Honey and Asthma

Honey Is One of the Foods That Help With Asthma

Family eating breakfast at home with focus on a girl taking out honey
 Eric Audras/Getty Images

Honey is one of the foods that may help with asthma. If you are like millions of other asthma patients, there is increased interest in using complementary and alternative products for your asthma.

Many patients use honey for a wide variety of ailments including:

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Infections
  • Inflammation

How Honey Is Delivered for Medical Impact

While honey is normally taken by mouth as a food product, some models have demonstrated nebulization as an effective way to use honey as a treatment for asthma in non-human research studies. Taken by mouth, honey is unlikely to be useful in an asthma attack or for acute asthma symptoms since the active ingredients must be absorbed from the digestive system before having an impact.

However, trials of how honey impacts the pathophysiology of asthma or objective measures of asthma control such as FEV1 have not been performed.

Research Studies for Honey and Asthma

In rabbits that were given asthma experimentally, nebulized honey was found to decrease inflammation and other chronic changes associated with asthma. Inhaled honey was thought to be useful not only in the treatment but prevention of symptoms after exposure to a trigger. The anti-inflammatory properties are thought to mediate the effects.

Inhaled honey decreased a number of the cells associated with poor asthma control such as:

Additionally, one of the problems asthmatics experience is increased production of mucus that makes it more difficult to move air through the lungs. Inhaled honey was found to decrease the production of the cells that produce mucus called goblet cells as well as decrease the production of mucus with an asthma attack.

Some studies have looked at honey as a treatment for seasonal allergies that may make your asthma worse. As with its direct use for asthma, there have only been a few studies directed as a treatment for hay fever. There is very little convincing scientific evidence for honey as a treatment for seasonal allergies. If you desire alternative treatments for seasonal allergies, nasal saline or the herb butterbur might be better choices. There is some research evidence that saline nasal irrigation improves seasonal allergy symptoms, but you need to be aware of the potential side effects. A 2007 systematic review of six studies indicated that butterbur is superior to placebo and about as good as over the counter products for seasonal allergies. It is generally safe, but some people may experience allergic reactions to the product. As with other therapies, make sure you talk with your doctor before using it and let them know if you experience any problems.

Oral Honey In Research

Antioxidants have been combined with honey for asthma. Hippocampus kuda and Rhizoma Homalomenae were combined with honey in a pill named BRONAS in one clinical study. A 500 mg pill contained 200 mg of dried extract powder of Hippocampus kuda, 200 mg of dried extract powder of Rhizoma Homalomenae, and 130 mg of honey. The treatment that included honey provided equal treatment results compared to treatment with prednisone. However, this study would not have likely been done in the United States as the care did not include currently acceptable standards of care for asthma and had a number of other problems.

Is Honey Safe?

Eating honey is generally safe and will not cause most people problems.  However, honey is generally not recommended for consumption in children under 1 year of age. If you or your child are allergic to pollen or bee stings, you may also be allergic to honey and should discuss with your doctor or an allergist before consuming.

Should I Use Honey For Asthma

I think it is too early to tell whether or not honey is one of the foods that help with asthma. While it seems to have some promising experimental results, I cannot say that honey will help your asthma today or that it is safe to use over long periods of time in higher quantities. I find the aerosolization an interesting concept that needs further study.

As with any other complementary and alternative medicine practice, it is important to discuss with your healthcare professional before beginning the practice. It is especially important that you not abandon your traditional asthma therapies without first discussing with your doctor. Doing so could lead to problems, a trip to the doctor, the emergency room, or the hospital.

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