Just a Spoonful of Sugar

Slathering honey over your KFC buttered biscuit might be healthier than you think. Many wellness experts claim that eating raw, local honey can provide relief from seasonal allergies.

This idea stems from the belief that local honey can act like a vaccine. The pollens people are most likely to be allergic to are those found in areas where they live and work—coming from nearby foliage. The body mistakes pollen for damaging invaders like fungal spores and dust mites, triggering the release of histamine—a natural chemical that's part of an immune system response. Histamine causes inflammation and irritation of soft tissue, which leads to seasonal suffering.

Nathan Sheets, president and owner of North Dallas Honey, said, "The honey bee living, harvesting pollen and nectar in your own neighborhood collects the exact pollen grains you would be most allergic to. Small amounts of this same pollen, and other possible local allergens associated with flowers, will be found in the honey these bees make. One tablespoon of honey a day for adults begins to build the allergens, helping reduce the itchy eyes, runny nose, headache, sniffles, and more experienced during the spring and fall."

It’s important to note that honey should not be given to children under the age of 1 because it is a potential source of Clostridium botulinum spores. According to the Mayo Clinic, bacteria from the spores can grow and multiply in a baby’s intestines, making a toxin that can cause infant botulism.

An informal study on allergies conducted by students at Xavier University in New Orleans supports Sheets’ idea. During the study, 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 the group taking local honey reported the most improvement.

However, the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) reported that eating local honey will not combat spring allergies. In fact, “over-the-counter antihistamines have little effect on relieving a stuffy nose or inflammation that often occurs with allergies. Prescription antihistamines are the most effective ways to fight allergies,” according to ACAAI.

“The theory that eating so-called ‘natural’ honey is beneficial is purely anecdotal and mostly found in homeopathic, or non-scientific, publications,” said Samuel Welch, M.D., of the University of Arkansas for Medical Science’s Department of Otolaryngology (ENT), Head and Neck Surgery. “There are several issues related to the ingestion of honey for allergy therapy purposes that make its routine use concerning. First, much of the 'pollen' in honey is not the type that humans are allergic to (flowers and other blooming plants). Second, while local honey main contain a few antigens that a particular patient may be allergic to, it will likely contain many that the patient is not allergic to. Subsequently, a susceptible individual who frequently consumes the honey may develop an allergy to these other allergens.”

The question of whether honey can effectively treat allergies is part of the differences in schools of thought between practitioners of modern and natural medicine. Will eating a spoonful of honey a day provide relief from allergies? You “bee” the judge.

Posted by Laura Swift on Jun 08, 2011


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