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Tales From The Hive – Honey a New Old Sugar Pill?

Posted Aug 03 2012 5:15pm

Photo by Don Hankins

It was a sweltering 99 degrees when we pulled into the dirt parking lot.  As much as I wanted to let the dust settle before getting out, I had no choice as sweat began dripping down my right temple.

Momentarily blinded by the glaring sun, we quickly walked past the sweeping rows of vines towards what little haven was offered: a seat in the shade.  Judging by the people clustered together, it must have been a least 10 degrees cooler.  With chair touching chair any personal space issues quickly evaporated in the shade’s cool embrace.  We pulled our chairs into the semicircle when I heard it — the loud buzz of bees.

Recently, my husband and I attended a beekeeping workshop.  A beekeeping workshop may be an odd date, but not when paired with wine and local honey tastings!  Tastings aside we also learned a little more about honey.  For instance, did you know that not all honeys are good honeys?

Recently the FDA issued an alert pertaining to the detention of imported honey because it is often cut with cane or corn sugar.

One way to tell if your honey is the real stuff, is to see if it crystallizes.  Unless you are buying raw or unprocessed honey which resists crystallization, you probably are not going to wait weeks or months before cracking open that jar.  Instead, just be sure you read the label, look for a country of origin (required for imported honey), and check the ingredients list.

Also, if you are able try purchasing your honey locally.  Purchasing your honey at your local farmer’s market gives you the chance to taste different varietals such as avocado or pomegranate and ask the beekeeper any questions!

Honey has long been used as a sweetener, sore throat soother and in fighting seasonal allergies.  When the topic of allergies came up during the workshop, nearly everyone attested to the use of honey as an allergy fighter.  Despite the fact that no conclusive studies have been performed confirming honey’s allergy fighting benefits.

Even our beekeeper was a believer and advised my husband to consume honey each day to help him fight his allergies.

photo by blondy imp

What is it about local honey that has everyone buying into its allergy fighting powers?

Based on theory, if you consume local honey it is likely to contain trace amounts of the same pollen that afflicts you.  Ingesting small amounts of pollen helps build immunity; therefore, making you less susceptible.  This is why eating local honey is important because it will be made from the flowers, trees, and bushes that aggravate you.  The honey acts as a vaccine…according to theory.  I get it, the theory makes sense; however, few studies have been done to test this theory.  In fact, I was only able to find two studies.

The first by the University of Connecticut Health Center (2002) was published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. The study involved a small group of thirty-six volunteers who were given either local raw honey, pasteurized honey, or a placebo.  It concluded that neither of the honey groups experienced relief of allergy symptoms beyond those given the placebo.

The second by the Department of Allergy at Helsinki University Central Hospital (2010) was published in the International Archives of Allergy and Immunology.  This study specifically looked at a sample of forty-four individuals who had an allergy to birch pollen.  Although the study found that those patients who consumed honey (regular or with birch pollen added) reported less symptoms — the differences were not significant.

While more studies need to be done on this theory, purchasing and consuming local honey may have two advantages: as a pure, unadulterated source of honey and as an allergy fighter sweetener.  I ended up purchasing two jars of local honey from the workshop when I began to wonder…

Resources
Can you fight allergies with local honey? (Discovery Health)
Honey (MayoClinic.com article)
Does Honey Help Prevent Allergies?  (WebMd.com)

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