Should You Start Eating Local Honey For Your Allergies?

If you struggle with seasonal allergies, you know how terrible they can be—from the itchy, watery eyes, headaches, sneezes, and sore throats, allergies can wreak havoc on you for months. And they probably have you running to the drug store for relief. But many people looking for more natural allergy relief may be intrigued about local honey. One of the most popular at-home remedies during allergy season is to buy and consume local honey to help relieve symptoms.

But despite the remedy’s popularity, is it true that local honey can alleviate seasonal allergy symptoms?

Local honey does have unique health benefits.

“Research suggests that the chemicals in honey may actually play a role in suppressing the genes that make us more susceptible to histamine, the chemical in our body that causes itching, sneezing, and runny nose,” says William Reisacher, MD, allergist, and director of Allergy Services at NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine.

Honey has also been studied as a cough suppressant and an anti-inflammatory, so it’s not a surprise that it’s been considered for allergy relief.

RELATED: Your guide to the anti-inflammatory diet that heals your gut, slows the signs of aging, and helps you lose weight.

How the theory about eating local honey got started.

“The theory got started because local, unprocessed honey (aka raw honey) was known to contain local pollens,” says Lakiea Wright, MD, an allergist at Women’s Hospital in Boston and medical director at Thermo Fisher Scientific. “Raw honey is more likely to contain local pollen because it isn’t processed. During processing , pollen is removed from honey.”

When it comes to eating local honey for allergies, the idea is that you ingest local pollen and eventually become less affected by it. This allergy treatment method is called allergen desensitization.

“The concept of allergen desensitization is based on exposing your body to small, escalating doses of allergen to desensitize your allergy cells,” says Dr. Wright. In the case of local honey, you would theoretically be ingesting pollen-containing honey in small amounts regularly to minimize seasonal allergy symptoms.

“With regular exposure to an allergen, your allergy cells become desensitized and are less likely to fire off and cause symptoms. Allergen immunotherapy (also known as allergy shots) is based on this concept of desensitization,” explains Dr. Wright.

So, does eating local honey work as a treatment for your allergies?

“Unfortunately, does not help with allergies because the pollens that bees collect are usually from flowers, which are not as potent and don’t provoke your immune system like other pollens (i.e. trees, grasses, and weeds) which cause ‘classic’ seasonal allergy symptoms,” says Dr. Wright.

Not only are flower pollens less potent than other pollens, but the amount of pollen present in local honey also isn’t enough to play a role in allergen desensitization. “Eating honey is ineffective because it only contains small amounts of pollen,” adds Dr. Wright.

What’s worse is that eating local honey isn’t just ineffective as an allergy remedy, but it could actually worsen your symptoms.

“In some cases, eating local raw honey may contribute to allergic symptoms because if you are highly sensitized, ingesting pollens in small amounts can cause local symptoms like an itchy mouth,” says Dr. Wright. “In rare cases, you can potentially have a more severe reaction like anaphylaxis because raw honey may contain bee parts, and if you have a bee allergy, you could have a reaction.”

Local honey isn’t the only food that can worsen seasonal allergy symptoms. Due to a condition called oral allergy syndrome (OAS), also known as pollen fruit syndrome (PFS), certain foods can cause an allergic reaction or worsen existing symptoms in those with pollen allergies. We put together a list of oral allergy syndrome foods to help you identify what foods besides honey might be worsening your allergy symptoms.

How to effectively manage allergy symptoms:

Of course, if you’re looking for treatment methods that do work for your allergies, there are many proven methods.

“The best strategies for battling allergies are taking steps to limit your exposure to the things you’re allergic to and taking the appropriate medications to keep symptoms under control,” says Dr. Reisacher.

If you’re unsure about the best allergy medications for you, your doctor can provide allergy testing to find the appropriate ones.

“I highly recommend talking to your healthcare provider about getting tested to find out what you are allergic to,” says Dr. Wright. “There is an allergy blood test available, which can evaluate you for common environmental allergens, including pollens (trees, grasses, weeds), dust mites, animal dander, and molds.”

Here are some ideas for minimizing your exposure to pollen, according to Dr. Wright:

  • Keep your windows (home and car) closed
  • Remove clothing after coming in from outdoors
  • Wear sunglasses outdoors
  • Try to minimize outdoor activities at dawn and dusk, when pollen counts are the highest
  • Talk to your healthcare provider about taking an over the counter medication, including antihistamines (e.g. cetirizine, fexofenadine, or loratadine) and/or a nasal steroid

If your symptoms are not well controlled despite the above strategies, discuss with your healthcare provider if you are a candidate for allergen immunotherapy (also known as allergy shots).

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Can Local Honey Really Help With Seasonal Allergies?

This article has been updated.

This morning, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the fifth case of the recently discovered coronavirus in the U.S. Find out what it is, where it is, how to avoid it, and all the other need-to-know information about the illness below.

