When it comes to seasonal allergies, there are tons of remedies that people rely on to find relief. But are they real solutions or just tricks that offer temporary relief? Let’s explore some commonly held beliefs about treating allergy symptoms and separate fact from fiction.
1. Does eating raw, local honey reduce allergy symptoms?
Raw honey is a complex natural sweetener that offers many amazing benefits including:
Raw, unfiltered honey also contains small amounts of local pollens and many people claim that consuming it regularly has reduced or eliminated their allergy symptoms. This is a natural parallel to conventional immunotherapy in which allergen extracts are administered via shots or sublingual (under-the-tongue) tablets to gradually build resistance.
But does it really work?
Skeptics use two main arguments against using honey as a valid allergy treatment:
- a rich, satisfying taste
- antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties
- an anti-inflammatory action on the cells
- trace vitamins, minerals and enzymes
The Short Story: Raw local honey does seem to calm the body’s allergic response, whether it acts directly on the immune system (immunotherapy) or indirectly as a nourishing superfood. Take a tablespoon daily before and during allergy season!
2. Do HEPA filters really work?
By definition, HEPA filters grab at least 99.7% of particles from the air — particles that are much smaller than the finest pollen particle. So yes, HEPA filters can reduce the amount of pollen in your home! Consider purchasing a vacuum cleaner with a built-in HEPA filter or using an air purifier (particularly in the bedroom where you likely spend most of your time).
But while this may offer temporary relief, it doesn’t address the internal imbalances that are causing your immune system to overreact in the first place. That’s why it’s important to support your internal filter — your liver!
- “People are allergic to lightweight windborne pollens, not the large sticky grains carried by bees.” True. However, scientists have discovered that bees have an electromagnetic charge that attracts all pollens. As bees venture in and out of the hive, it is likely that they pick up airborne pollens and deposit them into the honey.
“Studies have shown that local honey offers no relief for allergy symptoms.” Because the idea of honey as immunotherapy is vastly under researched, skeptics often cite a single study from 2002 as proof that it doesn’t work. But the pollen content of the honey wasn’t tested, so it’s unclear whether the honey was a good match for the participants.
A more recent, well-executed study shows promising results:
A group of Finnish researchers studied a group of 44 people with a birch pollen allergy. Those who received birch-pollen-laced honey had significantly better control of their symptoms than those who received no honey, and took fewer antihistamines than those who received regular honey.
The Short Story:
Drink fresh juices — particularly beet juice.
- Eat an apple a day.
Incorporate turmeric into your diet.
HEPA filters do in fact reduce the “pollen count” in your home.
3. Does the Neti Pot offer significant allergy relief?
By now you are probably familiar with the neti pot, a nasal irrigation device that flushes out mucus and debris from the sinus passages.I love using my neti pot and recommend it to my allergy patients because it provides immediate relief as well as long-term improvement of sinus health.
Research has even found that daily saline nasal irrigation decreases medication use in patients with frequent sinusitis.
The Short Story: Using a neti pot during allergy season can make a huge difference, especially if you are prone to sinus infections. Make sure to use filtered water and a properly prepared saline solution, according to the directions that come with your neti pot. If your local water is questionable, boil it and let it cool before using, or use bottled, distilled water.
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Saarinen K, Jantunen J, Haahtela T. Birch pollen honey for birch pollen allergy–a randomized controlled pilot study. 2011;155(2):160-6. doi: 10.1159/000319821. Epub 2010 Dec 23. source
Krajka-Kuźniak V, Szaefer H, Ignatowicz E, Adamska T, Baer-Dubowska W. Beetroot juice protects against N-nitrosodiethylamine-induced liver injury in rats. 2012 Jun;50(6):2027-33. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2012.03.062. Epub 2012 Mar 24. source
Szaefer H1, Krajka-Kuźniak V, Ignatowicz E, Adamska T, Markowski J, Baer-Dubowska W. The effect of cloudy apple juice on hepatic and mammary gland phase I and II enzymes induced by DMBA in female Sprague-Dawley rats. 2014 Mar 3. Source
Rabago D, Zgierska A, Mundt M, Barrett B, Bobula J, Maberry R. Efficacy of daily hypertonic saline nasal irrigation among patients with sinusitis: a randomized controlled trial. 2002 Dec;51(12):1049-55. source