Does local Honey reduce Hay Fever?
The theory, science and conclusions
What is hay fever?
Hay fever is an allergic reaction caused by pollen from flowers, grasses, trees and dust. Symptoms include streaming itchy eyes, runny or blocked nose and sneezing. Pollen grains are minute with complex structures designed to maximise pollination.
It is suggested, honey eaten daily, starting in advance of the hay fever season, can alleviate symptoms.
Honey contains pollens, principally from flowers rather than the lighter airborne grasses and tree pollens. Consuming honey containing pollens builds up an immune tolerance, thereby reducing the symptoms of the allergy.
Pollen Sculptures Wakehurst
Several small studies have been carried out to determine if honey can reduce the effects of hay fever.
It’s a Myth
A study from the University of Connecticut is often cited as concluding evidence.
A group of 36 people with self-diagnosed hay fever were assigned to one of three groups and given a 5 pound jar of ‘honey’ that contained either: local honey, national honey or a corn syrup. Symptoms were measured over 30 weeks.
The overall conclusion was that eating local honey does not relieve the symptoms of hay fever. However, researchers reviewed the study which showed that only 14 of those taking part had true seasonal pollen allergy and that the honey consumption only started at the beginning of the hay fever season. As such it is difficult to draw meaningful results from this study. This study is often cited to support the use of honey for hay fever as a myth.
It’s a Fact
A second study of 44 participants in Finland with confirmed Birch pollen hay fever were given local honey containing birch pollen and a local honey not containing birch pollen. Symptoms were recorded.
The Trial started in November, prior to the hay fever season.
Compared to a control group that did not take any honey, those taking the birch pollen honey had significantly lower symptoms with 70% fewer severe symptom days and 50% reduction in medication.
In fact, those taking either form of local honey had more days without symptoms than the control group. Of those taking the regular local honey 44% reported less need for medication, better general health, fewer colds and stomach upsets compared with 7% of those in the control group.
Local versus Supermarket Honey
Local honey is honey produced in an area of 5 and up to 50 mile radius. The flora is similar in a large area and therefore limiting to an immediate local area should not be a concern. The important factor is that the honey contains pollen.
Commercial honey found in shops goes under pressurized filtration through micron size meshes which removes pollen. It is also heat treated to prevent fermentation; this impacts on the flavour and natural health benefits.
Raw honey – generally local honey is from non-commercial beekeepers who do not heat treat, this is known as raw honey. Many use a rough strainer, or no strainer at all to retain the pollens.
Scientific evidence doesn’t providing a definitive answer, however anecdotal evidence is strong, many of our customers use honey for the relief of hay fever and other ailments such as arthritis.
It does seem that in people with pollen allergy, using local honey may reduce hay fever symptoms. Local honey probably needs to be taken for at least five months before the pollen season. It may also help to start at low, immunotherapy doses which are slowly increased to help the immune system tolerate them better. It doesn’t work for everyone, but it is worth a try.