Honey in the Battle Against Cough: How Does it Help?
Coughing is the body's defensive reflex mechanism that removes foreign substances and mucus from your lungs and upper airways of the respiratory tract. Productive coughs are often useful, and you should not try to eliminate them. Sometimes, though, coughs are severe enough to impair breathing or prevent rest. Home treatment such as with honey can help you feel more comfortable when you have a cough.
Acute coughs although most commonly associated with common cold can also be caused by sinus infections, acute bronchitis, pneumonia, and whooping cough; other noninfectious causes include flare-ups of chronic conditions such as chronic bronchitis, asthma, and environmental allergies. According to the American Academy of Family physicians, the first step in the treatment is to determine if the cause of the cough is a an acute upper respiratory infection (i.e., common cold), lower respiratory tract infection, or an aggravation of a preexisting condition like asthma, bronchiectasis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).
Honey has been used for centuries to help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with a common cold. A US study done on children 2 years and older with upper respiratory tract infections did find honey was better at reducing nighttime cough’s severity, frequency and inconvenience thus improving sleep quality for the child and parent when compared to either honey-flavored dextromethorphan or no treatment.
Try a spoonful of honey to soothe and coat your throat. In between, keep up your liquids with a steaming cup of tea sweetened with honey. Try mixing in orange, grapefruit or lemon juice. Examples of honey that can be used include pure raw honey like the local raw buckwheat honey provided by Amish Honey.
Still wondering the mechanism behind honeys action on cough? Read on
It's not clear exactly how honey eases a cough. A possible scientific explanation could be deduced from the fact that honey contains more than 181 different natural substances and suggested its antioxidant and antimicrobial properties may explain why it helped to relieve the children's coughs and without the serious complications that may be experienced using OTC medications.
Cough is triggered by the stimulation of a complex reflex arc; there's an interaction between the sensory nerves locally which respond to irritant stimulation and those in the central nervous system involved in the regulation of the mechanism of cough via afferent fibers in the vagus nerve. Thus, in addition to honey coating the throat and triggering the swallowing mechanism, the sweet taste of honey could stimulate these sensory pathways, changing the sensitivity and readily causing salivation and promote airway mucus secretion.
The World Health Organization (WHO) lists honey as a demulcent; which is a substance that relieves irritation that results in coughing by forming a soothing, protective film when administered onto a mucous membrane surface and has recommended it for use in developing countries where there's limited access to medication. So, in case of dry unproductive cough, demulcent effect may lubricate pharynx and larynx and help to reduce coughing. For children older than one year with a viral URI, it has been recommended 1.5 teaspoons honey to be given prior to bedtime as a cough remedy.
Always check with your doctor if you have a fever, prolonged, worsening cough, wheezing or if symptoms continue for more than a few days.
Do not give honey to children under 1 year old; honey contains botulism spores an infant's digestive system cannot handle.