Question & Answer

Does manuka honey help lung function?

Click image to download

The Evidence

  • It is claimed that manuka honey is good for your lungs. We didn’t find any evidence specifically on this question.
  • We found two systematic reviews about honey and cough.
  • The first review looked at children with acute cough (a cough that tends to last less than three weeks). The studies looked at whether children coughed less often when using honey compared with other treatments. They reported that:
    • Honey is probably better than no treatment or dummy pills (placebo).
    • Honey may have a similar effect to taking a medicine called dextromethorphan and may work better than taking a medicine called diphenhydramine but we can’t be certain.
    • Giving honey for up to three days might be better than giving a placebo or the medicine salbutamol, but beyond three days, honey might have no advantage.
    • There’s probably little or no difference between honey and pineapple extract.
  • The second review looked at one study of children aged between 1 and 5 years where different kinds of honey were compared to an extract from dates. They found that honey was better than date extract at relieving symptoms of cough over three days.
  • Honey may help with coughs, but the information we have is from small studies with few people, making the results uncertain.

Guidelines and recommendations

Things to Remember

  • Just because a treatment is associated with someone getting better, doesn’t mean the treatment made them better.
  • Just because a treatment has been used for a long time doesn’t mean it works.


  • Lead Researcher: Dr. Paula Byrne, Senior post-doctoral researcher, iHealthFacts, Evidence Synthesis Ireland and Cochrane Ireland, College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, University of Galway.
  • Reviewed by: Prof Declan Devane, Professor of Health Research Methodology, Deputy Dean, College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, University of Galway,
  • Scientific Director, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network Director, Evidence Synthesis Ireland. Director, Cochrane Ireland
  • Topic advisor: Dr. Caroline Mc Carthy, Clinical Lecturer and Research Fellow, Department of General Practice, RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences and General Practitioner, Leixlip, Co Kildare.
  • Public and Patient advisor: Anne Daly, Public and Patient Involvement in research (PPI) advisor, PPI Ignite, University of Galway.
  • Journalist Advisor: Dr. Claire O’Connell, PhD in cell biology, Masters in Science Communication. Contributor to The Irish Times, writing about health, science and innovation.

Conflict of Interest Statement: The authors have no financial or other conflicts of interest for this health claim summary.