Expert Opinions

Expert Opinions Archive
Can eating locally produced honey relieve hay fever symptoms? My friend from Germany swears by this method.

J.B., Tacoma

T. V. Rajan, M.D., Ph.D., Chairman of Pathology, University of Connecticut Health Center, comments:

"Local honey contains pollens that bees have collected from around the neighborhood. These are the same allergens that can trigger symptoms in hay fever sufferers who breathe them in. But when you eat such substances, you generally don't mount an immune response against them. Instead, your body may become acclimated to them--that is, you suppress an overactive immune response through oral tolerance. This is similar to the idea behind allergy shots, in which you give a patient an offending allergen to desensitize him or her to it gradually. I started thinking about this a number of years ago because my daughter had severe hay fever. I asked her to eat a tablespoon of local honey and it seemed to help her a lot. She had been using Seldane and Claritin regularly, but since she started taking honey she has not needed these antihistamines.

"In the study I conducted, I enlisted 54 patients with hay fever and gave half of them honey and the other half conventional allergy medication for a year. The next year they switched. Those eating honey had less intense symptoms. I am currently planning to repeat the study comparing honey with a placebo corn syrup with a synthetic honey flavoring."

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