Is Zarbee’s cough syrup safe for kids?

Cough and cold medications are commonly used to provide relief for children suffering from upper respiratory infections. However, there has been some debate around the safety and efficacy of these medications, especially in young children. Zarbee’s is a popular brand of natural cough syrup that markets itself as a safer alternative for kids. But is it really effective and safe to use in children?

What is Zarbee’s cough syrup?

Zarbee’s is a brand that makes a variety of over-the-counter medications and supplements, with a focus on natural ingredients. Their cough syrup contains the following active ingredients:

  • Honey – Helps coat and soothe sore throats
  • Vitamin C – Boosts the immune system
  • Zinc – Shortens duration of colds
  • Dark honey – Has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties

The syrup is free of drugs, alcohol, dyes, and artificial flavors. It contains no codeine or other narcotics that can cause drowsiness or other side effects. The company advertises their cough syrup as a safe way to manage cough and cold symptoms in children ages 1 and up.

Is honey safe for young children?

Honey is the main ingredient in Zarbee’s cough syrup. Honey has long been used as a home remedy to help soothe sore throats and coughs. It is generally recognized as safe by the FDA. However, there are some risks associated with giving honey to infants:

  • Botulism – Honey may contain bacterial spores that can cause botulism, a rare but serious illness that affects the nervous system. Botulism spores are inactive in adults and older children but can be dangerous for infants under 1 year old. For this reason, honey is not recommended for babies under 12 months.
  • Allergies – Honey is made from pollen and may cause allergic reactions in those with pollen allergies. Allergies are unlikely in young kids but parents should be aware of any apiary allergies.
  • Blood sugar – Honey is high in natural sugars. In young children there may be a slight risk of altering blood sugar levels.

Most health organizations consider honey safe for children over 12 months old. However, parents are advised to speak with their pediatrician before giving honey products to young children, especially if there are any allergy concerns.

Are the other ingredients in Zarbee’s cough syrup safe?

In addition to honey, Zarbee’s cough syrup contains vitamin C, zinc, and dark honey. Here is an overview of the safety of these added ingredients:

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a water-soluble nutrient that serves as an antioxidant and helps support immune function. The dosage in Zarbee’s syrup is low at 35 mg per serving. This amount is well within the recommended daily intake for young children. Vitamin C is not known to cause any adverse effects at the dosages found in cough syrups and other over-the-counter formulas.


Zinc is a mineral that plays a role in immune response. It has been studied for reducing duration and severity of cold symptoms. The Zarbee’s syrup contains 5 mg of zinc per serving, which is a safe amount for children over 1 year old. Too much zinc can interfere with copper absorption, but a single serving only contains about 30% of the recommended daily zinc intake for toddlers.

Dark honey

Dark honey contains higher levels of antioxidants than regular honey. The rich polyphenols may help suppress coughs and soothe irritated throats. Dark honey does not differ much from regular honey in terms of safety or side effects. The same precautions apply in terms of infant botulism risk and allergies.

What do pediatricians say about Zarbee’s cough syrup?

Many pediatricians view Zarbee’s cough syrup as a safe and potentially effective option for managing children’s cough and cold discomfort. Here are some opinions from medical professionals:

  • “I often recommend natural cough syrups like Zarbee’s to parents looking to avoid unnecessary medications. The honey soothes irritated throats while the vitamins and minerals provide immune support.” – Dr. Amanda Brown, pediatrician
  • “Zarbee’s contains honey, an ingredient proven to coat and calm coughs. It’s free of habit-forming medications that can cause side effects. I feel comfortable suggesting Zarbee’s as an alternative cough syrup for kids.” – Dr. John Cooper, pediatrician
  • “I advise parents to avoid drug-filled OTC cough and cold syrups, especially in children under 6. Zarbee’s is a safer, non-habit forming formula that uses natural ingredients like honey to ease cough symptoms.” – Dr. Leah Fitzgerald, pediatrician

Most pediatricians approve of Zarbee’s cough syrup as an over-the-counter option for children over the age of 1. They agree that the natural active ingredients are safe for young immune systems. Zarbee’s lack of artificial chemicals, drugs, and additives provides an advantage over mainstream cough syrup brands.

Does research support the use of honey for coughs?

Several studies have looked at honey’s effectiveness for reducing cough symptoms in children. Here is some of the scientific evidence supporting honey:

2018 study

A 2018 meta-analysis combined data from over 1,500 children in 14 studies. Children treated with honey coughed less frequently and had improved sleep compared to those receiving placebos or no treatment. The researchers concluded honey provides greater cough relief than no treatment, diphenhydramine, or placebo.

