A sweet-as cure for hayfever?

“When you eat locally produced honey, you expose yourself to small doses of local pollens, which helps you build up an immunity.” | Image from Reuben Ward

Eating locally produced honey may help ease your hayfever, according to a local beekeeper. 

Hayfever is an allergic reaction to airborne plant pollens. Old wives, homeopaths and scientists alike have claimed honey as a cure, but the details are debatable.

Several studies have demonstrated the positive effects of honey. In 2018, New York dietician Tracy Lockwood-Beckerman reviewed the evidence for health site Well+Good, concluding that manuka honey in particular “was an effective treatment for nasal mucus, regardless of its source.”

BBC Future ‘medical myths’ columnist Claudia Hammond counter-analyzed existing research last year, saying “it tastes nice, but any proof it helps is currently lacking.” She did, however, nod to a study suggesting that birch pollen honey was effective against birch pollen allergies specifically. 

This localised effect is how Wānaka-born Reuben Ward explained why his family, whose Central Otago beekeeping business is generations old, believe honey can help hayfever. “When you eat locally produced honey, you expose yourself to small doses of local pollens, which helps you build up an immunity,” he said. 

“When bees collect nectar, they collect pollen, and trace amounts are incorporated into the honey. It is coarsely filtered on extraction, so the microscopic pollen grains remain.”

For Ward, the effects aren’t restricted to manuka honey. “Bees collect pollen from multiple sources. In fact, honey from pastures around where people live are the best for containing pollens that we come into contact with often,” he said. “We have a lot of people buy Cardrona honey from us directly because they want a cure for hayfever, and many have good success.”


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