Locally produced, raw honey is believed by many to be a viable alternative treatment for asthma, despite the lack of scientific evidence of its effectiveness.
While few studies exist, there is a large body of anecdotal evidence by people who have tried local, raw honey for treating asthma with great success. Sometimes anecdotal evidence can be just as important when considering a treatment.
The Theory of Local Honey as an Asthma Treatment
The theory itself actually appears quite sound…that locally produced honey, which will contain pollen spores picked up by the bees from local plants, can act much in the same way as a natural vaccine. By introducing a small amount of allergen into your system, your immune system activates to build up your natural immunity over time.
Why should honey be locally produced? Since allergies are activated through exposure to pollens present in your local area, only local honey will capture pollen spores your community’s plants, grasses and other foliage.
The typical recommendation is to consume a teaspoon-full of locally produced honey per day, starting a few months PRIOR to the pollen season, to allow your system to build up immunity.
What Does the Science Say?
Honey for Birch Pollen
A recent study published last year “assessed the effects of the pre-seasonal use of birch pollen honey [birch pollen added to honey] or regular honey on symptoms and medication during birch pollen season.”
A total of 44 patients with diagnosed birch pollen allergy consumed daily either the birch pollen honey or regular honey from November to March. The control group consisted of 17 patients who were just using their usual allergy medication to control symptoms. From April through May, the patients recorded daily their symptoms and use of medication.
The study found that during birch pollen season, compared to the control group, those using birch pollen honey experienced:
- 60% reduction in symptoms
- Twice as many asymptomatic days
- 70% fewer days with severe symptoms
- 50% decrease in usage of antihistamines
Interestingly enough, there were few differences between the two honey groups (those who consumed regular honey versus those who consumed birch pollen honey). However, the birch pollen honey group used less histamine than those who used regular honey. The authors concluded that:
“Patients who pre-seasonally used birch pollen honey had significantly better control of their symptoms than did those on conventional medication only, and they had marginally better control compared to those on regular honey. While preliminary, the results indicate that birch pollen honey could serve as a complementary therapy for birch pollen allergy.”
Honey for Hay Fever
Another source of information is abstracted from Honey and Hay Fever: A Report on the Treatment of Hay Fever with Honey, published in 1990:
“[A]n account of a small clinical trial involving 21 patients known to suffer from hay fever is given. The patients were advised to eat 10-20 grams of honey each day for a period lasting from autumn 1987 up to and through the following hay fever season. In some instances honey comb cappings were also eaten. The patients filled in detailed reports on any symptoms experienced during the trial and these are summarized in a table. The mean age of the 16 patients who reported beneficial effects was 42.6 years, compared with 33.2 years for those who reported no benefit. The patients who reported benefit had suffered from hay fever for longer (average 24.8 years) than the other 5 patients (17 years).”
Without reading the book, I can’t specify the benefits or how substantial these benefits were, however it appears that a significant majority, 16 out of 21, did report some form of beneficial effects from honey. In this case, it appears as though regular honey, as opposed to locally produced honey, was used. So as the results from the study above indicate, regular honey may impart some benefits in and of itself, regardless of whether it’s local honey or not…
Parting Thoughts …
Honey is high in fructose – typically about 70-80%. Since each teaspoon of honey has nearly four grams of fructose, be sure to add the total grams of fructose (including fruits) that you consume each day so you are able to stay within your target levels of maximum sugar intake. This is particularly important if you suffer from signs of elevated insulin, such as overweight, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes.
As long as it’s used in moderation, eating raw honey is likely to promote health, and may indeed help alleviate asthma symptoms.