What is the new coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a group of viruses named for the crown-shaped spikes that cover their surfaces (corona is the Latin word for crown). According to the CDC, human coronaviruses can cause upper-respiratory tract illnesses, including the common cold, and can sometimes lead to more severe lower-respiratory tract issues like pneumonia or bronchitis.

Because this latest coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, is so new, health officials are currently trying to figure out how it works and how to treat it. It’s not the first time a potent new coronavirus has caused an international outbreak: SARS-CoV originated in Asia and spread to more than two dozen countries in 2003, and MERS-CoV first infected people in Saudi Arabia before spreading across the globe in 2012.

Where is the coronavirus outbreak happening?

Overall, China has more than 2700 confirmed cases, many of which are in Wuhan, a city in China’s Hubei province where 2019-nCoV was first detected last month. Around 50 additional cases have been reported in South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The CDC has confirmed five U.S. cases—in California, Arizona, Illinois, and Washington—all of whom had recently returned from trips to Wuhan. Right now, the CDC is screening all passengers from Wuhan, and their flights are only allowed to land at one of five U.S. airports: John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Los Angeles International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, or Chicago O’Hare International Airport.

Chinese officials have shut down transportation to and from Wuhan, and they’re also temporarily closing tourist spots like Beijing’s Forbidden City, Shanghai Disneyland, and a portion of the Great Wall.

What are the symptoms of the new coronavirus?

Symptoms are similar to those caused by a cold or the flu, including fever, dry cough, and breathing difficulty. As of Monday morning, 81 people in China had died from the virus, and The New York Times reported that older people with preexisting conditions like cirrhosis, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease are most likely to be affected.

How does the new coronavirus spread?

Because most of the early cases of 2019-nCoV were traced back to a seafood and meat market in Wuhan, health officials think the virus originally spread from infected animals to humans, but it’s now being transmitted from person to person.

Though scientists are still studying exactly how that happens, the leading theory is that it travels in tiny droplets of fluid from the respiratory tract when a person coughs or sneezes.

How do you avoid the new coronavirus?

The CDC is warning everyone to avoid any nonessential trips to Wuhan, and to avoid animals or sick people if you’re traveling elsewhere in China. If you’ve been to China in the last two weeks and experience any of the symptoms listed above, you should seek medical attention immediately—and you should call the doctor’s office or emergency room beforehand to let them know you’re coming.

Otherwise, simply stick to the precautions you’d normally take when trying to stay healthy: Wash your hands often with soap and water, cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, stay away from sick people, and thoroughly cook any meat or eggs before eating them.

Should you be worried about the new coronavirus?

The global health community is taking 2019-nCoV seriously in order to curb the outbreak as quickly as possible, but you definitely shouldn’t panic. The CDC maintains that it’s a low-risk situation in the U.S., and public health officials are echoing that message.

Caitlin Wolfe, a former consultant epidemiologist for the World Health Organization (WHO) and current doctoral student at the University of South Florida’s College of Public Health, tells Mental Floss that it’s too early to tell if the virus will become a nationwide outbreak, but the fact that cases have been detected in the U.S. “means patients and physicians are paying attention to the relevant symptoms and travel history,” and “the public health systems we have here are working.”

“The most important messages to get out to the American public are ones that share the information we know and avoid the alarmist/sensationalist narrative,” Wolfe says. “Early estimates from the Chinese authorities suggest that the R0, or the average number of people each person with the virus infects, is between 1.4 and 2.5. To put this in perspective, the average number of susceptible people infected by someone with the measles virus is between 12 and 18.”

While experts work to understand and fight the virus, keep an eye out for updates from the CDC and WHO and be extra committed to practicing good hygiene habits—which, as Wolfe points out, will also help protect you from the flu or even just a regular cold.

Raw Honey For Allergies

There are many benefits to eating raw honey. One of the most interesting is the use of raw honey for allergies. Many believe that raw honey can successfully reduce allergic symptoms when taken over time. Most specifically it should be able to help treat allergies to various flowering plants and trees.

To treat allergies many believe that simply eating a little bit of locally produced raw honey, possibly just a spoonful a day, can build up resistance or immunity to the allergens. This is accomplished through gradual exposure to the local allergens that can make life so miserable for allergy sufferers.

This theory makes sense when the composition of honey is analyzed. Raw, unfiltered, and unpasteurized honey will contain pollen from various trees and flowering plants from an area approximately 2-4 miles in any direction from the hive that produced the honey. This pollen is gathered and brought back to the hive by the honeybees while they are gathering nectar from the flowers to make the honey. This pollen will make up the solid content of the honey produced by a honeybee colony.

The pollen that is present in the honey is the same substance that causes allergic reactions in allergy sufferers.

