Recent years show a growing interest in natural remedies instead of traditional medicine. Since seasonal allergies are one of the most common (and annoying) health conditions, it makes sense that people are looking for a more natural approach. Using local honey to treat allergies, a common folk remedy for countless generations, has recently made a resurgence.
Can local honey help to improve allergies? In theory, perhaps. Eating local honey does expose you to small amounts of local pollen, which may desensitize the immune systems of allergy sufferers and, in doing so, improve their allergy symptoms.
While this sounds great, it’s not scientifically proven. And honey is associated with other risks for children and people with severe allergies. Before you start adding honey to all your dishes, check out what you need to know about this trend.
What are seasonal allergies?
Seasonal allergies occur when your immune system reacts to allergens (typically pollen, grasses, and mold) within the environment. This immune system reaction leads to classic allergy symptoms like sneezing, watery or itchy eyes, runny nose, and coughing.
Most people think of allergy season as the springtime when flowering plants and blooming trees produce pollen. But hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, occurs during the fall harvest season and affects 30% of the United States population.
But seasonal allergies aren’t relegated to peak seasons like spring and fall. They can surface year-round. What’s more, indoor allergens like dust and mold produce similar symptoms to outdoor allergens. This results in some allergy sufferers seeking relief year-round.
How are seasonal allergies treated?
The most common treatments for seasonal allergies include over the counter and prescription medications. Depending on your specific case, your doctor may recommend:
- Eye drops
- Nasal sprays
Those looking for a more long-term approach may turn to immunotherapy. Doctors traditionally administer immunotherapy through allergy shots. The allergy sufferer receives injections with small amounts of allergens. Over time, the immune system becomes accustomed to the allergen, the reaction becomes less severe, and eventually disappears.
Doctors can now give patients these same benefits in the form of sublingual immunotherapy. Like allergy shots, sublingual immunotherapy conditions the body to not respond to allergens by slowly exposing them in small incremental doses. Instead of these doses given via injection, as with allergy shots, patients take droplets underneath the tongue, which are then absorbed into the bloodstream.
Can honey help relieve seasonal allergies?
Honey does have small amounts of pollen from the flowers used to make it. Therefore, eating honey may expose you to local pollen. But does it work like allergy shots?
Current research is inconclusive. A small Malaysian study found honey consumption could ease allergic rhinitis symptoms. But another study at the University of Connecticut found no difference in patients when taking a placebo, local honey, or commercially processed honey.
The fundamental problem with using honey as an allergy remedy is that you don’t know what kind and how much pollen it holds. The amount of pollen in any given jar of honey varies widely, so there’s no standard for how much you’re consuming. The pollen in the honey you’ve bought might not even be the type of pollen causing your allergy symptoms.
Because of these variables, The American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology put it simply, “There is no scientific proof that eating local honey will improve seasonal allergies.”
Are there risks to using local honey to treat allergies?
Using honey as an allergy remedy comes with risks. Honey may trigger anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction caused by swelling in the throat and mouth, especially in those with severe allergies.
Consuming local honey also isn’t safe for infants because raw honey can house the bacteria that cause botulism. Even processed, store-bought honey can have spores that are dangerous for growing immune systems, which is why the CDC recommends children avoid honey until age one.
How can I treat my allergies, then?
At Wyndly, we believe allergy care deserves undivided attention and modern treatments. If honey or over-the-counter allergy medications aren’t working as well as you’d like, we can help. We use sublingual immunotherapy to train your body to ignore its allergy triggers. Interested? Start with an allergy test to see if you’re a fit.