Healing honey.Coughs, sniffles snif·fle
intr.v. snif·fled, snif·fling, snif·fles
1. To breathe audibly through a runny or congested nose.
2. To weep or whimper lightly with spasmodic congestion of the nose.
1. , sneezes, runny noses: Colds and other nasty lung infections are especially common in winter. To fight the misery, many people swallow syrups and pills that claim to clear stuffy noses, soothe sore throats, stifle coughs, and improve sleep.
Growing evidence, however, suggests that these medicines don't really work. What's worse, they can have unpleasant--even dangerous--side effects, especially for young children. That's why some doctors are now recommending an ancient remedy for their coughing patients: honey.
It's the kind of advice you might expect from your grandmother. But a new study suggests that the sticky sweet stuff might have real healing power.
"Honey has been used for centuries in folk remedies by cultures all over the world," says Ian Paul, a pediatrician at Pennsylvania State University Pennsylvania State University, main campus at University Park, State College; land-grant and state supported; coeducational; chartered 1855, opened 1859 as Farmers' High School. Children's Hospital in Hershey, Pa. "We thought it would be reasonable to test it."
Paul was motivated to test honey because treating coughs in children has recently become a sticky subject.
Coughing is the body's way of clearing irritated airways to help you breathe. But too much coughing can irritate your lungs and throat even more. Hacking away can also make it tough to get the sleep your body needs to heal. Hoping to ease the suffering of their children, parents often give them cough medicine.
These drugs have been around for decades, and their manufacturers claim they help kids feel better. But there have never been any good studies showing that they work, Paul says.
In 1997, the American Academy of Pediatrics The American Academy of Pediatrics ("AAP") is an organization of pediatricians, physicians trained to deal with the medical care of infants, children, and adolescents. Its motto is: "Dedicated to the Health of All Children. even warned that codeine codeine (kō`dēn), alkaloid found in opium. It is a narcotic whose effects, though less potent, resemble those of morphine. An effective cough suppressant, it is mainly used in cough medicines. Like other narcotics, codeine is addictive. and dextromethorphan (DM)--two of the four most common ingredients in cough medicines--did nothing for young children. Codeine and DM are supposed to work by blocking messages from the brain that tell the body to cough.
A drug that doesn't work is bad enough. But cough and cold medicines can also cause severe side effects Side effects
Effects of a proposed project on other parts of the firm. , including drowsiness drows·i·ness
A state of impaired awareness associated with a desire or inclination to sleep. Also called hypnesthesia.
drowsiness Medtalk Semiconsciousness; grogginess, sleepiness or hyperactivity hyperactivity, excessive physical activity of emotional or physiological origin, usually seen in young children; one of the components of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. , hallucinations Hallucinations Definition
Hallucinations are false or distorted sensory experiences that appear to be real perceptions. These sensory impressions are generated by the mind rather than by any external stimuli, and may be seen, heard, felt, and even , headaches, vomiting, rapid heart rate, and worse. Hundreds of kids end up in the hospital each year--and some even die--after receiving too much cough medicine by mistake.
Frustrated by the lack of good studies, Paul decided to do one himself. A few years ago, he and colleagues designed a study that involved 100 kids who were sick with coughs and other cold symptoms. All were between the ages of 2 and 18.
The researchers divided the kids into three groups. Before bed, one group of kids took syrup that contained DM. A second group received syrup containing another common cough medicine called diphenhydramine diphenhydramine /di·phen·hy·dra·mine/ (di?fen-hi´drah-men) a potent antihistamine, used as the hydrochloride salt in the treatment of allergic symptoms and for its anticholinergic, antitussive, antiemetic, antivertigo, and antidyskinetic (DPH DPH Diploma in Public Health.
1. Diploma in Public Health
2. Doctor of Public Health
3. Doctor of Public Hygiene ). A third group took nonmedicated syrup.
In medical experiments, these fake medicines are called placebos. By comparing patients who have taken a real drug with those who've taken a placebo, doctors can understand the drug's effectiveness.
Neither the researchers nor the kids and their parents knew which group was getting which syrup.
