Can Honey Treat a Sore Throat?

When you have a sore throat, you want to find something that can soothe it. You may have heard that honey can treat a sore throat.

But is honey good for a sore throat? Or is this an old folk tale?

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What Causes a Sore Throat?

Viral infections, such as the cold or flu, are the main causes of sore throats. That’s according to the Centers for Disease and Prevention.

Other common causes of sore throat include:

  • Bacterial infections from group A strep, which causes strep throat.
  • Tonsilitis (an inflammation of the tonsils).
  • Seasonal allergies.
  • Smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke.

You may also have a sore throat following a tonsillectomy — that is, surgery to remove your tonsils.

Sore Throat Symptoms

Depending on what’s causing your sore throat, you can have different symptoms. These include:

  • A dry or scratchy throat.
  • Pain when swallowing.
  • Cough.
  • A hoarse voice.

If you have strep throat, your sore throat may start quickly. In addition to the above symptoms, other common symptoms include:

  • Fever.
  • Red and swollen tonsils.
  • White patches or streaks of pus on your tonsils.
  • Red spots on the roof of your mouth.
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the front of your neck.

Sometimes you can develop a rash known as scarlet fever with strep throat.

Is Honey Good for a Sore Throat?

The good news is that honey isn’t hype. The CDC actually recommends using honey to soothe cough from a sore throat in adults and children at least one year of age or older.

Never give honey to infants or children under one year of age. Honey can contain the bacteria that causes infant botulism. It’s safe for those older than 12 months.

While honey may help with a sore throat, it won’t cure what’s causing it. If you have strep throat, you will need to take antibiotics to treat it.

If you’ve had a tonsillectomy, honey may also help relieve pain. That’s according to a pilot study in Germany published in PLoS One. But experts won’t recommend it as part of pain management therapy after tonsillectomy until there’s more research to prove it’s effective.

What kind of honey for sore throat?

There are many kinds of honey, but what kind of honey is best for sore throat? It’s hard to say for sure. That’s because the only studies are two small studies on using buckwheat honey to treat cold symptoms in children.

That research found that buckwheat honey is better than placebo for children to:

  • Reduce how often they coughed.
  • Reduce cough.
  • Improve quality of sleep for children with the common cold.

One reason buckwheat honey may work better is because it contains strong antibacterial and cellular antioxidant activities. That’s according to an analysis comparing buckwheat honey to manuka honey published in Food Chemistry. The analysis found buckwheat honey has the same level of antibacterial properties as manuka honey, but higher cellular antioxidants.

So, the next time you have a sore throat, some honey in your tea just might do the trick.

Sore Throat. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Link.

Botulism. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Link.

The effect of adjuvant oral application of honey in the management of postoperative pain after tonsillectomy in adults: A pilot study. PLoS One. 2020. Link.

The Common Cold and Complementary Health Approaches. NCCIH Clinical Digest for health professionals. December 2020. Link.

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