A clinical trial has found that honey is more effective at soothing a sore throat than a common active ingredient in children's cough medicines.
Honey has been used for centuries to relieve a tickly throat and scientists now believe it may be effective because it has constituents that kill microbes and acts as an antioxidant. That means it might prevent damage inside cells from chemical byproducts of their activity.
The study compared buckwheat honey with dextromethorphan, an ingredient in a range of branded medicines. Dextromethorphan is the most common active ingredient in children's over-the-counter cough medicine in the US, although it is less common in remedies aimed at children in the UK. The team enrolled 105 children with a night cough and their parents and split them into three groups. One group received a syringe-full of honey, one a syringe containing the medicine, and the third received an empty syringe.
The team from Pennsylvania State University report today in the Archives of Paediatric and Adolescent Medicine that honey was more effective than dextromethorphan at relieving the severity, frequency and bothersome nature of the cough. The medicine was slightly more effective than no treatment at all.
Sheila Kelly, of the Proprietary Association of Great Britain, said: "Having access to safe and effective paediatric cough and cold remedies is essential. Those on the UK market have demonstrated their efficacy through decades of use and their acceptance by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency means parents can continue to rely on these over- the-counter cough and cold remedies."