When searching for alternative treatments for allergies local raw honey came up often. It left me wondering does local raw honey help with allergies? If it does then how does honey help?
Many alternative health websites recommend raw local honey claiming it has a similar effect as allergy shots. Some claiming some pretty impressive results.
Most medical websites deny the possibility of local raw honey helping. Dismissing the idea almost as a joke or making raw honey sounds dangerous.
I spent years myself working as a registered nurse dismissing ideas like this only to turn around and find out how wrong I was (it hurts my pride to admit that). I decided to look into the idea of local raw honey helping allergies for myself.
Why Raw Honey? What’s The Difference?
The only difference between raw honey and regular honey is how they are processed.
Raw honey is removed from the hive and strained. After being strained it goes into jars to be used.
Regular honey is pasteurized and filtered. Pasteurizing the honey kills off any yeast in the honey and increases the shelf life of the honey. It is filtered to remove any impurities or debris giving the honey a lighter and smoother appearance.
Is Raw of Regular Honey Better
One benefit of having honey pasteurized is the pasteurizing process kills the yeast in the honey. With yeast in the honey, there is always the possibility of the honey fermenting. If the honey starts to ferment you may notice the container bulging or air escaping when opening the jar from increased pressure.
Both types of honey have beneficial properties. There are antioxidants and trace minerals in both kinds of honey but the heating and filtering of regular honey can reduce the amount. Antioxidants and trace minerals in honey vary depending on where it is from and what flowers the bees have access to.
Be cautious when buying regular honey from the store. Make sure it is real honey and the only ingredient is honey. Check the label to make sure the manufacturer hasn’t added sugar or other cheap ingredients to cut costs.
Is Raw Honey Safe?
Most people know this but NEVER give honey to a baby! Any child under one shouldn’t have honey. There is a risk for botulism. Honey can have bacteria spores that create the botulism toxin. Processed honey and raw honey both carry this risk for infants. Infants under one don’t have a developed enough digestive tract to deal with the spores.
I have read a few things stating that there could be bacteria in raw honey. Bacteria do not survive well in honey. I won’t go into any more detail on this subject since the antibacterial properties and uses of honey could be a post on their own.
Unpasteurized honey naturally contains yeast. The thought of my honey fermenting on my kitchen counter had me a little worried. If the top of the honey is bulging or under pressure and air rushes out when opened it may have started to ferment. Keep raw honey in a sealed container to prevent moisture from getting into the jar. As long as the moisture content is low honey shouldn’t start to ferment.
Honey that has started to ferment won’t taste the same. All the information I can find on it says that honey that has started fermenting is still safe. Some people even intentionally ferment it for recipes. If you’re worried about your honey being fermented give it a taste and if it tastes good to you I wouldn’t worry too much about using it.
Raw honey can contain pollens. Those with severe allergies to pollens should be cautious when using raw honey. It is possible to have an allergy reaction to the pollens in the raw honey.
Why Local Raw Honey May Help
Some believe local raw honey helps because of the pollens it contains. The idea is the honey has a similar effect as allergy shots. It introduces small amounts of an allergen to your system and allows the body to desensitize to the allergen. The pollen in honey is minimal and varies from each type of honey.
Allergy shots have a measured amount that is gradually increased until the person is less sensitive to the allergen. The amount in raw local honey may not have enough of the allergens for the body to become desensitized.
This is the main reason most clam honey is a miracle cure for allergies. It is also the reason the possibility is completely dismissed. I think comparing local raw honey to allergy shots is a stretch but it may be possible that the pollens do help desensitize some.
Keep in mind there are trace amounts of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and proteins in honey. This could be a way honey helps with allergies.
There is some evidence that deficiencies in vitamins and minerals may contribute to allergies. It may be possible the enzymes in honey help digestion and help your body absorb vitamins, minerals, or proteins it is lacking. This post talks about just a couple of vitamins and minerals that could affect allergies.
Is There Any Evidence That Local Raw Honey Helps With Allergies
There haven’t been many studies on this subject but I did find a couple. One study had participants consume 1 tablespoon of either raw honey, regular honey, or corn syrup with synthetic honey flavoring. The study didn’t find any improvement in any of the groups.
Always look at the quality of the study when trying to decide if something is worth a try. I like that they tested both types of honey and had a placebo group. It appears the participants took allergy medication as needed not on a regulated basis. This to me creates too many variables and the results harder to determine.
The second study I found showed local raw honey given in high doses improved allergy symptoms. All the participants in this study were on the same allergy medication. Half were given raw local honey at a dose based on weight for 3 weeks. The other half a placebo. Both groups had improvement in the first 4 weeks but the group who had raw honey experienced an improvement in the next 4 weeks after the honey was stopped.
The second study has a little more control over the allergy medication. The dose of allergy medicine was the same for everyone, not something taken as participants needed. I like this study a little better just because it has a little more control than the first.
Both studies are small and more studies would be needed to truly show evidence for or against.
Should You Try it?
Don’t throw away your allergy medication just yet. If you are going to try this keep taking your normal medications. The study that showed improvement had people consistently taking medication.
I would be cautious about how much sugar this can add to your diet. The study with positive results had people ingesting 1g/kg of bodyweight although it was only for 4 weeks. Trying this for 4 weeks should be fine for most people, make sure to check with your doctor especially if you have a preexisting health condition.
If you’re going to try this attempt to replace processed sugar with honey. I don’t think this is a magic bullet for allergies but it may help desensitize you to some pollens or in ways we don’t even understand yet.
Along with conventional allergy medication or other alternative treatments, I think there is a possibility this could help. Don’t expect to be miraculously cured of your allergies but it may be something small and easy to try adding.
I personally use raw local honey. I did start using it because of my spouse’s allergy issues but since we changed many things at once it’s hard to tell if this helped or not. We continue to use it because we enjoy it and have never experienced any bad side effects from raw honey.