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A new study has claimed that nature’s natural honey may be better if you have a cough, cold or sore throat than antibiotics and many over the counter medicines. While the researchers pointed out that further trials need to be undertaken before any definitive conclusions can be made they felt honey may be more effective in treating coughs, colds, blocked up noses and sore throats than conventional medicines. Honey is relatively cheap – we are not including some of the Manuka or Elvish honey here – readily available and has virtually no side-effects.

Rather than antibiotics doctors could recommend honey as a suitable alternative and which may be more effective, the scientists from the University of Oxford stated. There has long been evidence of the benefits of honey being used as a home remedy and as a health food and if sourced locally it can help reduce the effects of hayfever. It can be particularly valuable for children but the NHS warns against giving it to the under-ones because of the danger of botulism.

The evidence for its effectiveness in helping coughs colds and upper respiratory tract symptoms in adults has not been systematically reviewed. The scientists looked at research databases that had relevant and analysed the data which indicated that honey was more effective than the normal treatments for improving symptoms, especially the coughing. Two of the studies showed that symptoms lasted a day or two less among those treated with honey. However, the authors, 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 can be a complex substance with many variations.

Writing in the journal BMJ Evidence Based Medicine, the researchers 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.” They highlight “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.”

So there is a suggestion now that honey might provide an alternative when doctors want to prescribe something to safely treat upper respiratory tract symptoms. It certainly won’t do any harm and I remember a hot honey and lemon drink when I was young easing a sore throat, cough or cold. There is a feeling nature can provide many and often better alternatives for treatments and health and this may be another example.

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