About this web page: After I sent out the following email, I got a lot of people writing me back. That lead to my research into local honey. I've reprinted some of the best articles I found following the email.
Article: Local Honey and Allergies - by Thomas Leo Ogren
Local Honey and Allergies
Thomas Leo Ogren has an MS in Agriculture/Horticulture, and all his graduate
work was done on allergies triggered by landscape plants. He taught horticulture
in inner city Los Angeles, and worked for Cooperative Extension in Calif.,
setting up community gardens in South Central, LA. He owned a dairy farm and
retail-wholesale nursery in Northern Minnesota, where he hosted a popular weekly
radio show on Public Radio, “Tom Ogren’s Wild World of Plants.”
Cautions! on Using
Local Honey for Allergy Therapy
Some time ago I wrote several widely read articles on using locally produced honey for immunotherapy, as an inexpensive (and often effective) way to stop or lessen the symptoms of pollen allergy. However, at this time I feel the need to add a strong caution to my earlier advice on local honey allergy therapy.
I have, since the writing of that article, encountered a number of people who have had allergic reactions, occasionally severe, while they were trying to treat themselves with local honey.
That said, I still believe in local honey therapy, still feel it is, for many people, a very good idea, well worth trying...and it is often quite effective, but please do read the following cautions. Below is one of numerous emails I've received from readers about this, and then my advice to them:
"Dear Tom, my wife has allergies so she took two teaspoons of local honey as close as we could get. In about an hour her eyes started pouring, then sweating, and a little rash appeared. It lasted just a few minutes, but it seemed a signal was there that something was wrong at the honey end, any ideas? Thanks for any help. There has to be a natural way. Larry"
And my reply: "Dear Larry, Yes, her body did indeed give her a signal and you are wise to respect that warning. It seems perfectly obvious to me that your wife almost certainly had an allergic reaction to the local honey...or rather to some pollens or other allergens in the local honey.
It is precisely because the local honey has allergens in it, usually the exact same allergens that allergic people in that locality have already been exposed to...it is because of this fact that the local honey can work as an agent to lessen sensitivities to allergies.... but, also, because of these very same allergens in the honey, using local honey is not without some danger for some of those with existing allergies. You don't mention if your wife has asthma or not, but for individuals with allergic asthma, I would be even more cautious about using local honey as therapy.
I recommend this:
have your wife try the same local honey again, but make sure you are at home with her when she does it, and she should only take a tiny amount.... a quarter of a teaspoon would be plenty.
If this works out and does not trigger any kind of allergic episode, if there is no itching, rash, no shortness of breath, no sudden sweating, no obvious allergic symptoms, then she could repeat the same dose the next day.... but in her case, since she has already reacted to the honey, she should always have someone she fully trusts, close by, someone who can stay for at least for several hours after she's ingested the honey.
If after several weeks of this daily therapy, if she has been tolerating it just fine, then she could try to very slightly increase the dose, to perhaps a third of a teaspoon of honey per day.... and could keep at that level for several months or longer. Hopefully, eventually she could work her way, very, very slowly over a considerable extended period of time, up to a dose of one teaspoon of local honey per day. In her case I wouldn't ever exceed this amount.
If the above works for your wife, almost certainly she will have greatly decreased her own susceptibility to pollen allergies. If, however, at any point the local honey again triggers allergic symptoms for her, she should immediately stop taking it altogether.
* I myself have not yet seen anaphylaxis associated with use of local honey, but it does seem possible: Anyone who takes local honey and then experiences symptoms of anaphylactic shock, which could include any of the following: a sudden, severe attack of, wheezing, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain, vomiting, cramping, rapid pulse, sweating, extensive rash or swelling of the skin, lips, nose or eyes, swelling of the throat, nausea, diarrhea, severe drop in blood pressure, fainting... anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention.
Best of luck and keep me posted. Tom Ogren
Thomas Ogren is the author
of Allergy-free Gardening
Thomas Ogren is the author of Allergy-free Gardening, and of, Safe Sex in the Garden, both from Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, California. Tom's work on plants and allergies has been published in hundreds of magazines and newspapers worldwide, and has been featured on National Public Radio, on the CBC, on HGTV, on NBC, CBS, and Fox TV. His website is www.allergyfree-gardening.com
Find Local Honey
So, where do you go to find honey made in your home state?
