A friend of mine insists that downing honey by the heaping tablespoon at the first sign of a cold will alleviate the symptoms, shorten the duration of the cold, or prevent it entirely - any and all of the above. I have found a few sites online (that are rinky-dinky to the point where they aren't worth linking to) that tout honey similarly as the magical cold cure. Is it really better than pharmaceutical remedies? If not, is it better than not using a remedy at all?
I found no evidence for honey helping colds. Cochrane found limited evidence for honey helping in acute coughs in children, and no evidence for honey helping chronic coughs in children.
The Cochrane Collaboration do meta-analyses of health studies - they gather all of the published scientific evidence on a topic, and use careful statistical techniques to try to work out which way the evidence points.
While they don't have a general purpose study on honey's affect on the common cold, there were two studies of honey's affect on children with coughs - one for acute and one for chronic.
Oduwole O, Meremikwu MM, Oyo-Ita A, Udoh EE. Honey for acute cough in children. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2010, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD007094. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD007094.pub2
Mulholland S, Chang AB. Honey and lozenges for children with non-specific cough. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2009, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD007523. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD007523.pub2
In the first analysis, they could only find one small study with any good evidence:
A review of one small randomised controlled trial showed that honey was significantly better than no treatment for the relief of cough, reducing bothersome cough, improving child's sleep; but no better than 'no treatment' in reducing the severity of cough and parent's sleep.
Note the comparison here is to "no treatment" rather than placebo or regular cough medicine.
The effects of honey on symptom relief and sleep quality did not differ from those of dextromethorphan, which is a common ingredient in cough medications. Parents of five children assigned to honey and two assigned to dextromethorphan reported their children suffered from insomnia, hyperactivity and nervousness. However, as with other medications, its benefit should be considered alongside the adverse effects.
This review has a limitation in that the results were obtained from a single study involving a relatively small number of children.
In the second analysis, they looked for the affect on chronic non-specific coughs, which were defined as:
a dry, non-productive cough with no known cause lasting longer than four consecutive weeks
Four weeks is a long time - this is beyond your typical common cold.
What they found was that there was no good evidence either way for chronic coughs.
No randomised controlled trials were found to be applicable to this review, primarily due to the participants in the studies not fulfilling the inclusion criteria.
Cough is certainly a symptom of a cold, and honey has been found to help with that: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/honey/AN01799 and http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/pharyngitis-000129.htm both cite a 2007 (peer reviewed and published) study.
In fact, in the study, honey appeared to be as effective as the cough suppressant dextromethorphan in typical over-the-counter doses.
The idea behind eating honey is kind of like gradually vaccinating the body against allergens, a process called immunotherapy. Honey contains a variety of the same pollen spores that give allergy sufferers so much trouble when flowers and grasses are in bloom. Introducing these spores into the body in small amounts by eating honey should make the body accustomed to their presence and decrease the chance an immune system response like the release of histamine will occur [source: AAFP]. Since the concentration of pollen spores found in honey is low -- compared to, say, sniffing a flower directly -- then the production of antibodies shouldn't trigger symptoms similar to an allergic reaction. Ideally, the honey-eater won't have any reaction at all.
Yes it will definitely help with common cold and it can also reduce your allergy issues. The fact is that it contains many anti - inflammatory material material. So when you use honey regularly it gives hint to your body immune system of what your body is allergic to. Like it gives the hint to pollen your body is allergic to. This helps your body fight with cold and allergy. If you are thinking that you have got cold and you start eating honey and within 3-4 days it will help, then you are wrong. Honey needs time to get your immune strong. If you start consuming honey on a daily basis before the allergy season strike then I think it will help you better.You can get more details on benefits of honey here.
And one more thing I want to clarify. Only Raw honey will do the benefits not the one you buy from the grocery. So do use the Raw honey not the processed one.