Supplement Forms/Alternate Names:
Honey is the sweet syrup made by bees. Honey can be eaten plain or added to food and drinks. It has been used to ease cold-like symptoms. Honey can be applied as a cream or salve and has been used to ease swelling in skin problems such as rosacea. It has also been used on bandages to improve the healing of wounds and burns.
There are no advised doses for honey.
What Research Shows
May Be Effective
- Rosacea —may improve symptoms when applied as a cream D1
Not Enough Data to Assess
- Cough C1, C2
- Pressure ulcers
- Surgical wounds
- Venous leg ulcers
Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.
It is likely safe for most adults to use honey on the skin and to take it orally in small doses for a short time, but stomach upset and allergic reactions may happen. Infants and young children should not take honey by mouth. Not enough studies have been done to say whether it is safe to use for a long period. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should limit their use of honey.
Talk to your doctor about any supplements or therapy you would like to use. Some can interfere with treatment or make conditions worse.
A1. Lindberg T, Andersson O, et al. A systematic review and meta-analysis of dressings used for wound healing: the efficiency of honey compared to silver on burns. Contemp Nurse. 2015 Oct-Dec;51(2-3):121-134.
A2. Jull AB, Cullum N, et al. Honey as a topical treatment for wounds. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015;(3):CD005083.
A3. Oryan A, Alemzadeh E, et al. Biological properties and therapeutic activities of honey in wound healing: a narrative review and meta-analysis. J Tissue Viability. 2016;25(2):98-118.
A4. Aziz Z, Abdul Rasool Hassan B. The effects of honey compared to silver sulfadiazine for the treatment of burns: A systematic review od randomized controlled trials. Burns. 2017;43(1):50-57.
A5. Norman G, Christie J, et al. Antiseptics for burns. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017 Jul 12;7:CD011821.
B. Cancer Treatment Support
B1. Worthington HV, Clarkson JE, et al. Interventions for preventing oral mucositis for patients with cancer receiving treatment. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011 Apr 13;(4):CD000978.
B2. Cho HK, Jeong YM, et al. Effects of honey on oral mucositis in patients with head and neck cancer: A meta-analysis. Laryngoscope. 2015 Sep;125(9):2085-2092.
B3. Co JL, Mejia MB, et al. Effectiveness of honey on radiation-induced oral mucositis, time to mucositis, weight loss, and treatment interruptions among patients with head and neck malignancies: A meta-analysis and systematic review of literature. Head Neck. 2016 Jul;38(7):1119-1128.
B4. Xu JL, Xia R, et al. Effects of honey use on the management of radio/chemotherapy-induced mucositis: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Int J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2016 Dec;45(12):1618-1625.
B5. Charalambous M, Raftopoulos V, et al. The effect of the use of thyme honey in minimizing radiation-induced oral mucositis in head and neck cancer patients: A randomized controlled trial. Eur J Oncol Nurs. 2018;34:89-97.
B6. Yang C, Gong G, et al. Topical application of honey in the management of chemo/radiotherapy-induced oral mucositis: A systematic review and network meta-analysis. Int J Nurs Stud. 2019 Jan;89:80-87.
C1. Nitsche MP, Carreño M. Is honey an effective treatment for acute cough in children? Medwave. 2016;16(2):e6454.
C2. Oduwole O, Udoh EE, et al. Honey for acute cough in children. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2018;4:CD007094.
D. Diabetic Foot Ulcers
D1. Wang C, Guo M, et al. Effectiveness of honey dressing in the treatment of diabetic foot ulcers: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2019 Feb;34:123-131.
E. Pressure Ulcers
E1. Norman G, Dumville JC, et al. Antibiotics and antiseptics for pressure ulcers. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016 Apr 4;4:CD011586.
F1. Braithwaite I, Hunt A, et al. Randomised controlled trial of topical kanuka honey for the treatment of rosacea. BMJ Open. 2015;5(6):e007651.
G. Surgical Wounds
G1. Norman G, Dumville JC, et al. Antibiotics and antiseptics for surgical wounds healing by secondary intention. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016 Mar 29;3:CD011712.
H. Tonsil Surgery Recovery
H1. Hwang SH, Song JN, et al. The efficacy of honey for ameliorating pain after tonsillectomy: a meta-analysis. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2016 Apr;273(4):811-8.
H2. Lal A, Chohan K, et al. Role of honey after tonsillectomy: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Clin Otolaryngol. 2017;42(3):651-660.
I. Venous Leg Ulcers
I1. O'Meara S, Al-Kurdi D, et al. Antibiotics and antiseptics for venous leg ulcers. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014 Jan 10;(1):CD003557.
Last reviewed February 2020 by EBSCO NAT Review Board Eric Hurwitz, DC Last Updated: 5/27/2020