Raw honey has long been known to reduce coughing and ease sore throats associated with the flu and common cold. Although the two illnesses are often assumed to be the same, they are caused by different viruses. The flu is caused by the influenza virus while the common cold may be caused by any of more than 200 viral types. Since raw honey is known to have potent antimicrobial effects, one recent study examined the anti-influenza viral effects of honey (1).
Antiviral activity was measured using the selectivity index which is a ratio of measures of cytotoxicity and antiviral activity. A high selectivity index is desirable as it indicates that the treatment has a selective effect upon the virus and not the host. The five types of honey studied all exhibited some antiviral activity: manuka honey (SI=22.9), buckwheat honey (SI=12.1), honeydew honey (SI=9.6), acacia honey (SI=7.9) and milkvetch honey (SI=7.1).
The anti-influenza effects of buckwheat honey, which was second only to manuka honey in its antiviral effects, were thought to be due to the presence of two flavonoids. Rutin, which is contained in buckwheat flowers, has been shown to have anti-viral effects against the H5N1 avian virus (2). Buckwheat honey also contains chrysin which has been shown to have some effectiveness against Influenza A viruses (3).
The Covid-19 pandemic has driven the search for novel remedies and treatments capable of boosting the immune response and easing the effects of infection. Since raw honey is known to have potent antimicrobial effects, it is currently being studied as a possible treatment for coronavirus (4), although it is far too early to know whether honey will exhibit any effectiveness against this particular virus.
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Disclaimer: This information is provided for informational purposes only. If you need medical advice, you should consult a doctor or other appropriate medical professional.
- Watanabe, Ken, et al. "Anti-influenza viral effects of honey in vitro: potent high activity of manuka honey." Archives of medical research5 (2014): 359-365.(Link)
- Ibrahim, Amany K., et al. "Anti-H5N1 virus flavonoids from Capparis sinaica Veill." Natural product research22 (2013): 2149-2153. (Link)
- Hour, Mann-Jen, et al. "Baicalein, ethyl acetate, and chloroform extracts of Scutellaria baicalensis inhibit the neuraminidase activity of pandemic 2009 H1N1 and seasonal influenza A viruses." Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine(2013). (Link)
- Tantawy, Mahmoud Ahmed. "Efficacy Of Natural Honey Treatment In Patients With Novel Coronavirus - Full Text View - Clinicaltrials.Gov". Gov, (2020). (Link)