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People Are Eating Honey For Their Spring Allergies—But Does It Actually Work?

Women's Health logo Women's Health 14/03/2019 Emilia Benton
a glass of liquid: Allergy season is right around the corner, and while you know OTC meds work, what about natural remedies? Can local honey clear up allergies. Two doctors explain. © boonchai wedmakawand - Getty Images Allergy season is right around the corner, and while you know OTC meds work, what about natural remedies? Can local honey clear up allergies. Two doctors explain.

Spring is on the way, which means sunshine, green grass, and...a nose that literally won't stop running.

Yep, when the days get longer and the temps get warmer, those miserable symptoms of seasonal allergies also rear their ugly heads. And if you have them, you've probably tried all the remedies out there (shout out to Flonase, Zyrtec, and literally any other OTC allergy med).

But what about something a little more...natural? Say, honey, for instance. Isn't local honey supposed to help clear up allergies? Can't being exposed to the local pollens (that you're allergic to) a little bit at a time, actually make you immune to them? It would definitely be far more convenient than dishing out cash at the drug store...

Close-Up Of Honey Close-Up Of Honey

So wait, can honey clear up your allergies?

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but no. "Despite tasting great, it's an urban legend that local honey can clear up seasonal allergies because it contains local pollens," says David Erstein, MD, a board-certified allergist and immunologist in New York City.

In Pictures: 7 things you think boost your immunity—but probably don’t [Reader's Digest]


While local honey does contain pollen, it doesn't actually contain the particular airborne pollens that cause seasonal allergies (trees, grasses, and weeds, which are dispersed through the air). And if you're into scientific data, well, there's not really any recent studies that are valid or reliable in supporting the local honey vs allergies theory, says Dr. Erstein. Bummer.

And even if local honey did contain the types of pollen that cause seasonal allergies, there's no way to tell if the honey you're getting is pure and local, or if it's synthetic, added Purvi Parikh, MD, an allergist and immunologist in New York City, and spokesperson for the Allergy and Asthma Network. Basically, you're SOL on your hopes of honey curing your allergies.

pouring honey into jar of honey pouring honey into jar of honey

Ugh, fine. What about remedies that actually work?

Where do I start? Your first step should obviously be getting in touch with your doctor, who's aware of your symptoms and can make recommendations on remedies according to your own medical history.

From there, you can try to limit your symptoms (and ultimately improve your life) during allergy season by limiting time spent outdoors when pollen count is high, changing your clothes immediately after being outside, and showering before going to bed, says Dr. Erstein.

Beekeeper At Work, Cleaning and Inspecting Hive Beekeeper At Work, Cleaning and Inspecting Hive

Medication, like non-drowsy oral antihistamines (Zyrtec or Allegra) and intranasal steroid sprays (Flonase or Rhinocort), can help ease symptoms even more. (PS: Docs advise to start those medications a few weeks before allergy season starts).

Video: World’s biggest bee rediscovered in wild after 40 years [International Business Times]

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As far as more permanent remedies go, doctors can alter your response to allergens through allergy immunotherapy (exposing your body to increasing amounts of your allergen in order to build up tolerance), says Dr. Erstein.

“Allergy immunotherapy is your best chance at modifying your body’s response to environmental allergies, as it typically helps 80 percent of people who receive treatment,” says Dr. Erstein. “Unfortunately, allergy immunotherapy takes time to work and is a big commitment.” (A typical immunotherapy treatment course includes weekly injections for a few months at first, then monthly injections for three to five years, says Dr. Erstein).

The bottom line: Local honey will not help your allergies-but OTC meds and other treatments like allergy immunotherapy can.

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