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Local Honey For Allergies?



The Claim- According to rumor, eating local honey helps build resistance to local pollen, decreasing the effects of allergies for the individual. The Theory is that it acts similar to a vaccination. Since honey has local pollens in it, supposedly consuming it introduces small amounts of pollen into your body, triggering an immune system response to produce the antibodies to help combat the invaders.

Verdict- Misleading. Stemming from a  recent randomized controlled pilot study by K. Saarinen, J. Jantunen, and T Haahtela (2011)  patients with physician-diagnosed birch pollen allergies consumed BPH (birch pollen mixed with honey) daily, recording their symptoms and their use of medication over the course of the study. Also, as a control, an additional seventeen patients were studied taking their normal medications throughout the same time frame. The patients consuming BPH reported a 60% lower symptom score, 70% fewer days with severe symptoms, and used 50% less antihistamines compared to the control group.

 Looking at face value, the numbers are impressive. The BPH seems to have won by a landslide, so it's no surprise how the rumor was born. The problem is that it was only one pilot study, and no Placebo Effect was measured or accounted for. Any credible study has to take into account and eliminate as many outside influences as possible, and be able to replicate the results consistently. The results in this case could easily been skewed by a placebo effect, the test subjects lifestyle variance, or any number of other factors. It certainly doesn't disprove the idea, however it does conflict with the next study.

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A more in depth study, by T.V. Rajan, MD, H Tennen, PhD, R. Lindquist, MD, L. Cohen, MD, and J. CLive, PhD from 2001 randomly separated subjects into three groups- group one receiving locally collected, unpasteurized, unfiltered honey. Group two received filtered, pasteurized honey that was collected nationally. Group three received corn syrup with synthetic honey flavoring. All participants were instructed to take one tablespoon daily of the mixture, and maintain a diary of symptoms along with a record of flare ups that required taking their usual anti-allergy medication. The results? Neither honey group experienced relief from their symptoms noticeably different from the group taking the placebo corn syrup.

Unfortunately there simply isn't enough peer-reviewed scientific evidence to conclusively prove anything one way or the other. However, Honey has many other beneficial purposes both nutritionally, as well as medically. It Contains powerful antioxidants with antibacterial properties, is a fantastic natural sweetener, and can even be used As a Burn Treatment. It is good for us in a number of ways, but to reduce pollen allergies just isn't one of them.

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