Honey and asthma
Honey has been used as a natural medicine in cultures around the world for centuries. It has antioxidant properties that fight inflammation and boost immunity. Many people take honey for its ability to soothe a sore throat and quiet a cough. Honey is also a home remedy for allergy symptoms.
Asthma and allergies are related conditions, but there are some important differences. If you’re allergic to things in the environment such as pollen and dust, your body produces antibodies as a response. Those antibodies cause the production of chemicals, such as histamines. They are what cause congestion, sneezing, watery eyes, itching, a cough, and other allergic reactions.
Those same antibodies can also trigger an asthma attack. But unlike an allergy, asthma is a problem experienced deep in the lungs and upper airways. It’s a more serious health concern than environmental allergies. Even mild exertion can lead to an asthma attack in some people. Untreated, asthma can be life-threatening.
How does honey treat asthma?
Honey appears most helpful as a nighttime cough suppressant. A form of nighttime asthma, called nocturnal asthma, can cause coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness. These symptoms may disturb your sleep.
Researchers at UCLA suggest taking 2 teaspoons of honey at bedtime. It’s believed that the sweetness of honey triggers your salivary glands to produce more saliva. This may lubricate your airways, easing your cough. Honey may also reduce inflammation in the bronchial tubes (airways within the lungs) and help break up mucus that is making it hard for you to breathe.
You can take the honey by:
Mixing 1 teaspoon with 8 ounces of hot water; have this two or three times a day. Be careful not to make the water too hot.
Mixing 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon powder with a teaspoon of honey and having it right before bedtime. Honey and cinnamon may help remove phlegm from the throat and give your immune system a boost.
Squeezing the juice of 1/2 lemon into a glass of warm water and adding 1 teaspoon of honey. Lemon juice has antioxidants that can strengthen the immune system, and may help clear away mucus.
What the research says
There have been several studies done by researchers around the world trying to prove the therapeutic value of honey in treating asthma and many other conditions. The results have been mixed.
One study compared honey to dextromethorphan, the key ingredient in most cough suppressants. Honey came out on top in reducing the severity and frequency of nighttime coughs.
Another study looked at the effect honey and several other “unconventional therapies” had on asthma. The study found that none of the unconventional treatments that were tested helped any of the participants’ asthma.
One animal study tested aerosolized honey as an asthma treatment for rabbits. The study had positive results, but it still needs to be tested on humans.
A large clinical trial may provide better insight as to whether honey is an appropriate therapy. But there has yet to be such a study.
Things to keep in mind
One of the biggest concerns of using honey is the risk of an allergic reaction. If you have had an allergic reaction to bee stings or bee pollen, you should probably avoid honey in any form. A honey allergy can produce symptoms such as:
- difficulty swallowing
- swelling under the skin
- difficulty breathing
For the vast majority of people, honey consumed in small to moderate doses is safe. If you have a heart condition or digestive disorder, you should talk with your doctor before trying honey. The same is true if you’re taking antibiotics or medications for your heart or nervous system.
Children under the age of 12 months should not be given honey. The risk of botulism is extremely serious in infants. Also, if you have diabetes, be aware that honey can cause a spike in your blood sugar.
Honey may be a good addition to the treatments your doctor prescribes. But asthma is too serious of a condition to not treat properly with prescription medications and lifestyle adjustments.
Important lifestyle changes for asthma:
- Get regular exercise.
- Stop smoking.
- Avoid exposure to allergens by staying indoors when allergen counts are high outside.
- Use your air conditioner, so you can keep your house cool without opening windows.
- Change the filter often in your air conditioners, purifiers, or humidifiers.
- Keep your home as clean and free of allergens as possible.
Follow your doctor’s advice about when to take your medications. Make sure you know how to prevent asthma attacks and maintain steady breathing.