Can a Spoonful of Honey Keep Allergies Away?

By , Elizabeth Lowry, Staff Writer
Mary Poppins might have sworn by a spoonful of sugar for a quick medicinal fix, but for allergies, many sing the praises of a spoonful of nectar from the hard-working honeybee, instead. 

Maybe you've heard that the sweet and sticky treat, when eaten regularly and procured from a local source, can temper allergies. The theory is that consuming it acts as an immunotherapy, much like an allergy shot. Because honey contains pollen, every time you take the "medicine," you're also ingesting local varieties of pollen, thereby subjecting yourself to your allergen. When introduced to an allergen in small doses, the immune system will eventually develop a resistance.  

"One tablespoon of local honey per day several months prior to allergy season, then two tablespoons per day during allergy season," is the recommended dosage, according to chiropractor and nutritionist Dr. Scott Schreiber.

Raw Honey Health Risks     

However, that seemingly harmless spoonful of recommended honey doesn’t come from the happy, plastic bear at your grocery store. When people advise eating honey to help with your allergies, they are actually suggesting you eat the raw variety. This type of unprocessed honey can contain bee parts, mold spores and bacteria. With no regulations or uniform certifications for raw honey, you might be consuming more than you realize. Plus, keep in mind that any honey carrying the "pasteurized" label is not raw.

Ironically, eating unprocessed honey can cause the very thing you are trying to avoid--an allergic reaction to the pollen or bee parts still contained in the mix.

To compound the issue, bees tend to pick up pollen produced by brightly colored flowers, whereas humans tend to be allergic to pollen that comes from grass, weeds and trees that do not contain these same kinds of flowers. "Honey has been touted as a natural allergy reliever, however there is no scientific proof that it works," Dr. Schreiber says.

Honey Studies

One study conducted at the University of Connecticut divided 36 allergy sufferers into three groups. Depending on their assignment, they were each asked to consume one tablespoon a day of either locally collected, unpasteurized, unfiltered honey; nationally collected, filtered and pasteurized honey; or corn syrup with a honey flavoring. None of the group who ate either kind of honey showed any relief from allergies.

A different study offered 40 people allergy medicine, then gave  some of those participants high doses of honey, while the rest were given a placebo. In this instance, scientists confirmed that honey given in high doses (alongside allergy medicine) did improve symptoms over an eight-week period.

However, since the studies have conflicting results and small sample sizes, further research would need to be conducted to confirm that honey can or cannot truly help with allergy relief.

Another reason to remain skeptical of honey studies is that, "There is no guarantee as to how much pollen may be in a serving of local honey, [and] using honey as an allergy remedy is not very reliable. Studies have had mixed results probably due to the varying amounts of pollen in local honey, making controlled experiments difficult," Carolyn Dean, MD, ND says.

Although the swarm of science is still out on eating honey for allergies, other medicinal properties of honey have long been touted throughout history. Ancient Egyptians, Chinese and African civilizations used honey for its antifungal and antibacterial properties, plus the World Health Organization lists honey as a possible cough suppressant and can be key in boosting energy to beat the 3:00 p.m. office slump. While honey can't definitively beat an allergy pill and a box of tissues for relief, keeping a jar nearby is still a great idea for your overall wellbeing.

How do you handle allergy season? Do any home remedies offer relief? Tell us in the comments. 

