There are many benefits to eating raw honey. One of the most interesting is the use of raw honey for allergies. Many believe that raw honey can successfully reduce allergic symptoms when taken over time. Most specifically it should be able to help treat allergies to various flowering plants and trees.
To treat allergies many believe that simply eating a little bit of locally produced raw honey, possibly just a spoonful a day, can build up resistance or immunity to the allergens. This is accomplished through gradual exposure to the local allergens that can make life so miserable for allergy sufferers.
This theory makes sense when the composition of honey is analyzed. Raw, unfiltered, and unpasteurized honey will contain pollen from various trees and flowering plants from an area approximately 2-4 miles in any direction from the hive that produced the honey. This pollen is gathered and brought back to the hive by the honeybees while they are gathering nectar from the flowers to make the honey. This pollen will make up the solid content of the honey produced by a honeybee colony.
The pollen that is present in the honey is the same substance that causes allergic reactions in allergy sufferers.
For raw honey to treat allergies, the honey used must be local honey. It does not help to take honey produced in California, Florida, or worse yet, Mexico or Canada, if you are trying to treat hay fever allergies that exist in Illinois. The pollen collected in these other parts of the country or world may be different than what is in environment of the recipient. This is why only locally produced and procured honey can be used to treat allergies.
Raw Honey for Allergies vs Allergy Shots for Allergies
This theory of using raw honey for the treatment of allergies should sound familiar to anyone who is familiar with or heard of allergy shots. Often administered by Allergists, or a doctor with a specialty in the treatment of allergies, allergy shots are often referred to as allergen immunotherapy, hyposensitization therapy, immunologic desensitization, hyposensibilization, or allergen-specific immunotherapy in the medical community. Many medical studies have been done regarding their effectiveness and many studies have proven them to be affective, especially over time.
Physician administered immunotherapy can be in two different forms: subcutaneous injection (under the skin) and sublingually (under the tongue). Most often, pollen allergy treatment is administered as shots subcutaneously. Both methods work by exposing the patient with increasingly larger doses of the things they are allergic to with the aim of inducing tolerance to the substance. In the case of pollen allergies, they administer pollens to subjects via injection at increasing amounts over a long period of time.
This should sound very similar to the theory of eating honey that contains the pollen (allergen) that an individual is allergic to and building up a tolerance to it over time.
The medical community would like us to believe that physician based immunotherapy is the only way to treat allergies to flowering plants. Physician based immunotherapy and the consumption of honey contains similar, if not the same, mechanism for the treatment of pollen based allergies. They both use pollen in their injections and honey contains pollen as well. They also both expect the receiving subject to build up resistance or immunity to the allergens over time.
Many studies have been done on the effectiveness of immunotherapy. Overall it has shown to be successful in produce long-term remission of allergic symptoms, reduce severity of associated asthma, as well as reducing the chances of new sensitivities to allergens developing.
Despite the fact that both methods use similar treatment vectors, only a few studies have been done on using honey for immunotherapy. This could be that eating honey is discounted by physicians as a possible treatment vector for pollen allergies. The studies that have been performed are often incomplete, so their results are inaccurate. Yet they get published, reviewed, and referenced anyway. Other studies are unfunded so they get no publicity at all.
One such inaccurate study was conducted by T.V. Rajan in 2002. The study was plagued with problems. First, the trial group was not large enough, he received 14 test subjects for the study, but admitted to needing 27 to perform scientifically accurate research. Second, of the test subjects used, only two complained of having seasonal allergies that correlated with the pollen present in the honey being used for the testing. Also, the honey used was not tested for pollen content, nor were his test subjects tested for allergen/pollen sensitivity to seasonal allergies that would have been present in the honey. Still this study is still referenced in articles throughout the internet written by columnists and medical professionals alike.
Luckily there is at least one article that points to the benefits of raw honey for allergies. At least one informal, and unfunded, study on allergies and honey conducted by students at Xavier University in New Orleans produced positive results. 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 that the group taking local honey reported the most improvement. The study was published by B. Cochran.
Keep in mind that in all studies, there are always be a group that, despite receiving treatment, will not be helped by the treatment, no matter what the treatment is. Often times the study will only last a period of weeks or months. Sometimes it can take years to see the benefits of any treatment and other times no improvement may ever be shown. Other times the same patient may respond to one treatment, but not the other. Every individual is different. It is highly probable that if enough studies were done on raw honey for allergies, the same can be found true: some would be helped, some would be helped over time, and some may never be helped.
It has been reported numerous times that many honey customers of the Klein Creek Farm Forrest Preserve have reported to Dr. L. Dubose, that their seasonal allergies, especially hay fever, have been more manageable after they have regularly consumed honey produced at the farm. Dr. Dubose has been keeping bees at Klein Creek for more than 20 years and the farm has more than a few regular customers. Many of these customers are located near the farm so the honey would be considered local to them. These same findings have been reported by other beekeepers as well. These are independent findings that are extremely hard to ignore.
There are multiple treatments available for allergy suffers and when choosing one, you must weigh the options and costs for each. Options may be allergy shots, antihistamines, and eating honey. The treatment process of treating with injection versus consuming honey both use the same treatment substances (pollen) and hold the same expected treatment outcome: to induce tolerance via repeated exposure. Prescription and over the counter allergy medication (antihistamines) can have varying side effects. Allergy shots must be prescribed, mixed, and administered on a repeated basis. This does cost a significant amount of money and is often not covered by insurance plans. On the other hand a pound of raw honey for allergies can be obtained for under ten dollars in most areas. This will last quite a while and could have the same effect as a more expensive treatment option. And as an added bonus, honey is mighty tasty.