Use Honey, Not Antibiotics To Deal With Your Cough

Honey decreases the frequency and intensity of coughs in comparison to placebo treatments. 

2 min read

Remember how your Dadi Maa made you drink her magic honey and herb mix and your cough always got better?

As Indians, we have been curing colds and coughs with traditional home-remedies since ages. So it is no surprise to us that new guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) and Public Health England (PHE) are encouraging people to use “self-care” remedies like honey and herbal solutions to get rid of their cough, rather than pop antibiotics.

The official guidelines state that people with acute cough recover within three weeks without any pills. Antibiotics must be reserved for more severe infections which might be prolonged or which might involve more complications.

The guidelines have also highlighted how honey can be very useful in treating coughs as it decreases the frequency and intensity of coughs in comparison to placebo treatments.

Growing Antibiotic Resistance

The new guidelines could also help raise awareness about antibiotic resistance especially since India is perhaps the worst abuser of antibiotics in the world. According to a latest paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) , the use of antibiotics in India went up 103% between year 2000 and 2015. All this, when multi drug resistance bacteria is in our hospitals, in our environment and it is spreading.

Dr Ramanan Laxminarayan, director with Centre For Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy and a senior research scholar at Princeton University, explains:

Today a large number of the bacteria that is in our body and out in the environment are resistant to antibiotics. This is a problem because if we are sick with a bacterial disease, chances are antibiotics won’t work.

So to treat simple ailments like cough and cold, one must try and avoid dependence on antibiotics and instead opt for natural remedies. The guidelines also stated that they found a herbal remedy, called Kabola (or medicines that have pelargonium) to be useful in relieving symptoms of cough.

Some medicines that contained guaifenesin or dextromethorpan could also help in such cases.

In a quote to The Telegraph, Professor Mark Baker, director of the centre for guidelines at NICE said:

We are keen to highlight that in most cases, antibiotics will not be necessary to treat a cough. We want people to be offered advice on alternatives that may help ease their symptoms. This guideline gives health professionals and patients the information they need to make good choices about the use of antibiotics. We encourage their use only when a person is at risk of further complications.

In its editorial, medical journal The Lancet argues that giving honey is no better than prescribing a placebo, since not enough studies have been done to prove its effects on dealing with coughs.

But as we Indians know, placebo or not Dadi Maa’s desi nuskhe to fight cold and cough always make us feel better.

(Have you subscribed to FIT’s newsletter yet? Click here and get health updates directly in your inbox.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Speaking truth to power requires allies like you.
Become a Member
Read More