Have you heard the buzz about local honey as a treatment for seasonal allergies? The idea behind honey treating allergies is similar to that of a person getting allergy shots. But while allergy shots have been proven effective, the use of honey has not. When a person eats local honey, they are thought to be ingesting local pollen. Over time, a person may become less sensitive to this pollen. As a result, they may experience fewer seasonal allergy symptoms.
It’s true that bees pollinate flowers and make honey. But the amounts of pollen from the environment and plants are thought to be very small and varied. When a person eats local honey, they have no guarantee how much (if any) pollen they’re being exposed to. This differs from allergy shots that purposefully desensitize a person to pollen at standard measurements.
During an allergic reaction, your body’s defenses overreact in response to an allergen, causing allergic symptoms such as runny nose, scratchy eyes, and more. For many people, that allergen is pollen. But, bees don’t actually use pollen to make honey. Bees make honey from nectar. Pollen gets stuck to their legs in the process, which is how they pollinate the next flower they land on. But when it comes to the actual process of making honey, pollen is there accidentally. According to the National Honey Board, the amount of pollen in honey is minuscule and not enough to impact the nutrient value—around 0.1 to 0.4 percent. And while raw honey might contain slightly more pollen than processed honey, it’s still not enough to make honey a miracle cure.
While allergy shots have been proven effective, the use of local honey has not, other than anecdotally. One study examined the effect of pasteurized honey on allergy symptoms compared to local honey. The results showed that neither group who ate honey experienced relief from seasonal allergies. There have been no peer-reviewed scientific studies that have conclusively proven whether honey actually reduces allergies.
This is likely to due to the fact that any pollen in the honey is the wrong pollen. While allergy season peaks in the spring and summer months when flowers are blooming, pollen from weeds, trees, and grasses is actually the leading cause of seasonal allergies. Wind usually blows around the yellowish dust from these plants into the air. Bees, which make honey, tend to pick up pollen from brightly colored flowers. Pollen from these blooms rarely causes allergies.
While local honey isn’t a cure-all for your allergies, research has shown that processed honey can help with other symptoms, including coughs. Honey helps soothe the irritation in your throat that causes you to cough. It is also full of antioxidants that may help you fight common viruses. And of course, it’s a delicious natural sweetener in tea or on toast. Just keep in mind that it isn’t safe to give honey to children younger than 12 months old. It contains a toxin that can lead to a dangerous condition called botulism.