For raw honey to treat allergies, the honey used must be local honey. It does not help to take honey produced in California, Florida, or worse yet, Mexico or Canada, if you are trying to treat hay fever allergies that exist in Illinois. The pollen collected in these other parts of the country or world may be different than what is in environment of the recipient. This is why only locally produced and procured honey can be used to treat allergies.

Raw Honey for Allergies vs Allergy Shots for Allergies

This theory of using raw honey for the treatment of allergies should sound familiar to anyone who is familiar with or heard of allergy shots. Often administered by Allergists, or a doctor with a specialty in the treatment of allergies, allergy shots are often referred to as allergen immunotherapy, hyposensitization therapy, immunologic desensitization, hyposensibilization, or allergen-specific immunotherapy in the medical community. Many medical studies have been done regarding their effectiveness and many studies have proven them to be affective, especially over time.

Physician administered immunotherapy can be in two different forms: subcutaneous injection (under the skin) and sublingually (under the tongue). Most often, pollen allergy treatment is administered as shots subcutaneously. Both methods work by exposing the patient with increasingly larger doses of the things they are allergic to with the aim of inducing tolerance to the substance. In the case of pollen allergies, they administer pollens to subjects via injection at increasing amounts over a long period of time.

This should sound very similar to the theory of eating honey that contains the pollen (allergen) that an individual is allergic to and building up a tolerance to it over time.

The medical community would like us to believe that physician based immunotherapy is the only way to treat allergies to flowering plants. Physician based immunotherapy and the consumption of honey contains similar, if not the same, mechanism for the treatment of pollen based allergies. They both use pollen in their injections and honey contains pollen as well. They also both expect the receiving subject to build up resistance or immunity to the allergens over time.

Many studies have been done on the effectiveness of immunotherapy. Overall it has shown to be successful in produce long-term remission of allergic symptoms, reduce severity of associated asthma, as well as reducing the chances of new sensitivities to allergens developing.

Despite the fact that both methods use similar treatment vectors, only a few studies have been done on using honey for immunotherapy. This could be that eating honey is discounted by physicians as a possible treatment vector for pollen allergies. The studies that have been performed are often incomplete, so their results are inaccurate. Yet they get published, reviewed, and referenced anyway. Other studies are unfunded so they get no publicity at all.

One such inaccurate study was conducted by T.V. Rajan in 2002. The study was plagued with problems. First, the trial group was not large enough, he received 14 test subjects for the study, but admitted to needing 27 to perform scientifically accurate research. Second, of the test subjects used, only two complained of having seasonal allergies that correlated with the pollen present in the honey being used for the testing. Also, the honey used was not tested for pollen content, nor were his test subjects tested for allergen/pollen sensitivity to seasonal allergies that would have been present in the honey. Still this study is still referenced in articles throughout the internet written by columnists and medical professionals alike.

Luckily there is at least one article that points to the benefits of raw honey for allergies. At least one informal, and unfunded, study on allergies and honey conducted by students at Xavier University in New Orleans produced positive results. Researchers divided participants into three groups: seasonal allergy sufferers, year-round allergy sufferers and non-allergy sufferers. These groups were further divided into three subgroups with some people taking two teaspoons of local honey per day, others taking the same amount of non-local honey each day and the final subgroup not taking honey at all. The Xavier students found that after six weeks, allergy sufferers from both categories suffered fewer symptoms and that the group taking local honey reported the most improvement. The study was published by B. Cochran.

Keep in mind that in all studies, there are always be a group that, despite receiving treatment, will not be helped by the treatment, no matter what the treatment is. Often times the study will only last a period of weeks or months. Sometimes it can take years to see the benefits of any treatment and other times no improvement may ever be shown. Other times the same patient may respond to one treatment, but not the other. Every individual is different. It is highly probable that if enough studies were done on raw honey for allergies, the same can be found true: some would be helped, some would be helped over time, and some may never be helped.

It has been reported numerous times that many honey customers of the Klein Creek Farm Forrest Preserve have reported to Dr. L. Dubose, that their seasonal allergies, especially hay fever, have been more manageable after they have regularly consumed honey produced at the farm. Dr. Dubose has been keeping bees at Klein Creek for more than 20 years and the farm has more than a few regular customers. Many of these customers are located near the farm so the honey would be considered local to them. These same findings have been reported by other beekeepers as well. These are independent findings that are extremely hard to ignore.

There are multiple treatments available for allergy suffers and when choosing one, you must weigh the options and costs for each. Options may be allergy shots, antihistamines, and eating honey. The treatment process of treating with injection versus consuming honey both use the same treatment substances (pollen) and hold the same expected treatment outcome: to induce tolerance via repeated exposure. Prescription and over the counter allergy medication (antihistamines) can have varying side effects. Allergy shots must be prescribed, mixed, and administered on a repeated basis. This does cost a significant amount of money and is often not covered by insurance plans. On the other hand a pound of raw honey for allergies can be obtained for under ten dollars in most areas. This will last quite a while and could have the same effect as a more expensive treatment option. And as an added bonus, honey is mighty tasty.