You might think you could find it at your local grocery stores. That's not necessarily so. At my local Kroger, there was a HUGE supply of honey products (near the bread section). Despite ALL of the different types of honey found there, none was from right here. Instead, they said "product of Oregon" or "product of Michigan". The other states were: Florida and Indiana. I was fairly surprised that there was no honey from home there.
For the most part, beekeepers are your all-time best source for locally produced honey. If they don't sell honey themselves, they'll definitely know where to find it. To find local beekeepers in your area, try these links:
Now, the fun part comes with trying to find fun recipes to add honey to your diet on a regular basis -- like these honey-dipped cookies.
That, or you could just try to down a teaspoon or so a day of raw honey. But it would be easier to protect the whole family -- including kids who are finicky eaters -- if you could find some fun ways to incorporate honey into your regular meals.
More About Honey & Allergies
Health benefits of really raw honey (...straight from the bee hive)
Fun facts about honey (Psssst... it's GREEN!)
Subject: Honey for allergies...
I've heard two alternatives to the 'honey for allergies' topic:
As a hobbyist beekeeper who suffers from pollen allergies and from severe
reactions to bee stings, I'd like to share some personal observations with you.
I have been undergoing immunotherapy for my pollen allergies, with very good
results. But for bee stings, my allergist (who understands my need to keep bees)
prefers not to proceed with bee venom immunotherapy unless her patients have
exhibited symptoms of anaphylactic reaction (drop in blood pressure, itching
throat, hives, problems with breathing). Luckily, my symptoms are only severe
swelling and intense itching at the sting site. The tricky thing too, with bee
stings, is that it is possible for someone who has not shown prior anaphylactic
symptoms with stings, all of a sudden to become hyperactive. It might be on
account of this that some allergists are reluctant to proceed with bee venom
immunotherapy. I say, find yourself an allergist who will support your decision
to keep bees, get a prescription for and carry an Epi-Pen insect sting kit with
you and ALWAYS work with another beekeeper. And keep on keeping bees!
to be sure there is no one cure for allergiesand perhaps really none.
My experience is similar to yours. My problem was severe sinus problems with
head splitting headaches. I started beekeeping about 20 years ago and have had
only minor problems since. I contributed the change to numerous stings and
honey consumption. I have regular honey customers that want local honey and
claim the same results.
For years I've heard people say that raw local honey taken daily would help
allergies. Recently I've been hearing that some allergist are advising their
patients to take raw local honey each day. I heard all this and took it with
the proverbial grain of salt.
I had a number of customers who wanted raw honey for their allergies. These
people, for the most part, told me that had always been told that consuming
local raw honey helped to combat the effects of hay fever and other pollen
related allergies. Others, including one nurse who works in an allergist
office, told me that the doctors say that consuming honey produced within 50
miles, helps to produce a tolerance to those local pollens thus reducing the
effects of allergies. Sounds logical to me.
To be honest I am skeptical about some aspects of this subject - or perhaps
there are mechanisms at work here that are not immediately obvious.
I agree about the rag weed pollen but here in the southern USA the bees
gather ragweed pollen and nectar form late July until other sources of pollen
and bedime available in late August or early September. The reason for the 50
mile radius. Is probably an arbitrary figure, but the idea is for a person to
get honey that contains pollen form most sources that a person is likely to
There is a reason that we have a lack scientific fact about the use of
natural treatments for many things and allergies being one of them. Money is
spent , where money can be made. You will see very slow progress in natural
cures , but we all know that they are out there. We get most of our medicine
from plants in the first place, but we have to support a very large industry for
us to get it to our mouths. I'm not against medicine , but I'm against the way
we are hand fed to believe that it is the only way. We could have more than
pollen in unstrained, unheated honey, that has a positive affect for us on
allergies. I have Doctors that buy honey from me and only want raw honey.
I have just sent off another reply to a recovered allergy sufferer who has found that honey has helped tremendously. I had allergy problems with hay (the real stuff) spring pollens, molds from the earliest part of my life that I can remember. I was dragged from one doctor to another with no positive lasting effect. I had relief only as long as one dose of medicine lasted and not always then. I moved from New England to the Pacific in 1944 and thereafter had asthma so badly that the base doctors wanted to ship me home, there were days that I felt sure I would suffocate. That never happened and I completed my Pacific tour in 1946. For many years thereafter I suffered badly from asthma then to the 1980's I found a good respiratory allergist who used injections to increase my resistance had some noticeable relief but no cessation. In 1990 I was introduced to beekeeping and thereafter ate a lot of honey, and was frequently stung. Since then I have had no asthma but one summer of terrible hyperventilation problems probably from nervous conditions. The asthma has now not occurred in 3 years.
