Hay Fever and Honey
We’ve been receiving a lot of questions about honey and hay fever and thought this a useful topic to put on the blog for those affected or with friends / family affected.
As a scientist and beekeeper, this topic is of great interest and it’s fair to say agreement has not been reached yet on the outcomes of various studies. There are of course a multitude of commercial interests on both sides, covering both opinions and results. It is complex but hopefully the following will help you form your own views!
one of our bees returning from pollen collecting
The argument for honey benefitting hay fever sufferers is founded within alternative medicine where a sufferer ingests regular but small doses of a substance to which they are allergic (in this case pollen) to increase overall immunity. We have heard of similar successful approaches to increasing immunity to bee stings through the use of small amounts of bee venom to overcome severe allergy. Based on this line of thinking, it’s important that honey ingested is sufficiently local (particularly if an allergy relates to local pollen); the honey is not heat-treated (destroying the nutrients within honey); is not heavily filtered (filtering out the pollen for better shelf appearance) and contains representative local pollen.
There is a level of consensus in beekeeping research that locally representative pollen is sourced from within 20-30km from where you live. Pollen within such a radius is considered similar as it relates to plant habitat within that region, and bees who collect pollen will collect a diverse range of pollen up to 5 miles away from their hives. You could sit and watch the entrance of a hive and witness pollen being brought in from different plants (identified by their colours) by the same colony of bees. Additionally, the same bee will bring in different pollen on different days / weeks so there is a natural diversity within the hive but it’s all “locally relevant”. When you look at the storage of pollen in honey frames (used by the colony to feed young bees) you see many different colours and as long as these are preserved in the honey this should support an alternative medicine approach. Anecdotally, we have heard from hay fever sufferers that consuming local honey successfully reduces their symptoms.
one of our frames of honey highlighting typical pollen diversity
There are UK pollen charts online to help you identify each pollen source by its colour but this honey frame example contains tree pollen, floral pollen and crop related pollen - all within the one hive!
Our suggestion - if you want to try treating hay fever with local honey, we suggest using local raw honey (cold extracted, lightly filtered and containing representative pollen). Our own principles are based on providing high-quality, cold-extracted and lightly filtered raw honey which will support this approach. We have heard that people suffering with hay fever often take a teaspoon of raw honey every morning – there can be no better way to start your day. Or why not try eating local honeycomb with yoghurt each morning (as this is the rawest form of honey available).
Naturally, the above is not medical advice and if you suffer from severe allergies, we will always advise that you seek advice from your GP before trying any self-medication.
Lastly don’t expect the same results with every store bought honey, which may have been heat-treated (to pour faster commercially), may be sourced from non-local and non-EU sources (check the label small print!), can be “cut” with other sugar sources from countries with much lower food standards than ours and furthermore may contain added pollen to mask country of origin.
Many thanks for your support and please let us know of any approaches / ideas which have worked for you,
Owner, smoke & hive