July 13, 2018

How Effective Is Honey for Asthma?

Honey can produce an anti-inflammatory effect, which is why many people use it as part of cold and flu treatment. It helps to relieve the symptoms like coughing and irritated throat. But can you use honey for asthma?

In this article, we will look at the existing research and expert opinion on the effects of honey on asthma, as well as mention the main risks of using this natural remedy.


Why May Honey Be Beneficial for Asthma?


Honey can alleviate coughing and a sore throat by increasing the production of saliva. Lubricating the airways, saliva helps with irritation in the throat. This is especially effective against coughing.

If you are affected by asthma, using honey may be beneficial. Its anti-inflammatory properties can help with the swelling of the airways, which is typical for asthma.

According to experts at the University of California, taking 2 teaspoons of honey before going to sleep can relieve coughing.

Another theory suggests that taking honey can improve allergy-induced asthma by desensitizing you to pollen, which is a common trigger for people with allergic asthma. However, there is no evidence supporting this hypothesis.

Is Honey Really Effective Against Asthma Symptoms?


There are several research studies looking at honey as a treatment for coughing. Many of them focus on the effectiveness of honey against upper respiratory infections, rather than asthma, but the symptoms of both conditions are often quite similar.

Thus, according to a 2012 study, honey can help to reduce nighttime coughing. The study involved 300 children of 1 to 5 years of age who were affected by upper respiratory infections. While one part of the kids received eucalyptus honey, citrus honey, or Labiatae honey, the other part received a placebo.

The results showed that children who received honey had significant improvements in coughing, which helped them sleep better at night.

Another study published in 2012 involved two clinical trials including more than 200 children with acute coughs.

One trial compared the effectiveness of cough suppressants and honey. Honey was found to be as effective and even more effective than common medications like diphenhydramine or dextromethorphan.

In the second trial, one group of children was taking honey, while another group received no treatment at all. The group that received honey saw improvements in symptoms.

While most studies look at the benefits for taking honey orally, there is also an animal study published in 2014 suggesting that inhaled honey can help with asthma. However, additional research focusing on humans is still needed to confirm the results.

What Are the Risks of Taking Honey?


Normally, honey, in adequate amounts, is safe for human health. However, some exceptions do take place.

Thus, you should not give honey to infants younger than 1 year to prevent the risk of botulism.

Botulism is a poisoning induced by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum. Although it is rare, botulism can be life-threatening. Its common symptoms include vomiting, trouble breathing, and paralysis. In most cases, these bacteria are transmitted through soil and food.

Honey can sometimes contain the spores of Clostridium botulinum. The immune system of adults and older children is strong enough to prevent the bacteria from growing. However, the immune system of infants is weaker, which means the spores can grow and affect the organism.

Remember that pasteurized honey is not safer, when it comes to the risk of botulism. Therefore, you should avoid giving honey to an infant under 12 months.

Another risk is related to allergies. If you have an allergy or allergic asthma, you may react to eating honey. This is because honey is often contaminated with pollen and may trigger the symptoms in people allergic to pollen.

In case of a bee sting allergy, honey is usually safe.

During the process of production, honey often gets contaminated with pollen from various plants including trees and grasses. If eating honey cause you to sneeze, develop a runny nose, hives, or watery eyes, you are most likely allergic to the pollen.

In rare cases, reactions induced by honey can be severe. Such reactions involve wheezing, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing and require an immediate medical help.

How Can You Treat Asthma?


Honey can help to relieve some symptoms, but it cannot be considered as an effective asthma treatment.

If you have allergic asthma, you will develop asthma symptoms whenever affected by an allergen. Therefore, the first thing to do is to avoid exposure to the allergens.

It is important to identify the triggers of your allergy to stay away from them in future. Thus, you have a pollen allergy, you may want to spend more time indoors with closed windows when the pollen count is high. Use online applications to check the daily pollen counts in your area.

People with asthma should not smoke, as it’s especially harmful for their health. Smoking causes damage of the hair-like fibers in the airways called the cilia.

Having asthma means that your airways are already very sensitive. Smoking can irritate them more and increase breathing problems.

Speaking of asthma medications, inhalers with corticosteroids or bronchodilators are probably the most common treatments. If you have asthma, your doctor will likely prescribe you one for daily use to control your condition. These inhalers work by relaxing the tightened muscles in the airways, which improves breathing.

Some inhalers for asthma may also contain medications specifically designed for asthma symptoms.

The Bottom Line


While honey may help to alleviate coughing and a sore throat, it is not an alternative to asthma medications. Asthma attacks can cause severe symptoms, and it’s important to treat them properly. People with asthma should consult with a doctor about the best treatment options.

Eating honey is usually safe for adults and children older than 1 year, unless you are allergic to pollen. You shouldn’t give honey to infants younger than 12 months, to avoid the risk of botulism.

Honey is available in most grocery stores and supermarkets, health food stores, as well as in online stores.

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