Local Honey and Hayfever
Local honey for allergies
Summer is a glorious time but for hayfever sufferers it means itchy eyes and a runny nose. As spring and summer come around we're often asked about local honey and hayfever. Can local honey help with hayfever type allergies?
To explain the thinking behind the question: Pollen is the hayfever culprit.
Whilst it's irritating for us, pollen is really important for bees. They collect it for the protein it contains.These spiky little packets of protein stick on their bodies each time they visit a flower.
It's the proteins in pollen that act as an allergen. It causes the sniffing and sneezing reaction that is our body's response to what it thinks is an infectious invasion from a cold or flu virus - which are also little packets of protein. Even though we know there is a difference, our body doesn't.
Bees gather up pollen and, just like nectar, store it in the hive. They feed it to their developing young.
Pollen is so sticky, it ends up pretty much everywhere. So, when we collect our honey from our hives around Cheltenham and The Cotswolds, we also collect some of the pollen the bees have brought from the local flowers they have visited.
The thinking is that eating local pollen helps to desensitise a hayfever sufferer. Repeated exposure to the allergen causes the body to eventually ignore it. Local pollen causes the problem so eating local honey that contains this pollen might help fix it.
We're not making any claims about honey and hayfever - medical evidence is anecdotal at best.
It's also important to remember that not all hayfever causing pollen comes from insect pollinated flowers - the kind that bees visit. There are lots of wind pollinated flowers - such as grasses. Grass pollen is just blown on the wind - no insects are involved. It can be the thing that sets some people off - hence the name hayfever! Conifers like pine trees are wind-pollinated too - they release clouds of pollen into the air. Generally, any of this kind of wind-borne pollen is in our honey purely by chance.
If you do want to see if honey helps with your allergies, look for a honey that you know is from your local area. Secondly, look for honey that is lightly filtered (so the pollen has been kept in) and unpasteurised.
At Harry's Honey we aim to keep as much of the pollen as we can - by only lightly straining and cold extracting the honey.
Whilst the science is inconclusive, wouldn't it be great if this lovely stuff also turned out to be an alternative to anti-histamines?
Pollen covered honeybee and bee on Phacelia - Gilles San Martin under creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/