Raw Honey has many benefits. Read on to learn more about the benefits of eating honey.

Will honey relieve my seasonal allergies?

There is a widespread belief that eating local, unprocessed or “raw” honey can help allergy symptoms by regularly exposing you to pollen – not unlike the concept of how allergy shots work. Allergy injections help desensitize pollen-allergic people by exposing them to a specific pollen or pollen mixture injected at regular intervals. An important difference here is that the pollen amounts in allergy injections are known, and progressively increasing to a certain level, for best results. Studies have shown allergy shots are very effective for decreasing seasonal allergy symptoms. Local, unprocessed honey does contain small amounts of pollen from the environment. The pollen in honey is mostly from the flowers where bees are found (with flowering plant pollen less likely to cause allergy symptoms) and allergenic, airborne pollen from trees, grasses and weeds (not pollinated by bees!) in lesser amounts. Thus, the amount of allergenic pollen in the honey is typically very small, as bees don’t intentionally incorporate this pollen into the honey. This is considered a contaminant, like the bee parts, mold spores, bacteria and other environmental particles that can be found in honey. (Commercial processing seems to remove most pollen and contaminants.) There is no scientific proof that eating local honey will improve seasonal allergies. One study, published in 2002 in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, showed no difference among allergy sufferers who ate local honey, commercially processed honey, or a honey-flavored placebo. And in rare cases there might actually be a risk. In extremely sensitive individuals, the ingestion of unprocessed honey can result in an immediate allergic reaction involving the mouth, throat, or skin – such as itching, hives or swelling – or even anaphylaxis. Such reactions may be related to either pollen or bee part contaminants.

Newsletter

Patsy Giarda, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

Winter is winding down and spring is quickly approaching. Warmer weather and enjoying outdoor activities are two of the best things about spring. However, for those who suffer with seasonal environmental allergies, it can also bring the struggle of itchy or watery eyes, persistent runny nose, post-nasal drip, and/or nagging cough. Natural alternatives to help control these symptoms can be used to alone or in conjunction with prescription or over the counter allergy medications.

Studies show that consuming local, unprocessed, seasonal wildflower honey can serve as a helpful adjunct to controlling allergy symptoms. Allergy shots are a well-known method of treating allergies by administering slow, small repeated exposure to the allergen. Oral consumption of local, seasonal honey utilizes the same theory of small exposure to the allergens found in the local pollen. When bees pollinate flowers, they carry some of the pollen back to the hive where the honey is produced. Honey collected from the local hives contains the pollen of the surrounding areas that circulate in the air and can cause allergies.

Local wildflower honey should be harvested (the year before) in the same season your allergy symptoms typically flare up. Such honey contains the pollen that causes the increase of histamine which leads to allergy symptoms. Most flowers and plants pollinate at certain times of the year, which is the reason most people have allergy symptoms only during 1 or 2 seasons annually. If a person has allergies year-round, it is more likely something in the home environment, or a food.

Randomized controlled studies, such as the Honey Study, indicate that local, raw honey provides relief of seasonal environmental allergy symptoms comparable to antihistamines. Similarly, in the randomized controlled Birch Pollen Honey Study, subjects given birch pollen honey prior to birch pollen season had fewer and less significant allergies and used less antihistamines.

You can learn more by watching this Good Morning America segment in which Dr Rosen, a colleague of Dr Berger, discussed local, seasonal honey as a natural allergy remedy.

Although allergies can make you feel miserable we hope a “spoonful of honey” will help make this allergy season better for you and your family. Look for more allergy tips in our upcoming articles!

Local Wildflower Honey Protocol For Seasonal Allergies

*This protocol is intended for ages 1 year and up. Honey should NEVER be given to a child under 1 year old for concern of infantile botulism, a neuromuscular disorder caused by consuming the bacteria, clostridium botulinum. Children under 1 year old have immature digestive systems and are unable to handle the bacteria’s spores putting them at serious risk of contracting this illness. The bacteria in contaminated honey can lead to severe weakness of the muscles, decreased movement, trouble swallowing, and respiratory depression.

*Start by taking ¼ teaspoon of the local, seasonal, wildflower honey orally once daily. Increase the amount of honey by ¼ teaspoon every 2 days, working up to 1 tablespoon of honey per 50 lbs of the person’s weight. For example, a person weighing 100 lbs should work up to 2 tablespoons of honey daily. The dose can be divided throughout the day as desired. Continue to take the honey through the allergy season.

*If possible, the person consuming the honey should move the honey around the oral cavity for a few moments before swallowing, and try to delay drinking any liquids for a few minutes afterward.

Note: This information is not intended to replace consultation between a patient and medical provider. It is for general purposes only.

