Spoonful of honey.by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

Over-the-counter cold and cough medicines are no longer an option for children under five. That’s what makes the information in a new study so great.

We already knew honey was a good alternative for a cough—actually better in some cases than anything else—but now we know more details.

A previous study on honey for cough, the one most cited, used only the buckwheat variety. In fact, I wrote about that last week. But this study tried three others: eucalyptus, citrus, and labiatae. They all worked equally well and better than placebo.

You honey experts be sure to tell me if I’m wrong, but I think we can pretty well assume now that any type of honey is going to work. (Granted, this study didn’t use buckwheat, so we don’t know how it compares to the the others.)

The study, by researchers in Israel, had 271 kids ages one through five divided into four groups. One group took the placebo, so about 200 took the honey—more proof of safety in that age range. The parents measured the effectiveness, but they didn’t know whether they were giving honey or the placebo (a date extract). The findings were published online Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

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Warning: No Honey for Infants

There’s a reason the youngest kids in the study were one. You may already know from previous posts and my e-books, that honey may contain some botulism spores. The numbers are too few to cause problems in all but the littlest of us. But in kids under one, it’s made some sick and even killed a few.

So don’t give honey to anyone under one year old. It’s never been known to harm older people, and this study is more proof of this.

Honey for Coughs: Dosage

The researchers used ten grams of honey at bedtime. The best I can tell, that works out to about one and a half teaspoons. I would gauge less for smaller kids and maybe two teaspoons for teens and adults.

Though this study was only in young kids, I’d consider honey a good option for older people too. After all, taking too much over-the-counter cold and cough medicine has some danger in kids even up to twelve. Just don’t take the honey for long periods, the study authors note, or the dentists might get upset. (Cavities, you know.)

The one other thing that might help is a two-liter cool-mist humidifier at night.

What About the Babies?

For kids one and under, well, that cough is still a problem to treat. Always has been. You’re best bet is to check with your doctor. The humidifier may help, as well as putting a drop of saltwater in each nostril, sucked out immediately with a bulb syringe.

So what do you think? Have you tried honey for coughs? Do you have any other recipes you think work better?

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Photo by justmakeit on Flickr.