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Spring is finally here in all its glory — and so are seasonal allergies. This year, experts are warning us in advance: Take shelter and stock up on pharmaceutical antihistamines! But is there a better way to protect against allergies, even as they appear to be getting worse? Nature says yes.
Seasonal allergies on the rise
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI), seasonal allergies affect about 60 million people in the United States, and the numbers are growing. If you have allergies, you know the symptoms: excess sneezing; stuffy or runny nose; watery eyes; sinus headaches; and itching of the nose, eyes, throat or roof of the mouth. The scientific term for this condition is allergic rhinitis. Most of us just think of it as misery.
There are many ways to manage these irritating occasional symptoms without resorting to prescription and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals like antihistamines and steroid drugs. These methods only suppress symptoms and don’t get to the root cause. As a result, allergies often come roaring back each year.
To address allergies holistically for long-term relief, there are a number of natural approaches that can help balance immune defenses, reduce the chronic inflammation that aggravates symptoms, clear sinuses and reduce histamine reactions. These include:
- Nutrients and herbs like quercetin, vitamin C, nettle and Bromelain
- Anti-allergy foods like capers, apples, berries, greens and others
- Homeopathic allergy preparations
- Natural detoxification
- Dietary changes that eliminate inflammatory foods like gluten, sugar and trans fats
- Neti pot therapy for nasal congestion and irritation
- Natural stress relief and mind-body balancing with yoga, meditation and tai chi
What about local honey?
One home remedy for seasonal allergies is eating local honey. But while many people swear by eating 2 teaspoons to 4 teaspoons per day in divided doses for allergy prevention, the consensus in the medical world is inconclusive. Few studies have been published on the subject; and so far, the results are mixed. The logic behind the idea of using honey to help allergies is similar to the way vaccinations work: Introduce a safe amount of a pathogen to your system to encourage your body to develop immunity to that same pathogen. Flu shots are an example of this type of approach.
A 2011 study published by the South Karelia Allergy and Environmental Institute focused on 44 human participants specifically allergic to birch tree pollen. This study approached allergy treatment much like a flu vaccinethat works only on the specific strain of flu present in the vaccine. This study tested the theory that honey may reduce allergies only to those pollens present in the honey.
A portion of the group was treated with honey that was specifically created from birch tree pollen in addition to their normal protocols. Another portion was treated with non-specific honey in addition to their normal protocols. A third group was given a honey-flavored placebo along with their normal protocols.
The results showed that those patients who were treated with honey specifically created from birch pollen had “significantly better control of their symptoms than did those on conventional medication only.”
A 2002 study published by the University of Connecticut Health Center conducted a similar study but received very different results. Like the 2011 study, researchers examined the use of local honey likely made from the same pollens that caused the participants’ allergies, as well as nationally collected honey. Participants were asked to use their usual allergy medications only when needed, rather than in preventative fashion. Like the 2011 study, 36 participants were split into three groups: One group consumed a tablespoon of local, unpasteurized, unfiltered honey per day; a second group consumed a tablespoon of nationally collected, pasteurized, filtered honey per day; and a third group — the control group — consumed a tablespoon of honey-flavored placebo per day.
The results showed no definitive difference in allergy relief between the three groups. However, conflicting data is not uncommon in medical research. And with so few studies conducted on local honey as a treatment for allergies, the question comes down to personal experience.
While the jury is still out on whether eating local honey will reduce allergies, there are a number of other important benefits of raw honey, particularly a special type that’s demonstrating powerful effects against drug-resistant bacteria. Honey also contains a number of unique enzymes and nutrients for health protection — just go easy if you’re addressing metabolic issues.
Have you used local honey for seasonal allergies? Share your thoughts and experience in the comment section.
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