The idea of using local, unfiltered, unprocessed honey to combat allergies has been around for a long time. It’s one of the oldest folk remedies in western history. Does it work? That is the question that most people would ask. The answer is… probably.
Everyone is different. Ask any medical practitioner, whether mainstream or alternative, and they’ll agree to that. Some medicines (be they pharmaceuticals or home remedies) work for some and not for others. We’re all different, so the ways we treat our illnesses should be tailored to us.
Many people stand by the idea of local honey treating allergies. The reason it works is a best guess, but an educated guess is better than no explanation at all. Honey is made by bees who collect pollen from flowers. A small amount of that pollen gets in the honey as it’s manufactured. When a person ingests honey, they are also eating that pollen. This causes their body to react allergically to the pollen, in the same way it would allergies to pollen in the air. The difference being a matter of magnitude.
If the honey only contains small amounts, then the reaction is small (likely unnoticeable), but still has the auto-immune effect of gearing up the body’s defense mechanisms. Most of our physical reactions to allergies are based on how they’re received.
So if you’re allergic to pollen (which is common), when you breathe in that pollen your body gives its primary response to that pollen through the respiratory system. This means coughing, sniffles, eye watering, etc. If the pollen is ingested, then the body produces more blood antigens instead.
Putting all of that together, we see that ingesting honey with the local pollens in it causes your body’s immune system to gear up for allergic reactions based on ingestion of the pollen rather than based on breathing it. So blood antigens are produced to fight off the pollen. Hence no “allergic reaction” in the form of runny noses and eyes. This is greatly simplified, but it’s the general idea behind how we understand how honey could be preventing allergies.
One scientific study was ever conducted regarding local, raw honey’s ability to stave off allergies. This study was inconclusive as it contained too few participants to properly model the general population. In fact, about 1/3 of those who started the study never finished and only 14 people were involved at the end. Not enough to come to any type of conclusion.
There is plenty of anecdotal evidence for honey working as an anti-allergy medication, however. So much so that there has to be something to the idea, even if we can’t prove it conclusively.
How To Get Local Honey
So where do you get local, raw honey for use? In some states, it’s not possible because it’s literally illegal to sell honey that hasn’t been filtered and pasteurized. In most parts of the U.S. and Canada, however, you can find locally-sourced, raw honey (it must be unfiltered as well) at health food stores, through newspaper ads, or by inquiring at farmer’s markets. There are thousands of amateur and professional beekeepers in every state, so locating one near you should not be difficult.
Or you can try keeping bees yourself. There are a lot of websites and books on the subject and it’s much easier than most believe it to be. The up-front costs are a little expensive, but they only occur once and from there on, it’s cheap to do. Much of the work in beekeeping is harvesting honey and caring for the hive, which can be alleviated through alternative methods of beekeeping such as the top-bar method and hive setup. You can even build these hives yourself, cutting much of the expense involved.
Want to learn more about local honey for allergies?
See these websites for more information:
Health Benefits of Honey from the Alabama Cooperative Extension System: Alabama A&M University and Auburn University
Backyard Beekeeping PDF from the Alabama Cooperative Extension System: Alabama A&M University and Auburn University