Patsy Giarda is a Board Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. Patsy obtained a Bachelor’s in Nursing from Florida State University, and a Master’s of Science in Nursing from the University of South Florida, with a concentration in Pediatric Primary Care. While working many years in various inpatient pediatric settings, she developed a passion for helping families understand the disease processes going on with their child. She discovered that with knowledge, these families could become empowered to take control of their child’s health management.

There are many old wives tales or popular myths about how a person can treat their allergies. Here at Intermountain Allergy and Asthma, we have heard them all! As a way to help dispel allergy myths, we’ve invited Dr. Harris to share a few of his thoughts in our “Allergy Myths 101” blog posts. We hope you’ll read this and read future 101 posts. Dr. Harris, take it away!

Here is a popular allergy myth: Eating unfiltered local honey will help control allergies.

I want to start this by saying that I love unfiltered “raw” honey. I personally eat a lot of honey (sometimes by the spoonful), but I don’t recommend it for allergies.

There are two reasons that local honey is unlikely to be helpful with seasonal allergies:

Local Honey Allergy Myth Reason 1: The pollen that is found in honey is generally not the pollen that is causing your allergies. Bees are attracted to bright, colorful, and fragrant plants (such as roses or lilacs), but pollen from those plants usually doesn’t cause nose and eye symptoms. Most of the time, the pollen types that make us miserable in the spring and fall comes from drab, un-colored plants, with no noticeable fragrance (such as the grass in your front lawn, or ragweed). These are the plants that bees usually ignore. Ingesting the wrong pollen simply isn’t going to make a difference.

Local Honey Allergy Myth Reason 2: When we eat pollen-containing honey, the pollen proteins are very likely destroyed, or at least significantly altered by stomach acid and other digestive enzymes so that any allergy potential they may have had is eliminated.

If you could somehow put honey with the ‘correct’ pollen in it under the tongue (where a portion is absorbed directly into the blood stream) it might be effective. Believe me though, it would take a lot of honey to do any good.

So – by all means enjoy the flavor of raw, local honey, but use tested and proven medicines and treatments to take care of allergies.

Duane J. Harris M.D.
Intermountain Allergy and Asthma
Draper, Utah

A Local Raw Honey Tip from Dr. Harris

An interesting taste test is to compare ‘raw’, unfiltered honey and commercial honey from your local store (it’s important that the raw honey hasn’t been heated at all or this may not work). A friend who produces honey told me about this and I could definitely taste a difference (I loved the ‘raw’ honey). Apparently, any significant heating can change the flavor – so you get the best, most ‘natural’ flavor by consuming the honey before it crystallizes and needs to be heated or ‘melted’.

New to Intermountain Allergy and Asthma?

If you suffer from allergies and have never seen an allergist, now is a great time to consider starting professional allergy treatment. Dr. Harris and Dr. Anderson accept new allergy patients of all ages and most insurance plans. If you have questions about insurance coverage, please contact Intermountain Allergy and Asthma at (801) 553-1900 (Dr. Harris) or (801) 476-0052 (Dr. Anderson) and we will be happy to assist you.

Please follow our web page “Intermountainallergy.com” or Facebook page “Intermountain Allergy and Asthma – Draper, UT”, for the daily pollen count.

Thank you for allowing Intermountain Allergy and Asthma to be part of your health care team – we look forward to seeing you!

Did you know: Eating Raw Honey Seasonally Can Help with Allergies

Did you know that consuming wild, raw, local honey may offer a gradual desensitization to your seasonal allergies?

Bees pick up the pollen from their environment. This is the same local pollen that may be contributing to your seasonal allergies. When you go to an allergy clinic and get multiple shots, you are actually slowly building up your tolerance to the specific allergens contained in the shot itself. Each time you visit, you are injected with more of the allergen. In some cases the allergy can be alleviated altogether, and you stop reacting to that specific allergen.

Honeybees can offer this same benefit, without all the pricey shots!

It is important to consume raw, local honey because raw honey has not been treated, pasteurized, or processed in any way. When consuming raw honey, you reap the benefits of local pollen collected by the honeybees. No specific dosage of honey is proven to be the perfect amount, but a daily dose is preferred.

According to Mark Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple:

The resulting honey can offer something of a therapeutic dose for gradual desensitization – much like an allergy shot. It’s important to start small (1/4 teaspoon daily – max) and work your way up to gradually build tolerance.”

Researchers in 2013 studied the role of honey in the treatment of allergic rhinitis (AR). They studied the complementary effect of ingestion of a high dose of honey vs. a placebo. Only the group that ingested honey showed a significant improvement in individual allergic rhinitis symptoms. The improvement persisted for a month after the cessation of the treatment. The researchers concluded that honey ingestion at a high dose improves the overall and individual symptoms of AR, and it could serve as a complementary therapy for AR.1

Other than treating allergies, there are many other benefits to consuming raw local honey. Raw honey has been embraced by the ancestral community as a nutritious and natural sweetener. Honey contains antiviral and antibacterial properties. According to Chris Kresser, honey has been a staple in the human diet for many years.

fructose to glucose ratio is similar to that of high fructose corn syrup, with about 38% fructose and 31% glucose (the rest being primarily water). Honey also contains enzymes and other proteins, trace minerals, flavonoids and other polyphenols.”

