We Malaysians have always used honey to cure our minor coughs and colds.
We never really needed science to tell us honey works.
But, a new study conducted in the UK may just be among the first to systematically validate that honey is a better cure to common coughs and colds than over-the-counter medicines
According to the systematic review published earlier in August in the BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine journal, researchers at the University of Oxford say doctors can recommend honey as a suitable alternative to antibiotics, which are often prescribed for such illnesses.
The study specifically looks at upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs), a category of illnesses that affects the nose, throat, voice box, and bronchi that lead from the windpipe to the lungs.
"Honey is a frequently used lay remedy that is well known to patients. It is also cheap, easy to access, and has limited harms," the researchers write.
"When clinicians wish to prescribe for URTI, we would recommend honey as an alternative to antibiotics. Honey is more effective and less harmful than usual care alternatives and avoids causing harm through antimicrobial resistance."
Other than antibiotics, the research also looks into how honey fares against several over-the-counter drugs
Particularly, the researchers compare the effectiveness of honey to two medicines commonly found in pharmacies, namely cough and cold suppressant dextromethorphan and diphenhydramine, an antihistamine that can be used to relieve coughs.
While dextromethorphan is proven to be more effective in soothing the symptoms, honey, however, "significantly" outperformed diphenhydramine at improving coughing, reported The News Tribune.
Two of the studies reviewed show that individuals who took honey recovered from the illnesses one to two days earlier than those individuals who took drugs.
Data analysis of these studies indicated that honey, overall, has a better effect on improving cold and cough symptoms, especially the frequency and severity of coughing, reported Sky News.
The conclusion was reached after reviewing 14 past studies, which involved a total of 1,761 individuals.
While the conclusion sounds very promising, an expert says a few of the studies reviewed in the research are problematic to begin with
University of Wollongong epidemiologist Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz said meta-analysis research is only as good as the quality of each study, reported ScienceAlert.
"If the literature you're relying on is bad, you can't really say much about the subject except that you need more research," he said.
"In this review, most of the included research seems to have worrying inconsistencies and some outright mistakes, which means we have to be really careful about reading too much into the results."
However, the epidemiologist did say that the meta-analysis itself was done well.