing, but it is totally worthless when you’re trying to trip your ass off.

  6. kimsama says:

    Wow, this is something my husband has always insisted (that honey is an effective throat soothing agent). I just eat it cuz it’s tasty, but yay.

    Also, for good times, try local honey from beekeepers who don’t move their bees around. It’ll have a “regional” taste (like good wines), not the mass-produced flavor of supermarket honey, which is cool. Plus, it’s better for the bees (which are currently under attack from several angles, including mites and a type of fungus that’s killing them off), because the stress of moving them around by truck (which is what many commercial beekeepers do) weakens them tremendously.

  7. spinachdip says:

    But this is no good – you can’t patent honey.
    /big pharm

  8. lostalaska says:

    Step 1. Patent Honey
    Step 2. ???
    Step 3. Profit!!!

  9. getjustin says:

    Even better, the “honey” stuff that comes in single serve packets that’s mostly HFCS. I used it in a pinch and worked through the night.

  10. Tired_ says:

    Uh, you guys know that dextromethorphan IS an opiate, right?

  11. parad0x360 says:

    @Tired_: it acts on some of the same receptors but its not an opiate. Wiki it.

    Also you could probably patent honey these days if you tried. If you can patent something as mundane as asking for 2 passwords then you can patent honey. Give it a try.

  12. humphrmi says:

    I hate to be a stickler but the report doesn’t technically say that honey is better than dextromethorphan. It says that honey is better than nothing, and dextromethorphan is not. Sure, I’m splitting hairs, and if you want to make your own X is greater than Y is greater than 0 connection, that’s probably valid.

    But the point is, the report didn’t say that.

    BTW Poppy seeds are opiates. It doesn’t mean you’re a junkie when you eat them.

  13. vongarr says:


    I have a very distinct memory of being a child and higher than a kite on some kind of codine coughsyrup. It tasted like bubblegum.

    Which was probably the worst idea, ever. Probably why they don’t do it anymore.

  14. I use Buckley’s, which is just so godawful that after using it for one cold, the next time I had a cough, I just opened the bottle and took a whif, and my body reacted in pure self defense by stopping my cough reflex.

  15. ninjatales says:

    I’ve been mixing honey in green tea for a long long time now. Very effective! Glad that people are finally noticing it.

  16. RvLeshrac says:

    DXM is used like whiskey. It puts you to sleep. *NOTHING* will cure a generic cough or cold.

  17. agb says:

    @parad0x360: I do promote the use of narcotics for a common cough… and also for having fun!!

  18. iamme99 says:

    No one mentions that a cough is nature’s way of telling you something is wrong. Usually your body wants to expel stuff in your lungs and that is what a cough helps do. Tea w/honey is good to sooth the throat.

  19. redragon104 says:

    I have become increasingly convinced that studies don’t mean anything, especially studies that make the news. I always wonder if the new reporters actual read the papers besides the abstract. Reading the paper we find out that this study was based off of a survey given to parent who rated their kids on a scale from 1-6 in five categories: cough-frequency, cough severity, how bothersome the cough was, how much the cough affected the child’s ability to sleep, and how much the cough affected the parent ability to sleep.

    Than we find out that honey was statistically better than no treatment, while DM was not. That is, the results of the group of children who were treated with honey was statistically the same as the group treated with DM. I qoute, “pairwise comparison of honey with DM revealed no statistically significant differences.”

    They than list the various possible issues with the treatment that could have made the study meaningless. In conclusion, these scientists did *not* find statistical difference between DM and honey, so the actual headline should have read “Honey better than no treatment at treating coughs.”

  20. trollkiller says:

    Mix that honey with a bit of whiskey and you have a very effective cough treatment.

  21. Klitaka says:

    I wouldn’t give many medicines to kids–a lot of the adult medicines don’t work or don’t work right on kids.

    That being said, honey is also a good thing to boost immunities/help reduce allergies when you move to a new area–but it has to be local honey, which is made from the nectar of local flowers (ie, the things that create the allergens).

  22. Major-General says:

    @parad0x360: I think you may agree with me regarding my former favorite cough medicine, Nyquil. The stuff used to work, when it was 44% alcohol and ephedrine with food coloring. Then they dropped some of the alcohol. Then the ephedrine for pseudephedrine (which is actually preferable when making meth via the “Nazi” method). Then less alcohol. Then no pseudephedrine.

    Now, I look at a bottle of brandy and wonder “With coffee, or without?”

  23. Bunnymuffin says:

    Honey Schmoney! This is the time of the year to share my grandmother’s failsafe cough syrup recipe. It’s so effective that I’m actually thinking low carb be damned next time I get a cold.

    Miz Juanita’s Cough Syrup

    One of those giant log sized peppermint sticks (She always stocked up on the day after Christmas.)


    Break log of peppermint stick and place in a quart jar, pour whiskey over peppermint stick and cap tightly. Let peppermint dissolve over several days, add more peppermint until you had a thick red syrup guaranteed to knock out every sick person in your house restoring peace and quiet.

    Nothing like a grandmother’s love and alcohol to ease the pain. :D

  24. Eilonwynn says:

    My mother, bless her, dosed both my brother and I with “teawithhoneyandlemon” every single bleeding time we were the slightest bit congested. At the time, it tasted so awful, but now, I find big mugs of it really do make me feel better. The idea is that honey will coat and soothe the back of your throat, and the lemon and heat will work at breaking up gnarliness.

