A Word of Caution

People with severe seasonal allergies should use caution when first using local honey for allergy relief.  Because raw honey contains pollen, a person with extreme allergies could experience an allergic reaction after first beginning to eat raw honey.  It is recommended that you start small and build a tolerance to the pollen, to avoid having a reaction.  That’s the whole idea anyway, right?  Here is an email exchange between author Tom Ogren and an allergy sufferer.

“Caution! On Using Local Honey for Allergy Therapy”

by Tom Ogren
Some time ago I wrote several widely read articles on using locally produced honey for immunotherapy, as an inexpensive (and often effective) way to stop or lessen the symptoms of pollen allergy.  However, at this time I feel the need to add a strong caution to my earlier advice on local honey allergy therapy.
I have, since the writing of that article, encountered a number of people who have had allergic reactions, occasionally severe, while they were trying to treat themselves with local honey.
That said, I still believe in local honey therapy, still feel it is, for many people, a very good idea, well worth trying…and it is often quite effective, but please do read the following cautions.  Below is one of numerous emails I’ve received from readers about this, and then my advice to them:

“Dear Tom,
my wife has allergies so she took two teaspoons of local honey as close as we could get.  In about an hour her eyes started pouring, then sweating, and a little rash appeared.  It lasted just a few minutes, but it seemed a signal was there that something was wrong at the honey end, any ideas?  Thanks for any help.  There has to be a natural way.

And my reply:

“Dear Larry, Yes, her body did indeed give her a signal and you are wise to respect that warning.  It seems perfectly obvious to me that your wife almost certainly had an allergic reaction to the local honey…or rather to some pollens or other allergens in the local honey.
It is precisely because the local honey has allergens in it, usually the exact same allergens that allergic people in that locality have already been exposed to… it is because of this fact that the local honey can work as an agent to lessen sensitivities to allergies… but, also, because of these very same allergens in the honey, using local honey is not without some danger for some of those with existing allergies.  You don’t mention if your wife has asthma or not, but for individuals with allergic asthma, I would be even more cautious about using local honey as therapy.

I recommend this:

Have your wife try the same local honey again, but make sure you are at home with her when she does it, and she should only take a tiny amount… a quarter of a teaspoon would be plenty.
If this works out and does not trigger any kind of allergic episode, if there is no itching, rash, no shortness of breath, no sudden sweating, no obvious allergic symptoms, then she could repeat the same dose the next day… but in her case, since she has already reacted to the honey, she should always have someone she fully trusts, close by, someone who can stay for at least for several hours after she’s ingested the honey.

If after several weeks of this daily therapy, if she has been tolerating it just fine, then she could try to very slightly increase the dose, to perhaps a third of a teaspoon of honey per day… and could keep at that level for several months or longer.  Hopefully, eventually she could work her way, very, very slowly over a considerable extended period of time, up to a dose of one teaspoon of local honey per day.  In her case I wouldn’t ever exceed this amount.

If the above works for your wife, almost certainly she will have greatly decreased her own susceptibility to pollen allergies.  If, however, at any point the local honey again triggers allergic symptoms for her, she should immediately stop taking it altogether.

* I myself have not yet seen anaphylaxis associated with use of local honey, but it does seem possible:  Anyone who takes local honey and then experiences symptoms of anaphylactic shock, which could include any of the following: a sudden, severe attack of, wheezing, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain, vomiting, cramping, rapid pulse, sweating, extensive rash or swelling of the skin, lips, nose or eyes, swelling of the throat, nausea, diarrhea, severe drop in blood pressure, fainting… anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention.

Best of luck and keep me posted,
Tom Ogren

Copyright 2009, Thomas L Ogren