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EVILCECIL 9/26/2019
Interesting. Report
KHALIA2 9/15/2019
I learned something! Thanks! Report
KACEYSW 7/20/2019
I have used raw honey for decades to lessen my allergies to the different areas in which I have lived. Sadly, this author seems to a very skewed view to anything natural. Report
KOALA_BEAR 6/17/2019
I use raw local honey to lessen the severity of my allergic reactions. I am sensitive to ragweed, grasses, dairy, several types of animal dander, etc.
The author is wrong, bees get pollen from more than just pretty flowers. They pollinate food crops all over or else we would starve & the Salinas Valley of central California would not be the salad bowl capital of the world; that's just one example.
Honey bees 🐝 are amazing & we are lucky to share their byproduct. If only honey mead had the same effect, I would get my daily dose that way instead! 🐨 Report
KOALA_BEAR 6/17/2019
I use raw local honey to lessen the severity of my allergic reactions. I am sensitive to ragweed, grasses, dairy, several types of animal dander, etc.
The author is wrong, bees get pollen from more than just pretty flowers. They pollinate food crops all over or else we would starve & the Salinas Valley of central California would not be the salad bowl capital of the world; that's just one example.
Honey bees are amazing & we are lucky to share their byproduct. If only honey mead had the same effect, I would get my daily dose that way instead! Report
KHALIA2 5/16/2019
Great info! Thanks! Report
MUSICNUT 2/21/2019
Thanks for the great article! :) Report
RAPUNZEL53 1/15/2019
Thanks. Report
RO2BENT 1/12/2019
Maybe... Report
Grandma used honey to "seal a cut." I guess it's like using Neosporin. All I can say is my allergies are vastly improved since I lost 60 lbs. It might have to do with deep breathing exercises more than physiology, but definitely less sinus congestion. Alternate nostril breathing in yoga clears my head. Report
Good information. Report
Good to know. Report
Sure would be nice Report
I am allergic to honey. Report
Very interesting, guess will just have to try for myself. Report
Worth a try Report
It’s baloney! Especially from the chiropractor “nutritionist “ dude........ Report
I put it in my juice with Apple cider vinegar, Dr Oz's slimdown drink it takes pretty good. I guess honey is good for a lot of things. Report
I am alegeric to bee stings, but eat honey collected by my neighbor on my land with no problem at all. It is raw honey, spun out of the combs, no bee parts in it at all. Report
Interesting. Report
wish I could eat honey Report
I would also add, in addition to making sure the honey is raw, make sure it's local (within 50 miles of where you live), so the pollen in the honey is from your area. If the honey comes from the southeast coast, and you're living in the northwest, the pollen won't be the same! Report
We use raw honey all the time!!!! Report
I agree with a few comments: The author has NO clue what they are talking about. If you are allergic to bees, then you are going to be allergic to the honey! DUH! Second, my husband is allergic to bees. Do you honestly think I am going to let a bee hover around my husband and risk him getting a severe allergic reaction? Wrong! Guess what I will do that bee? It won't live! And third, there is absolutely nothing wrong with raw honey! As long as you are NOT allergic to it or bees! Geez, author. Do your research. Report
I've seen this before. It shows the author doesn't quite grasp all the scientific factors. One being that honey has low water activity due to the sugar content, so it isn't going to mold. It actually won't even go bad for hundreds of years if sealed. Also, people who are allergic to bees should not consume honey. That should be common sense. I have been using raw honey for years. For mead, for baking, for yogurts and even for allergy season. It does help reduce symptoms if taken before allergy season. You won't see a difference of it is already allergy season and you also won't see an improvement if the source is more than 100 miles from your location. Report
Keep an epi pen handy, just in case!! You know how these kind of "natural" things can get out of hand! Report
I will look into local honey and see if it helps any. then maybe try the before season treatment next year Report
Been using raw local honey for years. It is superb for coughs and allergies. And I love the taste. Report
I use a lot of local honey, but that's just because I like the taste and I want to support local businesses and bees!

I haven't noticed a big difference in my allergy relief - but my big allergen is forsythia, which blooms in this area in February/March - WAY before the bees become active. Report
I am seriously going to try this on my son! He suffers terribly! And ironically enough, we always have local honey in the house, because my DH uses it every single day! To me, it's totally worth a shot! Report
I totally disagree with the article too. I've seen too many examples (over the past 50-55 years of my life) of the raw local honey helping family members and friends. Obviously you don't need a keg every day. Just a teaspoon is plenty, or less. And what's so wrong with a "placebo" effect, if that's what the pharmaceutical medical types want to claim - if it works, it works! Mind over Matter! Raw honey is certainly cheaper than all the drugs in the world. Report
I started putting honey in my morning smoothie a few months before allergy season this year just as a sweetener (not thinking about the health benefits). When allergy season hit this year, I realized I wasn't having nearly the bad reactions I've had in past years. Everyone else around me is complaining about it being the worst year they remember. Guess there may be something to this. Report
I disagree with the article. My DH suffered with severe allergic reactions from early spring until after the first frost every year. Our neighbor who was an MD started giving local honey to her DH & children who also were suffering as much as my DH. They were all on allergy shots as well, and after a couple of months, were able to quit the injections. They continued with the honey, and the following year my DH noticed they didn't seem to be suffering with their allergies. They explained, and so my DH started the regimen. He takes 365 days a year, and hasn't suffered any severe reactions to the pollen, grasses, or trees in over 3 years time now. The proof for us is evident. Report
Ordinarily I eschew this sort of hippie-dippie nonsense, but using local honey actually does seem to help with seasonal allergies. Report
Our family takes a spoonful of honey during allergy season from our local honeyman. Report
Never trust a Chiropractor-Nutritionist who needs to make money and knows how stupid the general public is!!!!!!! Report
Why such small studies?
I was told; it had to be "organic " & local, when I was younger. Does organic ever mean the same as raw?
Also, could u address the health healing assumptions about Cod Liver Oil? Report
Very interesting especially the part u begin with "Ironically..."
I'd consumed honey as a younger teenager because my allergies were so sensitive that dry grass from a fresh mowed lawn would break my skin out! Report
pill. just had to take one today they were so bad could not breathe well. Report
I take a spoonful of local honey a day during allergy season. It doesn't prevent my allergies, but it lessens itso impact. Report