Raw Honey and Seasonal Allergies

What is RAW HONEY and how may it help with SEASONAL ALLERGIES?

Raw Honey Comb with dipper

Raw honey is an unofficial industry term that refers to honey that is in the honeycomb or extracted from the comb with minimal processing and no heat treating.

This type of honey is sought after by health enthusiasts and allergy sufferers for its ability to provide the benefits of the pollen, propolis, and waxes that typically are filtered out and neutralized by straining; vitamins and minerals that are diminished by pasteurization.

Honey in-state is a natural sugar substance (fructose and glucose) that is floral nectar that has been enzymatically transformed by the honey bee into a sweet food.

I first got involved with cut comb/raw honey in 2009 when a Canadian beekeeper researching hives in Morristown, NJ suggested I try a tablespoon a day during allergy season to build up a natural immunity to my allergens.

This week as I was volunteering with the Central Jersey Beekeepers Association at the Monmouth County Fair, I fielded a lot of questions about allergies and raw honey. I just wanted to make a couple clarifications if you’re looking to receive health benefits from raw or comb honey.

  • Local honey (within 50 miles of where you live) is relevant only in that you want to look for honey that has the pollen of the plants you may be allergic to in it. Organic, single-origin, honey from some Grecian island isn’t going to have any allergy benefits since it contains nothing that you’re allergic to.
  • The prevailing theory of using raw or comb honey to treat seasonal allergies is that ingesting small amounts of the pollen you’re allergic to bio-accumulates in the body, similar to taking a once-a-day allergy prescription or a daily over-the-counter pill.

The information I’ve read suggests taking 1 tablespoon a day in the month before allergy season. I can usually meter out a month of comb honey at this dosage from a 1 lb square. At farmer’s market prices, that’s about $10 for 30-days of an ancient medicine that diminishes my allergic reaction to seasonal pollen, doesn’t ruin my sense of smell or induce drowsiness. In March and August, I go out and grab some fresh local honey to protect from my Spring and Fall seasonal allergies.

I had a woman tell me her daughter is allergic to trees and grasses and her son has ADHD, and that she herself suffers from XYZ ailment. Asked me what I thought would be a good honey product for her and whether the local extracted honey we had for sale at our fair booth could help her out.

Is raw honey a panacea? Will it cure cancer? Can comb honey save your marriage?

No. Raw, cut comb, or section honey that has been minimally processed is not going to solve all your problems. It doesn’t cure allergies of all kinds, it’s not a substitute for a nutritionist, pediatrician, or a good therapist.

Raw honey will help SOME seasonal allergy sufferers from sneezing without using other conventional treatments. I say SOME because raw honey will only contain the pollen from the floral source the bees collected. Most grasses don’t flower. Many trees don’t flower. Grasses and trees make pollen, but unless it produces a flower and a nectar source, the honeybee is not particularly interested. Raw honey will help you when allergic to flowering weeds, herbs, trees and other plants. But unless you know precisely what it is you are allergic to, you can’t get a guarantee on being 100% treated by raw honey. If you do have allergic reactions to floral pollen, it’s possible that you may also be allergic to non-floral pollen like trees and grasses. In which case, the raw honey will help with part, but not all of your allergy symptoms.

So, what do you look for and how do you find a raw honey to treat seasonal allergies?

  1. Buy Local- as local as you can find it, but if it’s within 50 miles, the honey will likely contain many of the things you’re allergic to in your backyard. So you don’t need to go crazy to find hyper-local honey. If you want that level of locality, consider starting a hive in your backyard.
  2. Raw or in the Comb- Raw honey will sometimes be crystallized, possibly grainy, and perhaps bits and pieces of waxes, propolis, and other “stuff”. That “stuff” that doesn’t get filtered out is supposed to convey benefits that would be absent from the honey otherwise.
  3. Search Google, find your local Beekeepers Association, and quite often a list of members and the products they purvey will be available.
  4. If you’re looking for allergy benefits, unfiltered, cut comb, or section honey is the best option. Chewing the beeswax for 20 minutes like gum is going to allow you to ingest more of that beneficial pollen.
  5. Creamed or whipped honey is NOT raw honey, despite being whiter in colour and opaque. It’s just honey that has been whipped up with air to maximize crystallization and create a smooth, spreadable consistency.
  6.  Don’t be swayed by single-origin/organic labelling. For allergy relief, organic is not the priority. The priority is to find honey in a natural state that contains the pollen you are allergic to. Honeybees will travel in excess of 3 miles from the hive to find pollen. Organic or a single-floral source honey is great, but unless you live in the isolated areas where organic honey is feasible (Grecian islands, Brazil, New Zealand, or Russia), your honey is almost guaranteed to contain pollen from inorganic sources, like the neighbour’s garden soaked in Miracle-Gro, or the conventional farm on the outskirts of town sprayed for bugs with topical pesticides.
  7. Enjoy it! Eat it by the spoonful. Put a teaspoon in your coffee. Drizzle over pancakes and waffles. Honey is good and good for you.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to treat, prevent or cure any disease or defect.