Oxford metastudy finds honey most effective treatment for coughs and colds
By Rich Haridy newatlas.com August 18, 2020 https://newatlas.gystaudio.com/embedded/newatlas.com/health-wellbeing/oxford-metastudy-honey-effective-treatment-coughs-colds/
Honey was found to be more effective in reducing cough symptoms from mild respiratory infections compared to other usual care interventionsStudio37/Depositphotos View 1 Images
A new systematic review and meta-analysis from a trio of University of Oxford researchers is affirming the effectiveness of honey as a first-line treatment for upper respiratory tract infections (URTI). The study suggests antibiotics are ineffective for these kinds of minor coughs and colds, and honey offers superior symptomatic relief according to the evidence gathered to date.
It is no newsflash to suggest honey has potent anti-microbial effects. Back in 2018 the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and Public Health England went so far as to change its general recommendations for doctors and health care professionals, saying honey should be prescribed before antibiotics for patients with mild coughs and colds.
Those earlier recommendations were based on a number of scattered studies looking at the effectiveness of honey in treating different symptoms arising from upper respiratory tract infections. Reducing unnecessary antibiotic treatments was the primary reason behind changing these general health recommendations.
The only prior systematic review on this topic focused on the efficacy of honey in treating cough symptoms in children. The new research offers the first comprehensive review of clinical trial data in all patient cohorts, with a general focus on whether honey is more effective at treating upper respiratory tract symptoms than other treatment modalities.
The new study homed in on 14 clinical trials investigating honey’s efficacy treating upper respiratory tract infections. The trials included in the study were of course quite diverse. Only two trials specifically compared honey to a placebo, while the rest matched honey against a variety of “usual care” strategies, from over-the-counter cough syrups to antihistamine treatments.
The researchers found honey was more effective at reducing upper respiratory tract symptoms compared to all usual care treatments. The main limitation noted in the study was the scarcity of placebo-controlled trials directly investigating the efficacy of honey, so one recommendation from the researchers is the need for a large placebo-controlled trial.
“Honey is a frequently used lay remedy that is well known to patients,” the authors conclude in the new meta-analysis. “It is also cheap, easy to access, and has limited harms. When clinicians wish to prescribe for URTI, we would recommend honey as an alternative to antibiotics. Honey is more effective and less harmful than usual care alternatives and avoids causing harm through antimicrobial resistance.”
The researchers do clearly add, not all honey is created equal. They say honey is a complex and heterogeneous substance, so some types of honey may be more effective in treating coughs and colds. It is noted, however, despite the broad variety of types of honey used in the clinical trials that were reviewed, the results were significantly consistent. This offers a reassuring signal that while some honey may be more effective than others, any honey should generally be somewhat beneficial.
The new study was published in the journal BMJ Evidence-based Medicine.
Honey is ‘more effective and less harmful’ than usual cold remedies
Researchers say honey can be an effective alternative to antibiotics, which are often prescribed for such infections, despite not being suitable. Sciencefocus.com/news/honeyismoreeffectiveandlessharmfulthan usualcoldremedies
Honey may be better than usual care for easing upper respiratory tract symptoms, especially coughs, researchers have said. The substance is cheap, readily available, and has virtually no side-effects.
Doctors can recommend it as an effective alternative to antibiotics, which are often prescribed for such infections, even though they are not suitable, scientists from the University of Oxford said.
Upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) affect the nose, throat, voice box and the large air passages (bronchi) that lead from the windpipe to the lungs. Symptoms can include sore throat, blocked nose, cough, and congestion.
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There is evidence for honey being used in children, and it has long been used as a home remedy to treat coughs and colds. But the evidence for its effectiveness for a range of upper respiratory tract symptoms in adults has not been systematically reviewed.
To address this, the scientists looked at research databases for relevant studies comparing honey and preparations that included it as an ingredient with usual care – mostly antihistamines, expectorants, cough suppressants, and painkillers. They found 14 suitable clinical trials, involving 1,761 participants of varying ages.
Data analysis of these studies indicated that honey was more effective than usual care for improving symptoms, especially the frequency and severity of coughing. Two of the studies showed symptoms lasted one to two days less among those treated with honey.
Honey is more effective and less harmful than usual care alternatives and avoids causing harm through antimicrobial resistance
However, the researchers, Hibatullah Abuelgasim, of the Oxford University Medical School, and Charlotte Albury and Joseph Lee, of the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, noted that honey is a complex substance and not a uniform product.
They also pointed out that only two of the studies involved a placebo, saying more of these studies need to be done before definitive conclusions can be reached.
Writing in the journal BMJ Evidence Based Medicine, the authors said: “Upper respiratory tract infections are the most frequent reason for antibiotic prescription. Since the majority of URTIs are viral, antibiotic prescription is both ineffective and inappropriate.”
Read more about antibiotics:
- Compound found in cannabis shows promise as a powerful antibiotic
- Probiotic drink could offer new way to combat antibiotic resistance
The researchers suggest honey might therefore provide an alternative when doctors want to prescribe something to safely treat upper respiratory tract symptoms.
They concluded: “Honey is a frequently used lay remedy that is well known to patients. It is also cheap, easy to access, and has limited harms. When clinicians wish to prescribe for URTI, we would recommend honey as an alternative to antibiotics.
“Honey is more effective and less harmful than usual care alternatives and avoids causing harm through antimicrobial resistance.”
Reader Q&A: Is local honey a cure for hayfever?
Asked by: Richard O’Neill, Glasgow
No. The myth is that local pollen in honey can desensitise the allergic reaction, but there’s no evidence to support it. A 2002 study at the University of Connecticut compared locally-produced, unfiltered honey, with nationally-produced, filtered honey and honey-flavoured corn syrup.
In double-blind trials, there was no difference between the three in reducing hay fever symptoms. The pollen in honey is nearly all the heavy, flower pollen that doesn’t cause hay fever. The pollen that sets your nose running is much lighter and comes from grasses and trees that bees don’t visit.