Zarbee's Naturals Cough and Cold Remedies

What Parents Need to Know About These Honey-Based Products

If you're a parent who tries not to give your child medication (or take it yourself) unnecessarily, you may have come across a line of products called Zarbee's Naturals, non-drug cough and cold relievers that are widely available in drugstores, big box retailers, and online at sites such as Amazon.

Zarbee's products were developed by a pediatrician in response to findings by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2007 that over-the-counter cough and cold medications marketed for children were neither effective nor safe. He was inspired further by research that came out around the same time showing that a certain type of honey could help soothe kids' coughs.

In the first of these studies, for example, when children with upper respiratory tract infections were given up to 2 teaspoons of buckwheat honey at bedtime, they coughed less during the night and slept better. The honey seemed to work as well as dextromethorphan, a common cough suppressant found in over-the-counter medications. There's been research since to back up these findings.

Honey Can Be Harmful to Babies

It may sound like the most harmless thing in the world, but babies under 12 months should never be given honey. If you have a child, your pediatrician has most likely explained the reason for this but it's worth repeating: A bacterium called Clostridium botulinum that's found in dirt and soil, also thrives in certain foods. Honey is one of them. A baby who ingests this bacterium could develop a serious form of poisoning known as infant botulism that can cause muscle weakness and symptoms such as a diminished ability to suck, a weak cry, constipation, and decreased muscle tone (floppiness).

For this reason, Zarbee's does make products that are safe for babies between 0 and 12 months old. Instead of honey, they're made with agave syrup, which is similar to honey in sweetness and viscosity, one of the properties of honey thought to make it soothing for sore throats and coughs. Before you give a little one any type of medication (natural or not), make sure it isn't labeled "for adults" or even "for children."

Treating the Whole Family

Zarbee's products have not been tested by the FDA as a medication and per regulations are not intended to treat, cure, or prevent any illness or disease. And although they're labeled "natural," they aren't the same as homeopathic treatments.

The Zarbee's line of products has expanded greatly since it was launched. In addition to the original honey-based cough remedy for children and the agave-based alternative for babies, the company now offers a number of different types of cough remedies and supplements for kids, as well as a wide variety of products for adults. 

The most important thing when using any Zarbee's product or other OTC cough or cold remedy is to read labels carefully, never give something formulated for adults or children to a baby, and stick to age-based dosage recommendations. And if you aren't sure what to do about a child's cough or cold, check with your pediatrician first.

A Word From Verywell

These products are not medically regulated by the FDA because they are marketed as a supplement, not a medication, nor has this review been evaluated by the FDA. Note that these are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or condition.

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  1. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Use caution when giving cough and cold products to kids. Updated February 8, 2018.

  2. Paul IM, Beiler J, Mcmonagle A, Shaffer ML, Duda L, Berlin CM. Effect of honey, dextromethorphan, and no treatment on nocturnal cough and sleep quality for coughing children and their parents. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2007;161(12):1140-6.

  3. Abdulla CO, Ayubi A, Zulfiquer F, Santhanam G, Ahmed MA, Deeb J. Infant botulism following honey ingestion. BMJ Case Rep. 2012;2012. doi:10.1136/bcr.11.2011.5153

  4. Zarbee's Naturals. Products for babies. Updated 2019.

  5. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Warning letter, Zarbee's Inc. Updated June 27, 2014.

  6. Zarbee's Naturals. Our products. Updated 2019.

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