By: Tammie Smith, Times-Dispatch, 3/19/2012
Q: Is it true that eating locally produced bee honey can help tame seasonal allergies?
A: I heard a local beekeeper say as much recently, and anecdotally some people may find relief, but there are not enough scientific studies to say it works more often than not.
The idea behind it is immunotherapy, in which an allergic person exposes himself over time to tiny amounts of the substance to which they are allergic. Eventually, the reasoning goes, the person is no longer bothered by the allergen.
The medical literature has little on using local bee honey as immunotherapy for allergies, but many of the beekeeping and natural living blogs promote it.
Some also caution that some people may actually have severe allergic reactions to bee honey, which have been reported.
Two small studies that have examined the issue have different results.
In the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology in 2002, researchers at the University of Connecticut reported on a study that involved 36 people with allergic rhinitis. Participants were randomly assigned to three groups. One group got locally collected honey, one group got nationally collected honey and one group got a placebo substance without honey. There was no difference in relief of allergy symptoms among the three groups.
In a study published in an online version of the International Archives of Allergy and Immunology in 2010, researchers at the South Karelia Allergy and Environment Institute in Finland examined whether taking birch pollen honey or regular honey before allergy season had an effect on how much medication people needed during allergy season. There was also a control group that used traditional medicine. The study found that those who used birch pollen honey (birch pollen added to honey) preseasonally had better control of their symptoms than people who used conventional medication and slightly better control than those who used regular honey.