I used to have a great deal of sinusitis or hay fever, and got it from a number of sources, the mold or pollen content of a spring fed lake where I went regularly and still do. Everyone would say "What a terrible cold you have" because my nose was so irritated. So embarassing. This too has simply disappeared.
If only my mental condition would improve and my age decline all would be well. So far no one has comeup with the fountain of youth so I'll just be happy with improved health in the respiratory department.
Proof of honey as a allergy relief, I can not give, but there appears to be a
relation. Several of my friends are also having good experience with honey and
do not get stung as I do.
From: Garth Cambray <g95c6713@WARTHOG.RU.AC.ZA>
Pollen mainly causes allergies through it's accidental germination in the nasal cavities, as well as the lungs if things go wrong, where it, being a small specialised plant grows out a pollen tubule in search of a femal egg to fertilize. This it does not find, but it does often find a blood vessel or some tissue into which is grows and is eventually popped by certain unspecific immune reponses - releasing all sorts of foreign particles into the blood stream and tissue.
Your body becomes sensitive and develops a response to this. The response is due to a range of cells that produce the allergic response antibodies, IgE's - which are in much lower concentrations to others like the IgG's which usually get rid of most infections.
If one eats a lot of pollen - even a teaspoon full of honey will have million times more pollen than a room full of air - about what we filter a day - your body is posed with a huge exposure to pollen particles that do the hayfever thing all the way down your throat.
In some people this makes them throw up - my girlfriend cannot eat bluegum honey. I have to give her honey from the desert where no bluegums grow. I cannot use a super that has had eucalyptus honey in it otherwise she gets nauseus - a strong allergic response.
However, for most of us, the exposure to lots of pollen makes us develop a population of cells producing IgG to that stuff, as well as special cells which control the cells which release histamine - and the allergy goes away. Just like exposure to a cold for two weeks make's it go away, and so does flu and everything else. One just has to watch out for conmen during this time period.
Alternatively, one can go and have 'this or that pollen' desensitization shots - administered by doctors who are educated in institutions that would close down if it were not for the 'donations' they recieved from the pharmaceutical companies - ie doctors are told - if somebody has hayfever give them celestamine and desensitizing shots at 1% of their anuual income or whatever. The celestamine will cause possible permanent psychological problems if taken for too long, and the expense will as well. Honey on the other hand is cheap and nobody gets royalties for it except us beekeepers who are not important as a tax base at all - and we don't donate millions to universities that train doctors.
So my answer - yes sell people honey as an antidote to hayfever. If it does not work, at least it won't damage their brains like antihistamines do - even although these don't really work either!!
Health Benefits of Really Raw Honey
It's no secret! Unprocessed honey, straight from the hive, has been used worldwide for millennia to promote healing.
We've gathered an extensive "intelligence base" both old and new, from medical journals, historic references, leading research facilities and the National Honey Board. Here's just a sampling of how Really Raw Honey is being used with amazing results.
Aids stomach and digestion
"In digestive disturbances honey is of great value. Honey does not ferment in the stomach because, being an inverted sugar, it is easily absorbed and there is no danger of a bacterial invasion. The flavor of honey excites the appetite and helps digestion. The propoma of the ancients, made of honey, was a popular appetizer.
"For anemics, dyspeptics, convalescents and the aged, honey is an excellent reconstructive and tonic. In malnutrition, no food or drug can equal it. The laxative value of honey, on account of its lubricating effect, is well known. Its fatty acid content stimulates peristalsis. In gastric catarrh, hyperacidity, gastric and duodenal ulcers and gall bladder diseases, honey is recommended by several eminent gastroenterologists.