If you struggle with seasonal allergies, local raw honey may be a great option to include in your diet…with health benefits to boot, this is not a myth! Enviromedica also highly recommends soil-based probiotics to strengthen the immune system and prevent and asthma and allergies.

  1. Asha’ari, Zamzil Amin and Ahmad, Mohd Zaki and Wan Din, Wan Shah Jihan and Che Hussin, Che Maraina and Leman, Wan Ishlah, 2013. Ingestion of honey improves the symptoms of allergic rhinitis: Evidence from a randomized placebo-controlled trial in the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Annals of Saudi Medicine, 33 (5). pp. 469-475. ISSN 0256-4947.

Inspired by one of our favorite television shows, Allergy Myth Busters looks at a number of popularly held beliefs about allergy. But are these myths just urban legends or are they true?

The Myth:

The use of local grown honey can help relieve symptoms of allergic rhino-conjunctivitis and associated atopic (allergic) conditions including asthma.

What does the science say:

A literature search returns very few articles specifically addressing and using locally grown honey. A study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology in February 2002 negates the benefits of local grown honey. The study followed a cohort of 64 people randomly assigned to one of three groups, with the first receiving locally collected, unpasteurized, unfilteredhoney, the second nationally collected, filtered, and pasteurizedhoney, and the third, corn syrup with synthetichoney flavoring. They were asked to consume one tablespoonful of honey or substitute daily and to follow their usual standard care for the management of their symptoms. Neitherhoney group experienced symptom relief when compared to the placebo group.
To the contrary, a study in the International Archives of Allergy and Immunology in May 2011 appeared to show a benefit. In this study, Forty-four patients with physician-diagnosed birch pollen allergy consumed either no honey, regular honey or honey to which birch pollen was added (birch pollen honey or BPH) in incremental amounts from November 2008 to March 2009. At the conclusion, patients in the first 2 groups experienced no improvement of symptoms but the BPH group experienced a statistically significant improvement in symptoms scores.

So is the myth busted or true:

Busted.
Essentially both articles are supporting the same conclusion i.e. locally grown honey is not beneficial for allergies. How so? Obviously in the first article there was no benefit obtained in the group consuming locally grown honey but the same result was actually shown in the second study. If the honey was not doctored with additional birch pollen, symptom improvement DID NOT occur.

Discussion:

Despite this, the second article is often cited as being beneficial in lay publications and websites promoting organic or naturalistic methods for treating allergies. They appear to ignore the fact that birch pollen HAD TO BE ADDED. The first article is cited often as being outdated or old and therefore given no credence, which is foolish. Otherwise most of what’s available is purely anecdotal with little factual evidence supporting the claim. Surprisingly, some websites purport the benefit but contradict their own anecdotal evidence.
Remember that bees are in the business of collecting a flower’s nectar, not pollen to produce honey. Therefore very little pollen is deposited in honey. Also, the pollen they handle is produced by flowers that require cross pollination by insects unlike the majority of allergy triggering tree, grass and weed plants that do not require insects to carry pollen for fertilization. They produce huge amounts of pollen and depend on the wind for distribution/pollination. They don’t need the bees. Yes some of the allergen inducing pollen grains end up in the honey but they are in insignificant quantity.

Final thought :

Remember if you are experiencing difficulty with allergy, your local Allergy Partners specialist is available to administer immunotherapy which utilizes a natural pollen extract to alleviate symptoms. It is the only modality proven to statistically reduce the progression of atopy and potentially reverse the allergic IgE mediated mechanism preventing asthma and the progression of allergy. Also, the consumption of locally grown honey is fine, but should not be given to infants under 12 months of age. Diabetics will likely have difficulty with blood glucose control and if a person is allergic to bee venom they may be at an increased risk of developing anaphylaxis to locally grown honey.”

Can Eating Local Honey Help Treat Seasonal Allergies?

Natasha Getty Images/Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group

Allergies are the worst. Whichever time of the year they pop up for you, seasonal allergies can make your life miserable. You know the symptoms: runny nose, sore throat, coughing, constant sneezing, and terrible sinus pressure. You most likely are heading to the pharmacy to grab some Benadryl or Flonase—but not everyone wants to pop a pill every time your eyes start to itch. (Related: 4 Surprising Things That Are Affecting Your Allergies)

Some people believe that eating raw, local honey may be the elixir for treating seasonal allergies, a type of strategy based on immunotherapy.

