I came across an article recently about how some people use honey to treat cold sore symptoms.
My first thought was that it sounds like a load of crap.
And if you’ve been reading these emails, you know I’m not a fan of this kind of hokey pokey.
I prefer stuff that is rooted in science, not the experience of some random hippies who tried some random cure and thinks that they saw a random improvement.
But here’s the thing.
The article I read actually did link out to a published scientific paper that did indeed, find that raw honey improved the healing rate in it’s subjects when compared to acyclovir.
And the important part?
This study was performed on actual people, not in a petri dish (you can check it out for yourself here).
So far so good.
But there were a few things I found suspicious in the paper.
First, while the study was performed on people, there were only 16 of them total. And when it comes to making claims about the effectiveness of a treatment, that’s not nearly enough to draw any reliable conclusions.
Second, the way the study worked was it gave patients either honey or acyclovir cream for their first outbreak, and then switched for the second outbreak.
The problem is that there is nothing that guarantees that the first outbreak was the same size/severity as the second.
Like you probably know, no two outbreaks are the same. And the only way to compare the effectiveness of two treatments is to use them on outbreaks that are comparable in size and severity (hard to do).
And that is what brings me to my third point.
They didn’t have a placebo group.
Their excuse? The researchers didn’t think it was “ethical”.
Here’s the fact.
Had they performed the same test but added a third placebo group, they would have had something to compare their healing times to.
So what did they use instead? Well, they asked their patients how long their outbreaks usually last…
Ok. I’ll just say this once.
Human memory is not scientific data. It’s notoriously unreliable.
Well, I’m sure some fields of psychology can put it to good use, but that’s not the case here.
Anyway, that healing times as reported by patients was between 7 to 12 days.
Of course. had there been a placebo group, they wouldn’t have had to guess.
They could have compared the healing times of both treatments to a value closer to the REAL healing time of each outbreak, not an average based on literally no data at all.
Because as the study stands, there is no way to know how long each of the two waves of cold sores would have lasted without treatment.
And so, for all we know, the outbreaks treated with honey would have been shorter than the outbreaks treated with acyclovir if no treatment was applied.
Without a placebo group, those healing times mean nothing.
Look, I’m not saying to NOT try raw honey.
Heck, I might even try it myself!
Because the worst that can happen is that it doesn’t work, in which case I still have a delicious jar of honey.
And if it does? Great!
But I’m not going to wait around to see.
In the mean time, I’m going to keep doing everything I can to not get outbreaks. Which I explain the “how to” in Cold Sore Control:
But for my next outbreak, I’ll make sure to have some raw honey on hand to give it a shot.
Of course, I can’t promise that I won’t eat it all before my next cold sore though…
Chris “the Cold Sore Killer” Mueller