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Honey: Nature's Allergy Cure?

Springtime bring the glorious smell of flowers in bloom.  It happens every year, without fail, yet I never cease to be amazed at the persistence of nature.  I also know many of my patients suffer with seasonal allergies, so I’m mindful of preparing them early, before the itchy-sneezy season kicks in.  While there are some effective natural treatments for allergy symptoms, I’ve found (like with many ailments) prevention trumps treatment.  Conventional medicine, in my experience, does not offer much in the way of safe and effective seasonal allergy preventive strategies – but the natural world does.  One remedy, in particular, would make Winnie-the-Pooh very happy.

 

It turns out that eating a small amount of honey made by bees pollinating local flowers may prevent seasonal allergies due those same pollens.  The theory is fascinating.  The idea has to do with immune system tolerance; exposure to a small amount of an offending substance can lead to tolerance of large amounts of the same substance.  It’s the same concept behind immunotherapy or “allergy shots.”  But in the case of honey, does it really work?  A recent study looked at response of those with birch pollen allergies to preventive birch pollen honey (BPH). During the allergy season, patients who ingested incremental amounts of BPH preventively reported significantly fewer symptoms and used 50% less antihistamines.  Anecdotally, I’ve seen similarly positive effects using local honey of all sorts.  You first have to find a farm or market that sells locally pollinated honey (or become a beekeeper) and then give your child a small amount—even a ½ tsp daily should suffice—daily for at least a month before the allergy season begins.  Watch for signs of allergies (runny or stuffy nose, itchy eyes, cough) when you start and stop the honey if those symptoms worsen with ingestion.    Make sure to avoid the use of honey in children under a year, due to the risk of botulism in this age group.

 


Lawrence Rosen, MD is an integrative pediatrician and co-author of Treatment Alternatives for Children, an evidence-based guide for parents interested in natural solutions for common childhood ailments. He is the founder of one of the country’s first “green” pediatric practices, The Whole Child Center, in Oradell, NJ, and serves as Medical Advisor to the Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center at HackensackUMC. Dr. Rosen is a founding member and Past Chair of the AAP Section on Integrative Medicine and is appointed as Clinical Assistant Professor in Pediatrics at UMDNJ. A graduate of New York Medical College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he completed his residency and chief residency in pediatrics at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. Dr. Rosen has been featured on Good Morning America, CNN, and Imus in the Morning, and he is a frequently cited expert on children’s and environmental health matters. He is a contributing editor and pediatric columnist for Kiwi Magazine, as well as a contributing author/editor for several books, including Integrative Pediatrics, Green Baby, and Pediatric Clinics of North America: Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Dr. Rosen serves on many integrative health advisory boards, including the Holistic Moms Network, Teleosis Institute, IntegrativePractitioner.com and Integrative Healthcare Symposium, Integrative Touch for Kids, PedCAM, Kula for Karma, and MarbleJam Kids.

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