This review responds to calls from the World Health Organization and the World Federation of Naturopathy to urgently review traditional, complementary, and integrative medicine (TCIM) in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Honey bee products (honey, bee pollen, royal jelly, propolis, and bee-venom) are traditional medicines used in many cultures for their health-promoting and medicinal properties. Honey has anti-infective properties and is soothing to the respiratory tract. It is recommended for the management of cough symptoms in children.1,2 The evidence for honey use by adults with respiratory infections is yet to be systematically reviewed. The evidence for honey used in the context of COVID-19 has yet to be synthesized

Research Question

Do honey bee products reduce the duration, severity, and/or improve recovery from acute upper or lower viral respiratory tract infections including SARS-CoV-19 in people of any age?

Justification of Rapid Review Methods 

Overview of Methods

                         Protocol registered on 22 July 2020 with PROSPERO: CRD42020193847

  • Search Methods: PubMed, EMBASE; AMED; Alt Health Watch; Clinical trial registries; Research square; BioRxiv; Systematic Review bibliographies
  • Screening:  Calibrated single person screen and double-check excluded studies
  • Data Extraction: Calibrated single person
  • Data Management: Covidence, Excel, RevMan 5.41 ; GRADEpro


  • Risk of bias: Cochrane RoB 2 (Calibrated single person) 
  • Dichotomous outcomes: Risk Difference, Risk Ratio, Hazard Ratio, 95% CI
  • Continuous outcomes:  Mean difference, Standard Mean Difference, 95% CI
  • Meta-analyses:  Critical and important outcome measures
  • The statistical heterogeneity: I2 statistic
  • Confidence in estimated effect: GRADE certainty (quality) of the evidence
  • Synthesis:  Narrated results, Forest plots, Summary of Findings table



This a priori protocol of the rapid review of honey for treatment and recovery of SARS-CoV-2 balanced the need for rigor and speed and accommodated the unique characteristics of the published evidence for honeybee products.


The conduct of this review is independent of any organization or contractual relationship with any donor or sponsor.

Declaration of Interests

The authors acknowledge the World Naturopathic Federation (WNF) who helped to organize this team of international researchers and set priority topics. The WNF has not, however, had, and will not have, any role in the design, execution, and decision. 


  1. World Health Organization. Cough and cold remedies for the treatment of acute respiratory infections in young children. WHO/FCH/CAH/01.02. Published 2001. Accessed March 1, 2020.
  2. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Cough (acute): antimicrobial prescribing. Visual Summary. Published February, 2019. Accessed March 1, 2020. 
  3. Hunter, J, Arentz, S, Goldenberg, J, Yang, G, Beardsley, J, Lee, MS, & Myers, SP. Choose your shortcuts wisely: COVID-19 rapid reviews of traditional, complementary and integrative medicine. Integr Med Res. 2020; 9(3): 100484. doi:10.1016/ J.imr.2020. 100484
  4. Cochrane. Cochrane Methods Rapid Reviews Methods Group (RRMG). Accessed March 1,2020.