Is a drink of honey and lemon really the holy grail for your singing voice? Nutritionist Sharon Zarabi evaluates the claims.
A combination of vocal practice, travel, lack of sleep and demanding performances ahead have left you desperate for a treatment for your voice.
Now you are trolling through blogs that discuss the healing power of warm liquids for irritated throats. Some of these promote honey, others lemon; still others – honey and lemon.
Could honey & lemon really be the holy grail of vocal health?
Let’s separate the fact from the fiction.
“Honey & Lemon: It Heals My Flu or Cold”
This claim has been around for a long time; Egyptian physicians used honey to promote health and Greeks believed in its promotion of virility and longevity.
There is some truth behind these historic preferences.
Honey is high in many nutrients including iron, copper, manganese, silica chlorine, calcium, potassium, sodium , phosphorous, aluminum and magnesium.
The darker the honey the higher the nutrient content.
Lemon has been recognized for its natural disinfectant properties. It contains pectin which acts as a vacuum to help clean out the gut including environmental toxins.
The high potassium content aids in the elimination of these pollutants. Lemon has a high source of vitamin C to help fight infection and, like honey, contains calcium, magnesium and potassium.
The combination of the two intensify the antimicrobial and antioxidant properties.
Lemons contain almost 90% of vitamin C as a whole fruit which helps repel free radicals and protects the healthy cells from becoming cancerous; all promoting healing when your immune system is compromised.
Caution: But is Honey & Lemon Good All the Time?
Don’t be running so fast for the synthetic, orange-lime flavored pack of Emergen-Cee®.
There is no conclusive evidence to say these packaged items work. You need to be careful too with the amount of lemon you use. Too much citrus can irritate the throat.
Also, natural citrus and honey may not help you when you are in the throws of a bad cold or flu.
However, research published by Pediatrics Digest concluded that citrus honey improved the cough symptoms during an upper respiratory infection, leading to a better chance at sleep— I’m talking NATURAL citrus honey.
Remember to always be your own judge. We all react differently to remedies so take the information and personalize what may work best for you.
Give it time to kick in as it may not usher an immediate response.
“It soothes my throat like nothing else!”
Most sore throats are caused by viruses that are common in colds.
For singers and other heavy voice users there are, of course, other causes: vocal strain due to over-using the voice and bad technique (often these go together!)
These factors cause strain to the soft tissue of the larynx.
The edema or swelling of the blood vessels causes the vessels to become more porous and allows leakage of fluid into the tissue.
This is turn causes swelling, immobility of vocal folds which in turn leads to the feeling of stiffness and a hoarse voice.
So, is honey and lemon THE cure?
In a word: no. Singers need to deal with the root cause, resting during a cold, learning healthier speaking and singing technique.
Of course, hydration is a part of great vocal health – and has rightly been described as the “engine oil” of the voice.
On this score, hot water with honey and lemon is better than alcohol and caffeine based drinks
The thermal effect of the warm liquid will help increase circulation to the affected area and the osmotic effect of the honey will aid in decreasing the swelling of the throat.
But, please, do not underestimate the power of staying hydrated on a regular basis with good ol’ H2O.
“It cleared my throat of mucous so I could sing flawlessly!”
Although a little bit of phlegm may be necessary to lubricate the vocal cords, too much can cause excess vibration.
Here, the combination of warm water and a drop of lemon scores some points.
It can help loosen the buildup of mucous, while the addition of honey can help coat it.
Add a bit of Cheyenne pepper or something spicy to the mix and you can clear up your sinuses to prevent the drip down to your throat.
Sharon Zarabi is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Dietitian Nutritionist (RD, CDN) and Certified Personal Fitness Trainer with the International Fitness Professional’s Association (IFPA) and Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA.) She is a contributor to The Singer’s Guide to Complete Health (Oxford University Press) and her work can be viewed at www.sharonzarabi.com/
Cohen MD, Herman (2012, Sept.) “Effect of Honey on Nocturnal Cough and Sleep Quality”, A Double-blind, randomized, placebo controlled study. Pediatrics Vol. 130 No. 3 p 465-471;
Leden MD, Hans von (1986, Jan.) “Voice Problems in Entertainers”, West J Med; 144: 99-101;
Pfeiffer MD, William (2005, May) “A Multicultural Approach to the Patient Who has a common cold”, Pediatrics in Review Vol. 26 No. 5;
Excerpt on properties of honey and lemon.