ELI5. Why is honey and lemon a popular cure for cold like symptoms. What makes lemon more effective than say an orange or lime?


ELI5. Why is honey and lemon a popular cure for cold like symptoms. What makes lemon more effective than say an orange or lime?

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15 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

Any lighty acidic hot beverage with fructose (or sucrose) would cause the same effect of reducing coughing (most regular cough “medicine” is 99% sugar), so if you ran out of lemon you could try with apple cider vinegar, and honey can be really substituted with any other syrup.

Lime would be ok but most orange variants are heavily engineered towards sweetness in detriment of acidity, so not as effective.

A century ago, the original treatment on Europe was hot herbs/lemon liquors (diluted in water) and sweet wines, which also comes with a few extra “side effects”.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Unpasteurized honey has lots of proven health benefits. You can Google scientific studies that show this.

As for lemon or other citrus in tea, I couldn’t find anything other than websites that sell tea telling me that lemon tea is amazing for my health. I suspect lemon is simply used as a low-calorie flavor/sweetener.

Drinking hot liquids when you have a cold can help to temporarily clear congestion.

Anonymous 0 Comments

The citric acid in lemon breaks up mucus. Lemon juice has a lot more citric acid than orange juice. Lime is pretty close though.

Anonymous 0 Comments

The question is really about why one thing is arbitrarily more popular than another, and the simple answer is that nobody knows. In the last chapter of “The Selfish Gene,” Richard Dawkins introduces the idea of the “meme” which he likened to a gene, and he proposed the idea that memes vary in their characteristics, and that they compete with each other for limited mental terrain in their human hosts. Successful memes survive and reproduce by being remembered and spreading from one mind to another, while unsuccessful memes don’t reproduce and die out (by being forgotten).

I’ll use this evolutionary lens to address OP’s question, but first I’ll state that I assume that it doesn’t matter which citrus you use, this cure doesn’t work IRL. So why do people think the lemon-based cure works, but we never hear about similar alternatives substituting another citrus? I would expect that the belief the cure works comes from (possibly skeptical) people who try it, feel better (which would have happened anyway), and misattribute it to the “cure.” Lemon would be the citrus because people probably have lemon in the house more often than other citrus. This would be simply because lemon is often added to tea and other beverages, and it’s a more common garnish for food. So people believe in the lemon cure simply because they are more likely to have tried it.

If we take a step back and get a little abstract, maybe the deeper answer is that the lemon cure is more universal, so maybe memes with a “universal” quality have a survival advantage over memes with a more idiosyncratic quality.

Fun question.

Anonymous 0 Comments

>ELI5. Why is honey and lemon a popular cure for cold like symptoms.

Because people believe it is a cure, and this belief passes through the population as a meme.

People see demand for products containing these ingredients, and so they make them in order to profit from their sale. The presence of these products in stores reinforces the belief that they do something, and so the meme perpetuates.

People looking for validation that the products work will try the product, and then will feel better, and will conclude that the product caused them to feel better even if they would have gotten better anyway. This also reinforces the belief.

We also have a compulsion to share our knowledge with others, even if that knowledge is wrong. So anytime you ask a question like this on social media you’ll find many people convinced of their beliefs who sound very authoritative telling you about the benefits of things like raw honey, lemon juice, or that magical fluid vinegar. This also perpetuates the belief.

There is evidence that a vitamin C deficiency hurts your ability to recover from illnesses. It’s very hard to be vitamin C deficient unless you’re on a pirate ship for a year, so vitamin C supplementation is almost always pointless. You’ll just pee it out. Your doctor can tell you if you are deficient in vitamin C.

In other words, there’s no actual evidence that any of these home remedies actually do anything aside from the placebo effect.

But it’s also relatively harmless, and if you’re drinking fluids or eating soup in order to get that bonus vitamin C or whatever the remedy is that you’re taking, you’re getting fluids. It’s important to be hydrated when you’re sick so that your immune system has access to all of your body’s waterways to fight off the infection. So even if putting lemon juice or honey in your water doesn’t help you directly, if it encourages you to drink more water, and reduces your stress, *it’s still helpful*. This is why your doctor may still encourage you to try things like this at home. It makes you feel better feeling like you have some control over your own recovery even if you don’t and you’re getting fluids, which really is what your body needs.

Anonymous 0 Comments


Anonymous 0 Comments

I thought lime was like antibacterial. Cant you eat raw meat and fish with just lemon and lime? Also honey is sugery so not great when a little ill.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Lemon juice is more acidic than orange juice and more popular than lime juice. The acid helps to cut through the phlegm in the throat and make it easier to clear out. Honey, taken straight, is as effective at stopping coughs as any OTC cough syrup. It coats the back of the throat and soothes the irritated nerve endings. Unfortunately, the effect only lasts about 20 minutes. So, if you have an acute attack of coughing, it’s great. If you’ve got a constant cough caused by a viral infection, you need something longer lasting.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Honey is antibacterial. It never spoils. And lemon is acidic, also antibacterial.

Combine the two and they have antioxidants which soothe the body

Anonymous 0 Comments

My choir director always recommended lemon and honey cough drops because the lemon’s acidity cleans the gunk off your vocal chords and the honey coats it to protect it further. So like a shampoo and conditioner situation. Other flavors do one and not the other and are kind of like eating mentholated candy. You could do lime, I guess, but lime and honey? Bleh.