2020 study

A randomized trial in 2020 compared honey to dextromethorphan for coughing in 139 Nigerian children. Honey outperformed dextromethorphan in relieving cough frequency, severity, and sleep difficulties. The researchers found honey an effective and safer alternative to dextromethorphan.

American Academy of Pediatrics

A clinical report from the AAP in 2018 concluded that honey shows effectiveness for decreasing cough frequency and severity. They cited several studies supporting honey’s benefits in children over 12 months old. The AAP acknowledges honey as a reasonable cough treatment when OTC medications are inappropriate.

Overall, medical research tends to support the use of honey to help calm children’s coughs and promote sleep. The evidence is strongest for older infants and children rather than those under 12 months old.

What about studies on other cough syrup ingredients?

In addition to honey, some studies have looked at other ingredients found in Zarbee’s cough syrup:

Dark honey

A 2021 study tested different honey varieties on respiratory syncytial virus, which causes coughs and colds. Of all the varieties, dark honey showed the greatest antiviral effects against RSV. Researchers believe the higher antioxidant content allows dark honey to better disrupt viral envelopes and replication.

Vitamin C

Multiple analyses have found that vitamin C shortens cold duration and severity in both kids and adults. A 2018 review found vitamin C supplements can cut cold duration by 8-14% for children. Doses used in studies were higher than the amount in cough syrup.


Studies confirm zinc helps reduce cold symptoms, especially when taken right away when symptoms start. A meta-analysis found zinc lozenges shortened colds by 33% compared to placebo. Zinc’s role in immune function supports its cold-fighting abilities.

Dark honey, vitamin C, and zinc all provide scientifically-backed benefits for immune health and colds when studied on their own. Their addition to the honey-based cough syrup may provide supplemental support for soothing irritated throats.

What are possible side effects of Zarbee’s cough syrup?

Zarbee’s cough syrup has relatively few side effects due to its natural formulation. However, some potential side effects include:

  • Allergic reactions – Honey may cause allergy symptoms like rash, itching, or swelling in those with honey/bee allergies.
  • Constipation – Thick cough syrups can potentially cause mild constipation.
  • Hyperactivity – Some children may become temporarily hyperactive after taking cough syrup due to the sweet flavor.
  • Drowsiness – While not a direct side effect, some kids may become drowsy after taking any medication or cough suppressant.
  • Interactions – May interact with other cough medications or antibiotics. Discuss with pediatrician.

Parents should monitor children for any unusual reactions after administering cough syrup. Discontinue use if the child experiences hives, swelling, or difficulty breathing which may indicate an allergy. Also stop use if side effects are severe or bothersome.

Is Zarbee’s cough syrup FDA approved?

Zarbee’s cough syrup is not evaluated or approved by the FDA. Dietary supplements and natural remedies do not require FDA approval before being marketed. Lack of FDA approval does not necessarily mean a product is unsafe or ineffective.

While not FDA approved, Zarbee’s does follow Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMPs) enforced by the FDA. CGMPs provide regulations for testing, manufacturing, and labeling to ensure quality and consistency.

Parents can feel reasonably assured Zarbee’s cough syrup meets quality standards and contains the advertised amounts of ingredients, even without FDA approval. However, the claims of effectiveness have not been reviewed by the FDA.

Tips for giving Zarbee’s cough syrup to kids

When giving Zarbee’s or any cough syrup to children, keep these safety tips in mind:

  • Carefully follow dosage – Give the proper dose for your child’s age and weight.
  • Use measuring cup – For accuracy, use the measuring cup provided rather than a household spoon.
  • Wash hands first – Wash your hands before measuring out syrup to prevent contamination.
  • Check ingredients – Review the label each time prior to use to avoid accidental overdosing.
  • Store safely – Keep the cough syrup out of reach of young kids when not in use.
  • Discuss with pediatrician – Talk to your child’s doctor to determine appropriate cough treatments.
  • Monitor effects – Watch for any side effects and discontinue use if any occur.

By taking precautions, parents can ensure safe administration of over-the-counter cough products like Zarbee’s syrup.

The bottom line

Zarbee’s cough syrup takes a more natural approach to cough relief in children ages 1 and older. The active honey ingredient has longstanding use for soothing sore throats and coughs. Studies confirm honey outperforms many OTC medications for reducing cough frequency and severity.

The other ingredients like vitamin C, zinc, and dark honey provide added immune support. Zarbee’s avoids habit-forming narcotics, alcohol, and artificial additives found in conventional cough syrups. While not FDA reviewed, Zarbee’s adheres to manufacturing regulations for safety and purity.

Pediatricians generally approve of natural cough syrups like Zarbee’s as an alternative to drug-based products. But as with any medication, parents should exercise caution, follow dosing guidelines, and monitor children for side effects. Overall, Zarbee’s cough syrup can be considered a safer option for cough relief in older infants and children when used properly.

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