Could a pantry staple like honey be more effective in treating a cough or a cold than antibiotics? A new study released by the University of Oxford, reveals honey is just as effective as antibiotics and over-the-counter medicines in reducing the frequency and severity of coughs.

The study, published in the journal BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine, found honey is an effective treatment for upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) and reduces both the frequency and severity of coughs. Researchers suggest, "When clinicians wish to prescribe for URTI [upper respiratory tract infections], we would recommend honey as an alternative to antibiotics.”

Scientists came to the conclusion that honey is powerful medicine after reviewing 14 studies, that included 1,761 participants. The authors concluded that they hoped this research will convince clinicians to offer honey as an alternative to antibiotics for URTIs.

Accessible and cheap alternative to antibiotics

The study mentioned doctors have a limited choice of antibiotics to prescribe patients sick with upper respiratory illnesses. “Honey could help efforts to slow the spread of antimicrobial resistance... It provides a widely available and cheap alternative to antibiotics,” according to researchers. They are hoping this research will offer another choice for clinicians to choose from that has no side effects and is accessible to all.

Antibiotics are hard to access without proper healthcare coverage and can also be expensive. “Honey is a frequently used lay remedy that is well known to patients. It is also cheap, easy to access, and has limited harms," researchers wrote. They point out honey is cheap and can be found in every grocery store, making treatment widely available for all economic classes.

Side effects aren't the only issue with antibiotics but also increasing resistance to them.  "The overprescription of antibiotics has caused an epidemic of drug-resistant “superbugs” and infections that are immune to treatment, killing 35,000 Americans a year," according to the NY Post. As the use of antibiotics continues to normalize, more illnesses are becoming difficult to treat.

The easiest way to use honey to treat a cough or cold

The most effective way to treat a cough or cold with honey is to add one to two tablespoons to hot water. Squeeze half a lemon into the hot water with honey to break up mucus and soothe your throat. Lemons are also a great source of vitamin C which helps boost your immune system. The study briefly mentions that further research needs to be done on products infused with honey or milk since it's unknown how effective products are that have honey mixed in.

Yes, honey is a powerful treatment option for colds and coughs but that doesn't mean antibiotics shouldn't be used at times. Antibiotics are a crucial tool for doctors who can assess the severity of your illness, whether it's bacterial or viral (since antibiotics don't work against viruses) and if you have pre-existing health conditions.

More research continues to reveal the power behind all-natural remedies, herbs, and spices. Turmeric and its active ingredient curcumin have been linked to significantly decreasing inflammation and improving gut health. Ginger also has anti-inflammation qualities. Antibiotics work to fight infection, while these plant-based nutrients can help head off inflammation and other causes of disease before they take hold.

Honey is not vegan since it comes from the labor of bees, and how the honey gets extracted matters, since farmers can choose to carefully harvest honey and keep the hives intact while leaving enough for the bees to survive the colder months. In less caring harvesting, farmers replace the honey with a cheap sugar substitute that sickens the bees.

If you want to not use honey in cooking it can be replaced with vegan alternatives: Rice syrup, agave nectar, maple syrup, molasses, barley malt, organic cane sugar, Sucanat, sorghum or fruit concentrates.