Allergies arise from continuous
over-exposure to the same allergens. If, for example, you live in an area
where there is a great deal of red clover growing, and if in addition
you often feed red clover hay to your own horses or cattle, then it likely
you are exposed over and over to pollen from this same red clover. Now,
red clover pollen is not especially allergenic but still, with time, a
serious allergy to it can easily arise.
Another example: if you lived in a southern area where bottlebrush trees
were frequently used in the landscapes or perhaps you had a bottlebrush
tree growing in your own yard, your odds of over-exposure to this tree's
tiny, triangular, and potently very allergenic pollen is greatly enhanced.
In the two examples used above, both species of plants are what we call
amphipilous, meaning they are pollinated by both insects and by the wind.
Honeybees will collect pollen from each of these species and it will be
present in small amounts in honey that was gathered by bees that were
working areas where these species are growing. When people living in these
same areas eat honey that was produced in that environment, the honey
will often act as an immune booster. The good effects of this local honey
are best when the honey is taken a little bit (a couple of teaspoons-full)
a day for several months prior to the pollen season.
When I'm asked how local should the honey be for allergy prevention I
always advise to get honey that was raised closest to where you live,
the closer the better since it will have more of exactly what you'll need.
It may seem odd that straight exposure to pollen often triggers allergies
but that exposure to pollen in the honey usually has the opposite effect.
But this is typically what we see. In honey the allergens are delivered
in small, manageable doses and the effect over time is very much like
that from undergoing a whole series of allergy immunology injections.
The major difference though is that the honey is a lot easier to take
and it is certainly a lot less expensive. I am always surprised that this
powerful health benefit of local honey is not more widely understood,
as it is simple, easy, and often surprisingly effective.
Pharmaceutical companies have huge budgets and can fund studies, but with
honey this scientific research doesn't seem to get funded... thus most
evidence we have is what we see, anecdotal evidence. That however can
be, and often is important; sometimes, often actually, such evidence proves
very useful. Let me give you one such anecdotal example of the powers
of local honey. I was asked to look over the yard of a family that had
just moved to this area (Central coastal California) to see if I could
figure out what was triggering the allergies of their five-year-old son.
The boy was experiencing classical allergic responses, runny nose, itchy
eyes, persistent cough. This family had only recently moved to California,
from the Midwest, so a pollen allergy was surprising, as they generally
take a number of years of exposure to develop.
The boy had started having these symptoms a few months after moving here.
At his house I didn't find the usual allergy culprits of the landscape,
male cloned trees or shrubs, but I did note that next to the house was
a row of towering blue gum eucalyptus trees. I knew the eucalyptus trees
were shedding plenty of pollen, as you could see it on the windows of
the cars parked underneath them. I checked some of this pollen with a
microscope and it was indeed from these blue gum trees. Eucalyptus pollen
is fairly large in size and is triangular in shape, making it easy to
ID. I suggested that at the local farmers market they could buy some eucalyptus
honey and recommended that the boy be given several spoonfuls of this
The family did as I advised and the boy ate the strongly flavored eucalyptus
honey every day for four months. By the end of the first month the allergic
symptoms were starting to ease up. By the end of the second month all
his symptoms had disappeared. Some ten years then passed and while in
high school this same boy again started having allergic symptoms. I visited
the high school at the request of his folks and found that they had a
multitude of huge eucalyptus trees growing there. I again advised the
local honey and once again, it seemed to do the trick.
Now, let me be clear here, I am not suggesting that local honey will replace
allergists. But what I am saying is that since visits to allergists are
expensive and the series of immunology shots, although generally very
effective, are costly, it makes perfect sense to give the local honey
a try first. Many times, as many others and I have seen firsthand, the
local honey will take care of the problem, quickly, safely, and inexpensively.
Thomas Leo Ogren
Mr. Ogren is the author of five published books, including Allergy-free
Gardening, and also of, Safe Sex in the Garden. Tom does consulting on
allergies and landscaping for, among others, the USDA urban foresters,
the American Lung Association, for county asthma coalitions, landscape,
nursery and arborists' associations, and for www.Allegra.com Tom's own
website is www.allergyfree-gardening.com