It’s old folk lore that eating local honey can provide relief from allergies. The thinking goes that if you expose yourself to allergens regularly, your body will no longer recognize them as foreign. This principle, a type of immunotherapy, provides the basis for several medical treatments.
If it works, eating honey could be a cheap way to keep your allergy symptoms in check before they even begin. But other than anecdotal stories, is there any real evidence for eating honey as allergy prevention?
Some studies have shown that eating honey as a treatment can be beneficial. Honey seems to be effective in reducing the frequency of cough symptoms and increasing sleep quality in children with upper respiratory tract infections. This can be useful when children are too young to take over-the-counter cough syrups. Another study found that eating honey along with medication could reduce the symptoms of colds and the duration of illness by 1-2 days.
But very few studies have been done on the preventative effects of eating honey. Most aren’t rigorous enough to make any real conclusions about relief from allergies. And the results vary from study to study.
One study that found positive results looked at people with birch pollen allergies. The question was whether consuming birch pollen honey or regular honey (along with their regular medications) would reduce their allergies. They found that patients who consumed birch pollen honey had fewer symptoms and used less antihistamines compared to the regular honey group.
The results were promising, but this study only looked at exposure to a specific allergen and honey containing that allergen. What about allergy sufferers who consume local seasonal honey?
The biggest issue is that even local honey is not guaranteed to contain the same pollens that trigger allergic reactions. A study that looked at both pasteurized and unpasteurized honey found that honey was no more effective than a placebo.
So when it comes to relief from allergies, stick to taking your medications on time. You may also want to talk to your doctor about proven immunotherapy treatments you can take.
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