Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Brain Droppings - Volume 14... Allergies and Bees

Today's Brain Droppings installment is about seasonal allergies (commonly known as 'hay fever', technically known as 'allergic rhinitis').

Seasonal allergies are caused by pollen, which is kinda sad because pollen itself is harmless (all that suffering for no reason!).  What happens is that your body thinks the pollen is something bad (like fungal spores and dust mites), so it sics it's immune system chemical defense, histamines. Histamines cause soft tissue irritation and inflammation, resulting in all the seasonal misery.

I've suffered from on-again/off-again allergies starting around when I was 24.
They only manifest themselves at night... I lie down and if I'm unlucky, am awoken by streaming tears from my itchy, burning eyes and a runny nose.
In the past, I've just taken a benadryl (or 3) when the symptoms crop up or before I go to bed when I'm around things that predispose me to a bad night. My triggers seem to be...
(1) Down (like, the stuffing in sleeping bags and eiderdowns)
(2) Pet dander (dogs or cats)
(3) Carpeting (probably the dust)
(4) New places (I almost always have a bad first and 2nd night in a new place), which I'm assuming is due to the local flora/pollen.
This would do me in

While the first 3 are things I can usually control, the last one is a doozy. My genius mother suggested I get some local honey from the farmer's market and ingest a small amount daily.

The honey vendor suggested I take a more drastic measure and ingest bee pollen directly*. Without doing much research on it, I followed his advice and I'm so happy to report that I can go to bed without any benadryl anymore (I was seriously up to 3 a night which I'm sure is not good in the long run and made me zonked each morning).

So what's up with that? Why does ingesting honey or bee pollen potentially** reduce allergies?

I'd heard a bit about this before but the premise is that since the bees are dealing with the local flora, by ingesting small amounts, you're exposing your body to low doses of your area's allergens (pollen)... Not enough to trigger an allergic reaction but enough to cause your body to build up a tolerance for the pollen spores so that when you're hit with a larger amount of pollen, your body is ready for it (this process, called immunotherapy, is like a slow vaccination).

* I've heard that straight up bee pollen is harsher and can have adverse effects so honey is usually suggested as a gentler alternative

**Studies on this have been mixed... (see below) but it seems to have worked for me and apparently a lot of other people

So, my question for you is...
Have you or anyone you've known ever 
taken honey/bee pollen for allergies? 
Did it seem to work for you?

NOTE: NEVER feed honey to an infant under 12 months old. It can kill babies.
source (My main source for writing this post)
source (Talks about a study showing positive effects for ingesters of honey/pollen)
source (Talks about a study showing no effects for ingesters of honey/pollen)


  1. I've never heard of the straight up pollen. But I've been taking honey for a few years now and have seen my allergic reactions to pollen go down significantly over the last few springs.

  2. I've missed the brain droppings posts! Glad to see their return. I've never heard of this technique though. Does the bee pollen come in a pill form, or...?

    1. Hi Charlotte! I'm glad you missed Brain Droppings! I hope to do them regularly again....
      No, the bee pollen comes in a ziploc bag. They're like little moist grains (here's an image I found on the webs: http://www.benefits-of-honey.com/image-files/bee-pollen.gif)

  3. you know, people have been telling me this for the longest time, and i've just never gotten around to buying local honey because i always forget about it until my allergies are killing me. right now weed pollen is at a super high in alabama and my throat has been itchy for weeks. i think i may have to make a farmer's market run this weekend.

  4. I read this post when you posted it and loved it. I have actually talked to a few people about it. My aunt seconds that local honey works. Isla has the worst allergies. Like people are shocked about her allergies because her eyes turn bright red and run when we are outside. At her one year appointment, I am going to need to talk to her dr about what she thinks of me feeding her local honey.


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