For those with seasonal allergies, spring blooms and changing foliage are signs to prepare for the worst. If you expect sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, and congestion from pollen, you’ve likely been down every rabbit hole of research for solutions.
One of the most common home allergy remedies is raw honey. Countless examples of anecdotal evidence praise honey for reducing or eliminating allergies altogether. Bee pollen is often highlighted as the source of these recoveries.
Is bee pollen in honey really a natural remedy for allergies, or is it just an old hive’s tale?
Is local honey better than raw honey?
And how would one go about using raw honey for allergies, anyway?
Let’s dissect the science and take a closer look at the tried and true uses of honey for hay fever. But first, we’ll dig into what it is the honey’s up against in the first place.
What are Seasonal Allergies?
Seasonal allergies, also known as hay fever or allergic rhinosinusitis, affect around one-third of Americans.
Like all allergies, seasonal allergies are caused by a response to something the immune system perceives as a threat. In the case of hay fever, that perceived threat is pollen. Although the pollen is harmless, the immune system may not recognize it. When this happens, a response is triggered to expel the substance.
Unfortunately, the body’s line of defense sets off an unpleasant series of sneezes and other uncomfortable events. Hay fever symptoms can range from annoying sniffles to allergy attacks that interrupt work and life. Over-the-counter solutions are often accompanied by side effects that are just as disruptive as the symptoms themselves.
It’s no wonder, then, that folks are keen to discover natural remedies such as raw honey to manage their allergies.
The Honey Allergy Relief Theory
Using honey as an allergy remedy is based on the idea that consuming bee pollen helps the body recognize that pollen isn’t a threat. Essentially, the immune system “learns” through exposure that it doesn’t need to call all hands on deck every time you breathe in a little bit of pollen.
This theory is rooted in an approach that has proven to be successful — modern allergy shots use small amounts of an allergen to help the patient build up a tolerance to it. It’s known as immunotherapy.
While pollen-allergy correlations haven’t been at the top of the scientific community’s research list, it is true that bee pollen has many health benefits which could contribute to reduced allergy symptoms.(1) But the pollen hypothesis doesn’t consider widespread honey adulteration, which can remove all traces of pollen from liquid honey — along with its other beneficial properties. Without knowing the origins of the honey people have found success with, it’s impossible to know whether the bee pollen is solely responsible for the results.
Is Eating Local Honey Better for Allergies?
What about the theory that local honey is better for allergies than honey sourced elsewhere?
If we run with the pollen tolerance theory, this doesn’t quite stack up. While some pollen is regional, pollen from ragweed, oak, birch, and cedar that most commonly trigger hay fever. These plants and their pollen exist in many regions of the world.
Science-Backed Benefits Of Raw Honey For Allergies
The link between bee pollen in honey and allergies may be in question, but a growing body of scientific evidence has more to say about raw honey and allergies. Let’s take a gander.
Raw Honey May Reduce Allergy Symptoms
The most comprehensive study examining raw honey’s effects on allergies observed 40 patients for eight weeks.(2) Half of the group was given honey and the other half were given a placebo. The group that received the honey saw significant improvement in their allergy symptoms.
Interestingly, the honey group continued to experience benefits for one month after the study, suggesting that honey’s anti-allergy properties may have a lasting effect.
Honey is a Natural Anti-Inflammatory
Inflammation is a natural part of any allergic reaction. For example, puffy eyes and nasal congestion are the result of inflammation caused by seasonal allergies.
Raw honey has repeatedly proven to have anti-inflammatory properties thanks to its phenol and flavonoid content.(3) These natural compounds may help calm inflammatory allergy symptoms.
Raw Honey Contains Essential Nutrients
Proper nutrition is vital for health and wellness. Nutrients in raw honey can give your body a boost so it’s better equipped to handle allergy season — or any season. Here are some of the good-for-you natural compounds hanging out in raw, unaltered honey and honeycomb.
- Amino acids
Many of the vitamins and minerals found in raw honey are essential nutrients, meaning the body doesn’t produce them, so they need to be obtained through food.
Honey Can Soothe Dry Throats & Respiratory Systems
Perhaps the most immediate way that raw honey can ease allergy symptoms is by acting as a humectant. Humectants are substances that retain water.
When you consume honey, the humectant properties coat your throat, attracting moisture from the air as you breathe. Honeycomb can be eaten raw or melted into tea to soothe dry throats, which may also help prevent coughing.
Honey May Help Prevent Colds & Infections
Although allergies aren’t contagious, colds and flus are. Those with allergies are at a higher risk of getting sick for two reasons:
- Sneezing, coughing, and itchy eyes add up to a lot more exposure to germs and bacteria from touching your face.
- When the immune system is occupied with allergies, it can make you more susceptible to illnesses.
Honey’s antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal effects make it useful for warding off germs and infections.(3)
Using Raw Honey for Allergies
Now that you know how honey can be a part of your allergy relief toolkit, you might be wondering how to tap into these benefits.
To give honey an honest try as an allergy remedy, you’ll need raw, unaltered honey, rich in beneficial compounds and healing properties.
With liquid honey being one of the most fraudulent foods in the world, it shouldn’t be assumed that liquid honey labeled “raw” contains the necessary components. Your best bet is to go straight to the source with raw honeycomb. But your diligence shouldn’t end there.
The liquid honey inside honeycomb cells can’t be tampered with after harvesting. It can, however, be the product of supplemental feeding, which can affect the nutritional profile of honey. Supplemental feeding is a form of honey adulteration, as harvesting honeycomb too early and producing in an area contaminated with toxic chemicals.
The Best Honey for Allergies
The only way to truly know if honeycomb has been responsibly produced, harvested, and handled is through Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) testing. NMR is the most advanced food testing available for honey.
Pass the Honey’s honeycomb undergoes NRM to confirm the honey is free from pesticides and herbicides, and that it comes from beekeepers using our approved regenerative methods. Testing has also confirmed that it contains naturally occurring bee pollen, royal jelly, and propolis.
Honey & Allergies: In Essence
Raw honey is a source of nutrients with anti-inflammatory and humectant properties, which may help reduce the symptoms of seasonal allergies. It has antibacterial, anti-fungal, and antiviral effects, which can serve as an extra layer of protection against illnesses when allergies tax the immune system.
When using honey for allergies, look for raw honeycomb that’s been tested for purity and responsible production practices. Consider enjoying 1-3 pieces of honeycomb per day in tea or as a sweet snack during the allergy season to support your immune system.