The many health benefits of honey are well known. Honey is famous for its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, and it has been used for centuries as a common ingredient in many cold and cough remedies. Honey has powerful antioxidant properties that help boost your immunity and also fights against inflammation. From a sore throat to helping soothe a persistent cough, honey is known to help fight against the seasonal flu as well. But can honey help in asthma? Let’s take a look.
Honey and Asthma
As mentioned above, honey has been used across cultures for centuries to treat many health conditions successfully. Honey is known for having power antioxidant properties that not only boost your immunity but also help fight against inflammation in the body. Honey is also frequently used as a home remedy for soothing the symptoms of allergy.
Allergies and asthma are often believed to be related conditions, but of course, with some major differences. If you suffer from an allergy to certain factors in the environment, such as dust and pollen, then your body starts manufacturing antibodies as a response to fight against these allergens. These antibodies, in turn, lead to the production of histamines. Histamines are what cause sneezing, congestion, itching, a cough, watery and red eyes, and other allergic reactions when you get exposed to a specific trigger for your allergies.
The fact is that these same antibodies that your body manufactures can also lead to an asthma attack. However, the critical difference between an allergic attack and an asthma attack is that asthma is experienced deep within the lungs, and the upper airways are affected. (1) Asthma is also a much more serious health problem than environmental allergies. If left untreated, asthma can become a life-threatening condition.
Honey seems to offer some benefits for people with asthma, and it has been observed that honey is especially effective at controlling the coughing associated with asthma. Read on to find out how honey can help in asthma.
How Does Honey Help in Asthma?
Honey is known to help asthma patients experience relief in nighttime coughing. There is a form of nighttime asthma known as nocturnal asthma that causes coughing, chest tightness, and wheezing. These symptoms are often so bad that they do not let you sleep.
A research team from UCLA (2) recommends taking two teaspoons of honey just before going to bed. It is believed that the sweetness of honey boosts the saliva production, lubricating your airways and soothing your cough.
At the same time, honey also decreases the inflammation in your bronchial tubes, the airways within your lungs and helps in breaking down the mucus that makes it difficult to breathe.
While honey is typically taken by mouth, some research models have also suggested nebulization as a more effective way of using honey for treating asthma. (3)
There have been many studies that have been done to prove the benefits of honey in treating asthma, but the results have been mixed.
For example, one study carried out a comparison of honey to dextromethorphan, which is the primary ingredient found in most cough suppressants. The results found honey coming out on top when it came to decreasing the severity as well as the frequency of nighttime coughing.
Another study (4) explored the effect of honey and other unconventional therapies on asthma. The study found that not a single of the alternative treatments helped any of the participants’ asthma symptoms.
A study carried out by the Universiti Sains Malaysia and performed on rabbits looked at the effect of aerosolized honey as a treatment for asthma. (5) The results were positive, but there is still a need for testing on humans.
The need of the hour is to conduct a large clinical trial that will provide better insight into whether honey actually helps in asthma or not. However, there are no plans for such a study as of today.
There has also been some research done on taking honey orally by mouth. In this study, antioxidants were combined with honey for treating asthma. (6) In one clinical study, Hippocampus kuda and Rhizoma Homalomenae were combined along with honey in a pill termed as BRONAS.
One 500 mg pill contained 200 mg of dried extract powder of Hippocampus kuda, 130 mg of honey, and 200 mg of dried extract powder of Rhizoma Homalomenae. The results of the study found that the treatment containing honey had results that were comparable to prednisone. Prednisone is a systemic anti-inflammatory steroid that is frequently prescribed to asthma patients.
Are There Risks Associated With Having Honey?
While consuming honey is generally determined to be safe in most people, it is not recommended for children who are under the age of 1. Furthermore, if you or your child have an allergy to pollen or bee stings, then you might be allergic to honey as well. In this case, it is better that you discuss with your doctor before consuming honey for asthma. Having an allergic reaction to honey may produce the following symptoms:
Honey consumed in small to moderate doses is deemed to be safe for a majority of people.
Honey can be a good addition to your asthma treatment that has been prescribed by your doctor. However, if you have severe asthma that cannot be treated without prescription medications, then you should consult with your doctor before taking honey. At the same time, you should follow a healthy lifestyle that will help prevent asthma attacks and also help you maintain steady breathing.
- Lundbäck, B., 1998. Epidemiology of rhinitis and asthma. Clinical and experimental allergy: journal of the British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 28, pp.3-10.
- Healthinfo.uclahealth.org. (2019). Cough | UCLA Health Library, Los Angeles, CA. [online] Available at: http://healthinfo.uclahealth.org/Search/122,cough [Accessed 30 Oct. 2019].
- Rhman, M.A.M.M.A., 2007. Bee Honey Nebulization as a Non Traditional Treatment of Acute Bronchial Asthma in Infants and Children. Malaysian Journal of Medical Sciences, 14(1).
- Al Moamary, M.S., 2008. Unconventional therapy use among asthma patients in a tertiary care center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Annals of thoracic medicine, 3(2), p.48.
- Kamaruzaman, N.A., Sulaiman, S.A., Kaur, G. and Yahaya, B., 2014. Inhalation of honey reduces airway inflammation and histopathological changes in a rabbit model of ovalbumin-induced chronic asthma. BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 14(1), p.176.
- Van Toan, N. and Hanh, T.T., 2013. RETRACTED ARTICLE: Improved treatment of Asthma by using natural sources of antioxidants. SpringerPlus, 2(1), p.278.