Effectiveness of honey for symptomatic relief in upper respiratory tract infections

Effectiveness of honey for symptomatic relief in upper respiratory tract infections

For centuries people have known the health benefits of honey. New Zealand is known for it's Manuka Honey - globally regarded for it's unique health properties and anti-bacterial benefits. 

More recently three researchers at Oxford University have found that honey is a better treatment for upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) than traditional remedies. In the research paper BMJ Evidence-based Medicine, Hibatullah Abuelgasim, Charlotte Albury, and Joseph Lee describe their study of the results of multiple clinical trials that involved testing of treatments for upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) and what they learned from the data.

The full research paper can easily be found here: BMJ Evidence-based Medicine

manuka honey antibiotics

Below is a Summary of this research paper:

What is already known about this subject?

  • Honey is a well known lay therapy for symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs); other medications for URTIs are ineffective and can have harmful side effects

  • The use of antibiotics for URTIs is a particular problem, because they are ineffective, and contribute to antimicrobial resistance

  • A Cochrane systematic review found that honey can improve cough in children; honey has not been systematically reviewed for other URTI symptoms, or in other patient groups

What are the new findings?

  • Honey is more effective than usual care alternatives for improving URTI symptoms, particularly cough frequency and cough severity

  • Comparisons with placebo are more limited, and require more high quality, placebo controlled trials

How might it impact on clinical practice in the foreseeable future?

  • There are currently very few effective options that clinicians can prescribe for URTIs

  • Honey can be used as an alternative to antibiotics by clinicians who wish to offer treatment for URTIs, which may help to combat antimicrobial resistance

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