  25. alice_bunnie says:

    While in most cases I agree that coughing is for expelling mucous out of the lungs and a good thing, often night coughs are from irritation of the throat or from post nasal drip. It does not serve the useful and necessary function and becomes a nuisance and detriment to sleep. Sleep is very important to healing, and when it becomes obvious that there is not some other factor involved is when I drug myself and my kids with true narcotics (hydrocodone), which I get from my doctor.

  26. mmcnary says:

    In college I used to use a 50/50 mix of Southern Comfort and honey before concerts. Two big tablespoons of that and my throat was soothed and my vocal chords relaxed.

  27. whirlybird says:

    @Smackdown: Amen to that. There’s nothing like 8-12 ounces of DM to majorly fuck you up.

  28. One of the best things for a cough, especially one caused by post-nasal drip, is peppermint herbal tea (menthol helps open the bronchial passages) with honey (to soothe the throat) and lemon (to reduce swelling in the throat). The heat also helps with the coughing, as does breathing the steam (which also helps open the sinuses a bit, and clear the nose).

    For violent coughing, the kind where your abs and ribs start to hurt like a mofo, one of the best things to do is get a really firm pillow (or stuffed animal), like couch cushion firm, and hug it to your torso when you cough. Your abs can’t contract all the way, then. It doesn’t stop the coughing, but it dramatically reduces the pain, especially when you’re getting into day two and day three. You look like a bit of an idiot when you’re a full-grown adult clutching a pillow, but it makes all the difference in the world.

    Both are especially useful for children when you want to be careful about giving them drugs, or when they’re TAKING a particular drug for the cough/infection/whatever already and you can’t mix other drugs with it.

  29. @Major-General: LOL, the other key component in NyQuil is the benadryl (diphenhydramine? is that right?), and you can get almost exactly the same effect by taking a couple benadryl with a whiskey chaser. Stops the sniffles and knocks you right out.

    Not that this was our primary form of cold medicine in college after they dropped the alcohol level in NyQuil or anything ….

  30. smitty1123 says:

    Isn’t this why God created bourbon?
    /What? It works for hobos…

  31. ancientsociety says:

    While the study sucks (basically saying honey and DXM are but than nothing…well, duh), honey rocks.

    In addition to soothing coughs and sore throats, honey is on excellent antibiotic/anitmicrobial (there’s far too much sugars and not enough water to sustain bacteria/microbes) and (if you eat local honey) helps ease allergies. Since I started eating local honey last year, I’ve found that my allergies in spring/late summer are nowhere near as severe as they were previously.

    If anyone’s interested, there’s an excellent book called “Robbing The Bees” which I finished reading a few months ago and it was my second favorite book this year (after “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”).

    Honey factoid of the day: It was widely used to treat gunshot wounds right up till WW1!

  32. wesrubix says:

    Oh yeah, what a smart study. They found out that putting something STICKY and SUGARY in your throat would help the phlegm GET OUT! WOW! Bullshit mode deactivated.

    DXM, dextromethorphan, is no longer used in many cough syrups as its abused by young teenagers as a hallucinogen. Guanifessin, the major ingredient in most expectorants like Robitussin, is what gets rid of a cough, because you need to expel the phlegm.

    The honey might sooth your throat, but won’t cure your cough. Your own immune system is responsible for that. You can only speed up the healing process by getting rid of phlegm with an expectorant and coughing the phlegm up, or make it more pleasant by taking a cough suppressant.

  33. Benstein says:

    Honey certainly tastes alot better. That pic brought back bad memories.

  34. skeleem_skalarm says:

    We’ve always used honey. We realized years and years ago non-prescription cough syrups were useless for stopping a cough. To get the phlegm loosened, we’d sit in the bathroom with the shower on full blast with nothing but hot water coming out. I’ve been the worst, with chronic bronchitis, but both of my doctors and I agree my way is the best, at least for me.

  35. trollkiller says:

    I predict a whole slew of honey “based” cough syrups will hit the shelves in 3.. 2.. 1..

  36. Honey is gross. For some reason, I can’t deal with the taste of raw honey. It makes sense that it would help with coughs (unless you’re really really sick, and then you might need opiates), but it’s still groooooss.

  37. MeOhMy says:

    Interesting…just the other day my father-in-law was telling us about his cayenne pepper + honey cough remedy.

  38. trollkiller says:

    @Troy F.: Interesting…just the other day my father-in-law was telling us about his cayenne pepper + honey cough remedy.

    Add a few more ingredients and you have BBQ sauce.

  39. rufus1001 says:

    Isn’t it always important, when you’re looking at “experts’ findings,” to find out who paid the experts to find out something? Guess what? According to the AP article in USA Today:

    “The study was funded by a grant from the National Honey Board, an industry-funded agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The agency had no influence over the study design, data or results.”


  40. TheeErin says:

    The “results” on honey in this case were derived from 105 patients aged 2 to 18 years with upper respiratory tract infections in a single, outpatient, general pediatric practice.

    The “effects” of the honey were observed on a single-night, and they have not been replicated in a subsequent study.

    So what we have here is a start – but that sure ain’t “science” enough to claim that honey suppresses nighttime coughing better than other remedy’s.

    Here’s the actual publication: [archpedi.ama-assn.org]

  41. @skeleem_skalarm: “To get the phlegm loosened, we’d sit in the bathroom with the shower on full blast with nothing but hot water coming out.”

    Have you tried the sudafed shower soothers? They’re tablets you put in the shower when you’re steaming yourself for upper respiratory or sinus problems, they’ve got menthol and I think two other things. They dissolve in the water and release fumes for you to breathe. The menthol makes my eyes sting a little bit, but they do a good job opening up the bronchial passages for me.

  42. evixir says:

    I don’t know about this honey business, but a good Flaming Moe does the trick for me every time!