Does eating local honey help prevent allergies?

Photo: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos, GFDL

Buds are appearing on the trees in Brooklyn, which has me itching for warmer weather. But it also reminds me that my eyes, nose, and the roof of my mouth will soon be itching as flowers, trees, and grasses bloom. I received allergy shots for years, followed by annual refills for pills. But this year I was thinking about looking for a more natural way to treat my symptoms. In part, I confess, because I'm too lazy to make an appointment to get a new prescription, and my allergies aren't that bad (unless there's a cat around). Lucky for my lazy bones, our Green Guru Susan Cosier looked into claims that local honey is a natural remedy.

Does eating local honey help prevent allergies?
—Wei Ja, Gainesville, GA

A spoonful of honey is often touted as the best natural medicine to combat the sneezing and itchy eyes brought on by pollen-filled blooms. After all, bees make honey from the nectar collected from plants close to their hives, so it stands to reason that eating the sweet stuff would prompt your body to build up a resistance to the cause of your discomfort. Alas, no scientific studies show that local honey combats allergies.

Still, future research may prove otherwise, says Peter Gallmann, head researcher at the Swiss Bee Research Centre. “There are hints in the literature that some relief can be due to the intake of pollen,” he says. “But pollen in honey is only in the range of parts per thousand. So it’s really not very much of an effect.” Until the honey connection is proven, be wary—some people have reported allergic reactions to the honey itself.

Even if local honey doesn’t clear your sinuses, it does offer benefits. It’s increasingly easy to buy, thanks to the growing trend of urban beekeeping, and purchasing honey from a farmers’ market means you’re supporting local agriculture and reducing emissions spewed from trucking the golden liquid.

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