“Allergies happen when your body’s immune system reacts to allergens in your environment by attacking them,” says Payel Gupta, M.D., a board-certified allergist and immunologist at ENT & Allergy Associates in New York City. “Allergy immunotherapy helps by essentially training your body to stop attacking harmless allergens. It works by introducing small amounts of the allergens in your body so that your immune system can gradually learn to tolerate them better.”

And honey has been studied as an anti-inflammatory and a cough suppressant, so it makes sense that it might treat allergies as well.

“People believe that eating honey can help because honey contains some pollen—and people are basically thinking that regularly exposing the body to pollen will cause desensitization,” says Dr. Gupta.

But here’s the thing: not all pollen is created equal.

“Humans are mostly allergic to tree, grass, and weed pollen,” says Dr. Gupta. “Bees don’t like the pollen from trees, grass, and weeds, so those pollens aren’t found in high quantities in honey; what’s found is mostly flower pollen.”

Pollen from flowering plants is heavy and just sits on the ground—so it doesn’t cause allergic symptoms like lighter pollens (aka pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds) that is free-floating in the air and enter your nose, eyes, and lungs—and cause allergies, explains Dr. Gupta.

The other problem with the honey allergy treatment theory is that while it may contain pollen, there is no way to know what kind and how much is in it. “With allergy shots, we know exactly how much and which type of pollen is found in them—but we don’t know this information about local honey,” says Dr. Gupta.

And the science doesn’t back it up either.

One study, published back in 2002 in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, showed no difference among allergy sufferers who ate local honey, commercially processed honey, or a honey-flavored placebo.

And in fact, in rare cases, there might actually be a risk to trying local honey as a treatment. “In extremely sensitive individuals, the ingestion of unprocessed honey can result in an immediate allergic reaction involving the mouth, throat, or skin—such as itching, hives or swelling—or even anaphylaxis,” says Dr. Gupta. “Such reactions may be related to either pollen that the person is allergic to or bee contaminants.”

So eating local honey may not be the most effective seasonal allergy treatment. However, there are some things that can help keep symptoms under control.

“The best strategies for battling allergies are taking steps to limit your exposure to the things you’re allergic to and taking the appropriate medications to keep symptoms under control,” says William Reisacher, M.D., allergist, and director of Allergy Services at NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine. “If these strategies are not enough, talk to your ENT or general allergist about immunotherapy (or desensitization), a four-year treatment (allergy shots) that can improve symptoms, reduce your medication needs, and improve quality of life for decades.”

You can also try oral immunotherapy. “We have approved oral immunotherapy for only certain pollens right now in the United States—grass and ragweed. These tablets are put under the tongue and the allergens are presented to the immune system through the mouth. It’s a concentrated amount of allergen that we know will not cause a reaction but will help to desensitize your body,” says Dr. Gupta.

TL; DR? Keep using honey in your tea, but maybe don’t count on it as the answer to your allergy relief prayers. Sorry folks.

  • By Emily Shiffer

A runny nose. Itchy, red eyes. Perpetual throat irritation. If you’re one of the 50 million Americans suffering seasonal allergies every year, you know these symptoms all too well. Medically speaking, seasonal allergies are lumped into a larger subgroup of respiratory allergies, which include hay fever and pollen, mold, dust, dog, and cat allergies. The most popular treatment options for these conditions are prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Eye drops, antihistamines, and decongestants are part of the cocktail allergy sufferers use to self-medicate. But there could be a better way. Using local raw honey for allergies could be the home remedy you’ve been searching for.

Local Honey’s Health Benefits

In late 2016, Penn State University published a report about a new study focusing on local honey’s positive effects. In the study, 44 patients with a birch pollen allergy ate either local honey (with pollen) or regular honey from November to March. Another 17 patients, the control group, used normal allergy medication during the same period.

Relative to the control group, subjects who ate the birch pollen honey saw a 60% reduction in their symptoms, which also resulted in this group requesting antihistamines half as frequently as the control group. It was undeniable—the local honey affected those with seasonal allergies in significant ways. But proof of honey’s healing power has been circulating for much longer than a year.

In 2011, CBS Minnesota (WCCO) ran a story about a local beekeeper named Bob Sitko. Sitko had dealt with terrible allergies for years but he just self-medicated or, even worse, suffered through his symptoms. One of his co-workers shared that raw honey would effectively fight off his symptoms. Shortly after, he noticed a bee hive on his property and soon became a beekeeper to start producing his own honey. His bees produce upwards of 2,000 pounds of honey each year. But even more impressive, he’s allergy-free and he’s helping his local community boost their health as well.

Also, in a recent interview with Rodale’s Organic Life, author Ron Fessenden cited honey’s antiseptic, antifungal, and antibiotic properties, which can aid many conditions far beyond allergies. Fessenden published The New Honey Revolution in 2014. The book is touted as the definitive source on honey’s many health benefits.

Clearly, honey is one of our greatest defenses in the fight against allergy season. But why?