Dr. Schacht, of Wiesbaden, claims to have cured many hopeless cases of gastric and intestinal ulcers with honey and without operations. It is rather unusual that a physician of standing has the courage and conviction to praise honey. The beekeepers and their friends know that honey will cure gastric and intestinal ulcerations, this distressing, prevalent and most dangerous malady, a precursor of cancer. But the news has not yet reached 99% of the medical profession. The remaining few physicians who know of it, are afraid to suggest such an unscientific and plebeian remedy, for fear of being laughed at by their colleagues and scientifically inclined patients. You may read in almost every issue of agricultural papers the reports of correspondents regarding their experience with honey for gastric ulcers, after going through the medical mill for years without improvement, without even hope of ever getting cured. Then incidentally, they meet a beekeeper or one of his converts and if they have courage and common sense (there are few) to heed the advise, they get well. It is disheartening for a physician to read such reports.
For instance, a correspondent A.L.T. of Omaha, Nebraska, writes in Gleanings in Bee Culture, February, 1931, "I have been a sufferer from ulcerated stomach for several years, part time in the hospital, part time in bed and nearly all the time in much pain. I noticed from the middle of September I was much better and gave no thought to the reason but kept up eating honey because I relished it. I had no attack since and it held good." It would fill a volume to assemble similar testimonials, praising particularly the curative value of honey in gastric and intestinal disorders, including ulcers. Father Kneipp, a great admirer of honey, remarked, "Smaller ulcers in the stomach are quickly contracted, broken, and healed by it."
The above historical information from the 1930s and contemporary commentary compiled from: Honey and Your Health, Bodog F. Beck, M.D. and Doree Smedley, Health Resources Press, Inc., Silver Spring, MD, 1997.
Honey as a treatment for stomach ulcers.
For treating allergies
Ada, Oklahoma (AP) - An Oklahoma allergist told a meeting of 150 beekeepers that raw honey is an effective treatment for 90 per cent of all allergies. Dr. William G. Peterson, an allergist from Ada in the 1950's, said he now has 22,000 patients across the nation who are using raw honey along with more customary medications to relieve allergy symptoms.
"It must be raw honey because raw honey contains all the pollen, dust and molds that cause 90 per cent of all allergies," he told a meeting of the Oklahoma Beekeepers Association. "What happens is that the patient builds up an immunity to pollen, dust or mold that is causing his trouble in the first place. The raw honey must "not be strained, not even through a cloth." he added. "I know the customer wants good, clear strained honey, and that's fine, but for health reasons, raw honey is what we need."
Dr. Peterson said he and the 20 doctors at his clinic at Ada normally prescribe a daily teaspoon of raw honey. The honey treatment continues even after the allergy is under control.
Information excerpt from "Bee Hive Product Bible" (pages 127-130)
Much of the effectiveness of raw honey to help treat respiratory problems has been traced to the bee pollen and propolis suspended within it. According to a research report from Bulgria, they found the honey has anti-allergic, anti-imflammatory, and expectorant properties that insure the body has an immunobiological defense and give it the capacity to regenerate its attacked cells. Research on using raw honey to treat respiratory problems shows the following results: Of the 17,862 patients treated with honey, 8,836 were men and 9,026 were women. Most of the patients ranged in age from 21 to 60 years old. After treatmetn the results were:
For healing ulcers and burns
Also many years ago, a study by Robert Bloomfield, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, reports "Applied every 2 to 3 days under a dry dressing, honey promotes healing of ulcers and burns better than any other local application. It can also be applied to other surface wounds, including cuts and abrasions..."
Honey has anti-cancer properties.
Recent studies by Gribel and Pashinskii
indicated that honey possessed moderate antitumor and pronounced anti-metastatic
effects in five different strains of rat and mouse tumors. Furthermore,
honey potentiated the antitumor activity of chemotherapeutic drugs such
as 5-fluorouracil and cyclophosphamide.
C.V. Rao at the American Health Foundation in
Valhalla, New York found caffeic acids in propolis are inhibitors of colon
cancers in animals. Other research shows hive products have the ability to
prevent and halt the spread of malignant diseases. Earlier research by M.T.
Huang also published in Cancer Research found caffeic acids effective in
inhibiting skin cancer tumors in mice.
The above historical information from the 1930s and contemporary commentary compiled from: Honey and Your Health, Bodog F. Beck, M.D. and Doree Smedley, Health Resources Press, Inc., Silver Spring, MD, 1997.
“Though we travel the
world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or find it not.”
Phone: 1-800-REAL-RAW (732-5729)