GREEN PIECE: Does honey really help seasonal allergies?

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First Posted: 5/28/2013

Summer is my favorite time of year, but if you’re like me, you have a love/hate relationship with the season because of allergies.

This year, my allergies have been pretty ruthless, and I hear I’m not the only one. At this point, I’m willing to try just about anything to get some relief. A friend recently told me that locally produced honey can actually alleviate symptoms, meaning that the honey acts like a vaccine.

The logic behind this idea is because bees jump from flower to flower and end up covered in pollen spores, which eventually transfer over to their honey. By eating a spoonful a day of that honey, you can build up your immunity through gradual exposure to the local allergens that make you so miserable to begin with.

This sounds pretty solid to me, but after digging a bit more, I found some studies that say differently. When the University of Connecticut Health Center did a test, they found that honey had no such effect. The study done by the university had scientists follow dozens of allergy sufferers through the spring allergy season. Subjects were randomly split up into three groups. Group one consumed a tablespoon of local honey, group two ate commercial honey, and group three was given a corn syrup with synthetic honey flavoring. The three groups were tracked for several months with the end result being that none of the honey groups ever saw improvements.

Taking a teaspoon of honey to help allergies is also said to be false because allergies are caused by wind-blown pollen, not pollen spread by insects. Pollen blowing in the wind is released by non-flowering trees, weeds, and grasses, not the pollen in flowers carried by bees.

Some still believe that taking local honey daily does in fact work to relieve allergy symptoms. By taking small doses of honey, you’re ingesting small amounts of allergens that are manageable doses. Over time, it’s like you’re taking a series of allergy immunology injections. Of course, using local honey isn’t the same as seeing a doctor or taking medicine for allergies.

While the idea of taking a spoonful of local honey a day to help allergies is logical, there are no facts to back it up, and it is unlikely that honey will bring any relief to your symptoms. Some continue to say that it does work, though, so after hearing both sides of the story, it still might be worth trying before undergoing other options that could be much more expensive. And if all else fails, you’ll at least have some delicious honey for your tea in the end!