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Can Honey Help With COVID-19?

Written by Carlos Tello, PhD (Molecular Biology) | Last updated:
Puya Yazdi
Medically reviewed by
Puya Yazdi, MD | Written by Carlos Tello, PhD (Molecular Biology) | Last updated:

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Note that each number in parentheses [1, 2, 3, etc.] is a clickable link to peer-reviewed scientific studies. A plus sign next to the number “[1+, 2+, etc...]” means that the information is found within the full scientific study rather than the abstract.

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This article is for informational purposes only. The current coronavirus outbreak is an ongoing event and certain details may change as new information comes to light. No effective or FDA-approved products are currently available for the treatment of the new coronavirus (also known as SARS-CoV-2 or 2019-nCoV), although research is still ongoing.

Honey has some clinical trials that show it can help relieve a cough.

There’s also small clinical trials that suggest it can help allergies and evidence and COPD, but the evidence is insufficient.

Overall, raw honey has anti-microbial properties is a traditional home remedy for respiratory infections, and is worthwhile to try. However, it’s unclear if it’ll help COVID-19 and more evidence is needed to make conclusions about what it is effective for.

Cough

One of the symptoms and biggest annoyances of COVID-19 is a dry cough.

A clinical trial showed that honey significantly lowered frequency, severity, and annoyance of cough in 300 children. It also improved sleep quality for the children and their parents [1].

For acute coughs for children, a meta-analysis of 3 trials and 568 children concluded that honey was better than no treatment, diphenhydramine (Benadryl), or placebo for relief. Honey was not better than dextromethorphan, though, and there was no strong evidence either for or against the use of honey to treat an acute cough [2].

Another study found that a teaspoon or two of honey can help suppress a cough [3].

A cough syrup with honey, resins, and carbohydrates improved cough and sleep quality better than one based on carbocysteine in a clinical trial on 150 children [4].

Honey may be used as an additional treatment for mucositis, childhood cough, persistent post-infectious cough and after tonsillectomy [5].

COPD, Asthma, Allergies (Th2 dominant conditions)

In a clinical trial on 40 people with allergic rhinitis, honey (as an add-on to loratadine) was effective in relieving allergic rhinitis symptoms after 8 weeks. The study concluded that honey could be used as a complementary approach to allergic rhinitis [6].

In a small trial on 34 people with COPD, supplementation with honey improved their overall quality of life [7].

In asthmatic rabbits, breathing in honey reduced inflammation and structural changes in the airways [8].

Anti Infection Activity

In test tubes, honey inhibited the viruses that cause the flu [9] and chickenpox [10]. A compound isolated from honey (methylglyoxal) was active against HIV in another study [11].

Honey killed several microbes, including those that cause pneumonia (Klebsiella pneumoniae) and upper respiratory tract infections (Haemophilus influenzae), in antibacterial studies [12, 13].

About the Author

Carlos Tello

Carlos Tello

PhD (Molecular Biology)
Carlos received his PhD and MS from the Universidad de Sevilla.
Carlos spent 9 years in the laboratory investigating mineral transport in plants. He then started working as a freelancer, mainly in science writing, editing, and consulting. Carlos is passionate about learning the mechanisms behind biological processes and communicating science to both academic and non-academic audiences. He strongly believes that scientific literacy is crucial to maintain a healthy lifestyle and avoid falling for scams.

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