Can Honey Actually Help Cure Your Seasonal Allergies?

A new wave of organic beekeepers are helping bees produce high quality honey that may keep common ailments at bay.

June 9, 2017
bee hives
Theresa Bear

On a warm day in western Montana, 32-year-old Jacob Wustner is wearing clothing tied shut at the ankles and wrists, leather gloves, and a wide-brimmed hat covered with a net. The air is alive with honeybees, but he seems happy and relaxed as he moves among his winged charges.

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The honey that he sells is unpasteurized and unfiltered. It doesn’t look like what you see on the supermarket shelves—it’s a little cloudy with pollen, propolis, and beeswax. But there’s a benefit to that unpolished appearance. This honey is a powerful healing aid. In fact, there are 20 cool ways to use honey in and out of the kitchen.  

I first became acquainted with honey’s therapeutic powers when my son was suffering from intense seasonal allergies. Pollen caused his eyes to itch and his nose to run, and triggered painful rashes that covered his arms and legs. I grew to dread high summer. During a visit to the allergist, a skin prick test suggested that he was allergic to just about everything. (Here are 7 foods that can help fight seasonal allergies.)

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bee hives
Theresa Bear

 

After that discouraging news, I researched natural solutions in an effort to reduce the use of Benadryl and hydrocortisone cream the doctors had prescribed. Honey was high on the list. We began feeding our son a teaspoon of raw honey, rich with local pollen, each day—a tonic he didn’t mind. Over the next four years, his seasonal allergies diminished. Now he’s 15 and they are hardly noticeable.

Related: 3 Best Essential Oils For Allergies

At the time I chalked up the honey’s effectiveness to the widespread belief that honey acts by desensitizing one to allergens: Many think that local honey contains the pollen granules that trigger allergies, and that consuming it builds a natural immunity. But many studies have found that honey has no such effect, primarily because bees do not forage for the light, airborne pollens to which humans are allergic. But it turns out that honey does help with allergies—just in less obvious ways. 

Regular doses of honey help us fight off all kinds of conditions, including allergies.

A blend of sugar, trace enzymes, minerals, amino acids, and vitamins, honey is antibiotic, antiseptic, antifungal, and packed with polyphenols and infection-fighting antioxidants, all of which deliver significant health benefits. “Regular doses of honey enhance multiple parameters of the immune system,” says Ron Fessenden, author of The New Honey Revolution. “This helps us fight off all kinds of conditions, including allergies.” It can also mitigate hay fever–type symptoms. A 2007 study at the Penn State College of Medicine found honey to be a more effective cough suppressant for children than dextromethorphan, the active ingredient in most cough medicines, coating the throat to soothe irritation and also spurring saliva production, which can help thin mucus. Research continues to reveal new uses for the substance.

 

Related: Here's How To Plant An Allergy-Friendly Garden

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bee smoker
Theresa Bear

We rely on bees, not only for honey’s medicinal properties but for their critical role as pollinators. But in recent years around the world, honeybees have suffered catastrophic population declines.

Wustner, for his part, is trying to reverse the honeybee’s demise by managing his hives organically. He avoids pesticides and antibiotics, instead selectively breeding his colonies with feral bees to propagate an insect that is resistant to pests and diseases. To further bolster their strength, he surrounds them by a mix of flora, ensuring that they get a varied diet. You can see—and taste—the payoff for his efforts in his honey, which is delicate, and delicious, and so light in color it looks like a jar of liquid gold. I buy a jar to bring home with me. It is allergy season, after all.

Related: 7 Signs Your Seasonal Allergies Are Actually Something Worse

Bees take care of us,” Wustner says. “We need to take better care of them.” By buying organic honey, we can all help nurse them back to health.