Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Can Locally Produced Honey Reduce Your Allergy Symptoms?

I have often been asked if eating locally produced honey can reduce your allergy symptoms. The idea is that the bees eat pollen produced from local flowers and then that some of the pollen ends up in the honey. When you eat this honey, then you desensitize yourself to the pollen. That is, this reduces your allergic reaction, so then when you breathe in pollen, you should react less.

Short answer: no. I'd like to make a few points. First, there has never been a study documenting this happens. Second, the pollen from brightly colored flowers is not the same kind of pollen that causes allergy. Flower pollen is heavy and needs to be physically carried by bees from flower to flower, in order for reproduction to occur.  The pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds light weight and can be distributed by the wind. Bees are not necessary to spread pollen. Third, the idea of swallowing pollen from trees, grasses, or weeds to desensitize yourself an so reduce allergy symptoms is being actively investigated around the world. To learn more about this, search for oral immunotherapy or stayed tuned for a future blog entry.

Amendments: this entry from 11/16/08 was edited by me on 4/6/10, because: 1) I did not like how this read; and 2) I became aware of one study, the only one I could find in PubMed's medical literature, the explained this premise (above).  The study was published in 2002 [Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2002 Feb;88(2):198-203] with lead author Rajan, entitled "Effect of ingestion of honey on symptoms of rhinoconjunctivitis."  The size was very small, with 3 groups of 12, so there was not much room to measure a treatment-effect.  The authors noted no difference between the group given local honey, the group given a national brand of honey, and the placebo group.

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