Cough Syrup vs. Honey


Coughs cause more than 30 million doctor visits every year in the United States. Americans spend billions of dollars on over the counter medications to fight coughs, such as cough suppressants and expectorants.
But not everyone goes running for the purple drank when they get a cough. When it comes to remedies, people tend to fall into two camps: Cures from a bottle, or cures from well.. honey. Also in a bottle. But you get what I mean.
So a little cage fighting between the two is in order, where they shall brawl to the death, based upon their effectiveness, safety and overall health benefits. You ready!? I’m ready. Let’s go!

Cough Syrup as a Cough Remedy

First off, according to a recent survey by Harris Interactive for the Perrigo Company, fewer than 40 percent of consumers actually know what the most common active ingredients in cough syrups are, and only 43 percent ask for the help of the pharmacist.
These mystery ingredients usually include cough suppressants such as dextromethorphan (DMX), or expectorants such as guaifenesin, which are supposed to loosen up mucus in the airways. But according to WebMD, a 2010 review of studies found that there is no evidence to support using these drugs for a cough. Futher, in 2006, the American College of Chest Physicians surveyed a number of cough medicine studies from the last few decades and came to the exact same conclusion.
According to Norman Edelman, MD, chief medical officer at the American Lung Association:
“We’ve never had good evidence that cough suppressants and expectorants help with cough, but people are desperate to get some relief. They’re so convinced that they should work that they buy them anyway.”
But aside from being a grape flavored placebo, cough syrup is also known for some really unpleasant juju, health-wise.
A lot of the drugs in cough syrups – especially DMX – are known to cause a variety of acute toxic effects ranging from nausea, restlessness, insomnia, cerebellar uncoordination, slurred speech, mood changes, perceptual alterations, inattention, disorientation and aggressive behavior.
DMX especially is linked to triggering psychosis, limbic seizures, depression, and other neurological and psychological diseases much more frequently than other types of drugs. (Want to spend 15 minutes being shocked and depressed? Google the new drug abuse fad of getting drunk off cough syrup among teens, and all the long term side effects that entails..)
Because of the lack of evidence that cold and cough medicines help, and the risk of serious side effects, the FDA stated in 2008 that toddlers and babies should not use cold and cough medicines. Drug makers changed the labeling of over the counter cough and cold products, recommending them only for children aged 4 and older.
But the American Academy of Pediatrics goes even further, saying that there’s no reason that parents should use them in children under age 6. Some go even further than the AAP (if that’s possible) and say not to use them, regardless of age and instead stick to traditional, all natural, holistic remedies. Such as honey!


Honey as a Cough Remedy

Modern medical research has explained the chemical properties of honey and deemed it beneficial as an antiseptic and antibacterial treatment and a successful cough soother. (In addition to being a cough soother, honey contains flavonoids, which are antioxidants that help reduce the risk of some cancers and heart disease!)
According to WedMD:
“In a recent study, 270 children aged 1 to 5 with nighttime cough due to simple colds received one of three types of honey or a non-honey liquid of similar taste and consistency 30 minutes before bedtime. Parents completed questionnaires about their child’s cough and sleep on the night before the study began and then again the night after their kids were treated.
Children received either 2 teaspoons of eucalyptus honey, citrus honey, labiatae honey, or similar-tasting silan date extract 30 minutes before bed. All kids did better the second night of the study, including those given the date extract. But children who received honey coughed less frequently, less severely, and were less likely to lose sleep due to the cough when compared to those who didn’t get honey.
In addition to recent studies showing the effectiveness of honey over cough syrup, honey has also been proven to help boost immunity, and to prevent or shorten the lifespan of the flu, sore throat, and the common cold. Dr. Tasneem Bhatia from the Atlanta Center for Holistic and Integrative Medicine has stated that one of the natural solutions she recommended is the remedy in the study above: Taking 1 to 2 teaspoons of buckwheat honey every day to ward off the flu!
However, if you are planning on using honey instead of cough syrup, it must be raw honey. Heating honey through pasteurization destroys all of the pollen, enzymes, propolis, vitamins, amino acids, antioxidants, minerals, and aromatics.
But also remember, coughing isn’t all that bad when you are sick. It is your bodies way of clearing mucus from your airway, along with the all the gunk and junk that is making you ill. If you or your child are generally healthy, there’s usually no reason to suppress a cough.
(IMPORTANT NOTE! Do not give honey to children under one year! Their bodies literally cannot digest it, it’s poison to an infant, with a high mortality rate! Over one year is generally considered safe, though some wait till their kids are 2 or older for safeties sake…)

So! Are you going to give honey a try next time you come down with a cough? ^_^

Gingi Freeman

Gingi is a photographer, cosplayer, amateur chef, crazy cat lady, anime otaku, bookworm, generic geek, world traveler, conservative Christian, homeschooler, devoted military wife and stay at home new mother of two little girls. Gingi blogs about anything and everything that is relevant to being a supermom, stay at home wife, homeschooler and geek girl! You can contact her at or via the contact form on her website at