Why It Works

The theory is quite simple. Bees create honey by collecting nectar from various flowers. Once they get this nectar back to the hive, it’s converted to simple sugar and stored in the honeycomb. Thanks to the honeycomb’s design and the ongoing fanning of bees’ wings, there’s an evaporation process that converts the simple sugar to its sweet liquid form.

There are more than 300,000 plant species on Earth that produce pollen. It’s part of the pollination and reproduction process. So, while the bees are hopping from flower to flower, they’re also inadvertently collecting pollen, both on their bodies and in the nectar that will later turn into honey. By shopping for local honey, it’s likely that the same pollen causing your seasonal allergies is also in the honey your local bees are producing.

When you eat raw honey that contains pollen, it trains your immune system to tolerate it. Thus, over time, you become immune to those pollen as allergens. You’re most likely to experience relief from your allergy symptoms if your honey is both raw and local (or from the same plant source that aggravates your allergies). It must be raw because regular honey goes through a filtration process, in which foreign particles are extracted. And it must be local as to contain the same pollen as those you’re likely to encounter in your nearby area.

Why Aren’t More People Using Local Honey for Allergies?

We’d be remiss to broach this topic without discussing the evidence against it. There are many doctors and researchers who are convinced honey has no effects, positive or negative, on seasonal allergies. These non-believers most often cite a 2002 study conducted by the University of Connecticut Health Center’s Lowell P. Weicker General Clinical Research Center. In that study, 36 participants were fed either local honey, regular processed honey, or a corn syrup with synthetic honey flavoring. Neither honey group exhibited any significant changes in their allergy symptoms. Many years later, this is still the source of many doctors’ and reporters’ denouncement of honey as a home remedy for allergies.

pictured above: jar of edible bee pollen, typically harvested as a honey byproduct by beekeepers .

But there’s one big problem with this study. There’s no information available about the exact allergies these participants had or whether the local honey was pulled from each specific participant’s community. Let’s say these subjects were pulled from five different areas but tested with honey sourced from only one region. Then, the study would be inconclusive, because the testing would only prove effective if the honey was sourced from nearby each participant’s home.

Yet still, flaws and all, major publications like the New York Times have relied on this study.

Additionally, general attitudes toward homeopathic treatment methods may affect views of honey’s effectiveness as a medical treatment. A 2015 Berkeley Wellness report claimed homeopathic medicine worked no better than its antibiotic counterparts. That same year, Consumer Reports also called their effectiveness into question. So, the argument against honey may not be really be about honey at all but about a greater reliance and belief in pharmaceutical drugs.

The Final Verdict

Surely, you’re wondering if this is right for you. On one hand, there’s a scientific study as well as locally reported instances of honey easing allergy symptoms. On the other, there’s a 2002 study that serves as the primary argument against honey as an allergy reliever. But that study’s methodology may have been questionable. Ultimately, the choice is up to you.

As with any type of medical treatment—OTC, prescription, or home remedy—take the time to consider all your options. But keep in mind, honey has been proven to do more than just heal allergy symptoms. It promotes more restful sleep, provides natural energy, soothes the throat, and serves as a rich antioxidant source. With all these benefits, trying local raw honey might improve not only your allergies, but many of the other risk factors that typically contribute to seasonal illness. Plus, you’ll be supporting a local beekeeper and receiving a sweet treat in return.

Local honey could be key to fighting your seasonal allergies

NEW YORK (WABC) — New Yorkers are buzzing about allergies, and some say there’s a cure right under their nose.
“This month is job security money,” said Andrew Cote, beekeeper. “People have bad allergies, they come here.”

Loyal customers live by it as soon as spring arrives.
“My routine is when I start to get itchy and runny nose it’s time for me to get honey,” a customer said.
Andrew’s Honey is harvested on New York City rooftops, where hundreds of hives citywide produce the sweet antidote.
“People may not associate New York City with bees but there are 258 types of feral bees flying around Manhattan at any given time,” Andrew said.
Raw, natural Honey is collected and bottled for sale block by block.
“Since bees fly for three miles in any direction, I don’t think there is any neighborhood in New York City that we don’t have covered,” Andrew said.
Andrews says easily half of his customers come to pick out an allergy remedy.
He says, find honey based on where you live to ensure it has local pollen.
“I live in Greenwood and he has sunset, and I tried greenwood when I changed to that, it made a big difference,” a customer said.
Three generations of beekeepers show up for the farmers market.
Andrew’s dad Norm started it 45 years ago.
He still takes care of dozens of hives some days and says New York City honey production is directly related to the weather.
“More bloom, more flower, more nectar,” Norm said.
“The nectar and pollen gathered to make that honey is the same pollen source that would make allergies,” Andrew said.
“Actually, a teaspoon a day really does help the local honey,” a customer said.
All honey is not created equal. Make sure you get yours at a local farmers market that way it has local pollen in it to fight your allergies.
Andrew’s Honey is in Union Square on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Local honey help allergies

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