Parents answered five questions about their children's symptoms, both the night before the kids took the syrup and the night after. Results showed that kids who swallowed nonmedicated syrup improved just as much as did kids who got the drugs. Paul and colleagues published those results in 2004.
Last October, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reviewed all the data, including Paul's, and concluded that parents should not give cough medicines to children under 6. Around the same time, drug companies stopped selling these medicines for use in young children.
Paul knew that parents would be dismayed by the news. He felt the same way.
"It's hard as a doctor to tell people that medicine is no better than placebo when I don't have an alternative to give them," he says.
In his search for a different solution, Paul came across ancient anecdotes about honey's healing powers. Doctors in ancient Egypt, for example, used it to treat wounds, coughs, and joint pain thousands of years ago.
Paul also discovered that the World Health Organization recommended honey as a throat soother, even though there was no scientific evidence of its effectiveness. Honey couldn't hurt, Paul figured. Why not find out if it could help?
He designed his next study much like the first one. At bedtime, 105 sick kids took honey-flavored DM syrup, buckwheat buckwheat, common name for certain members of the Polygonaceae, a family of herbs and shrubs found chiefly in north temperate areas and having a characteristic pungent juice containing oxalic acid. Species native to the United States are most common in the West. honey syrup, or no treatment. Parents and kids in the no-treatment group knew they weren't getting anything, but the other two groups weren't told which treatment they were getting.
This time, surveys showed that kids who swallowed about 2 teaspoons of buckwheat honey before bedtime coughed less and slept better than did youngsters in the other groups. Their parents slept better too.
Honey isn't safe for children younger than 1 year old, Paul says, but his results have convinced him to recommend it as a cough suppressant Cough suppressant
Medicine that stops or prevents coughing.
Mentioned in: Expectorants
cough suppressant Medtalk A drug used to control a dry, annoying cough for older children.
"When parents want something for their kids to take," Paul says, honey "seems like the best option."
Most people think of honey as a tasty substitute for sugar in their tea, or as a topping on a peanut butter-and-banana sandwich. So what gives the sweet stuff its healing powers?
For one thing, its thick, sticky consistency probably helps coat and soothe the throat, says Katherine Beals, a registered dietician dietician Nutritionist A health professional with specialized training in diet and nutrition at the University of Utah The University of Utah (also The U or the U of U or the UU), located in Salt Lake City, is the flagship public research university in the state of Utah, and one of 10 institutions that make up the Utah System of Higher Education. in Salt Lake City. She's also a nutrition consultant for the National Honey Board, a honey-promoting group that funded Paul's recent study.
Substances called antioxidants Antioxidants
Substances that reduce the damage of the highly reactive free radicals that are the byproducts of the cells.
Mentioned in: Aging, Nutritional Supplements
n. may also be part of the answer, Beals says. Antioxidants--which are also found in foods such as blueberries, spinach, and dark chocolate--protect our cells from damage.
Studies show that antioxidant antioxidant, substance that prevents or slows the breakdown of another substance by oxygen. Synthetic and natural antioxidants are used to slow the deterioration of gasoline and rubber, and such antioxidants as vitamin C (ascorbic acid), butylated hydroxytoluene levels in the body rise after someone swallows honey. All honey contains antioxidants, but certain types contain more than others.
There are more than 300 types of honey, Beals says. Color, flavor, and health benefits depend on which types of flowers honey-producing bees visit.
Most of the honey we buy in U.S. grocery stores is made by bees that visit clover plants. Darker honeys, such as the buckwheat type that Paul used in his experiment, are generally higher in antioxidants than lighter ones, including clover, Beals says.
Honey has another health advantage. At least some types seem to kill infectious microbes. One honey from New Zealand New Zealand (zē`lənd), island country (2005 est. pop. 4,035,000), 104,454 sq mi (270,534 sq km), in the S Pacific Ocean, over 1,000 mi (1,600 km) SE of Australia. The capital is Wellington; the largest city and leading port is Auckland. has proved especially good at healing wounds when slathered on the skin.
There is no evidence that eating honey will help prevent colds, Beals says. But if your throat is sore and you can't stop coughing, it might make you feel better. And a little dose of sweetness might just cheer you up!