Thursday, November 8, 2012

Honey, that almost made sense

Some of us here in Skepticville dread November and December.  Not only do you get bombarded with pseudoscience when it comes to colds and flu, but we also get to experience higher levels of the Juniperus plant, more commonly known as mountain cedar.  So while other parts of the world have to wait for spring for allergens, some of us get to spend autumn with the sneezing, itchy throat, and itchy eyes that comes with seasonal allergies.  And with allergies comes all sort of advice on "natural" ways to eliminate these problems.  One of the remedies that commonly comes up is to consume local honey (anywhere from a teaspoon to a tablespoon depending on whom you talk to).

This is one of those remedies that almost makes sense.  Almost.  I suppose someone had the idea that taking in local honey on a daily basis would eventually help the body recognize the pollen and stop attacking it as a foreign substance.  He or she must have figured that bees carry pollen from plant to plant in their search for nectar, bees use nectar to make honey, and they also feed the bee larva pollen; this same person must have figured that eating the honey would also help us eat the pollen and our bodies would get used to it.  Unfortunately, there are several flaws in this logic.

First of all, pollination is carried out by more than just bees and it is estimated that there are over 200,000 varieties of animal that carry the pollen, so if the theory was correct you could theoretically eat bat excrement and get the same allergy fighting benefits. (Link, Link2)  Second of all, there isn't enough pollen in honey to sneeze at (pun intended), in other words you will just be taking in fructose and glucose with a few dormant botulinum spores, but no actual pollen.  Third, and this is the biggest flaw in my opinion, the type of plants that typically cause allergies are pollinated without the use of animals, usually called abiotic pollinating.  So you won't be getting your body used to anything that you are allergic to.

It looks like you will have to take care of your allergies by limiting exposure; staying indoors when allergens are at the highest, changing filters frequently in the home, vaccuming frequently, washing bedding at least once per week, wrangling the outdoor pets for a bath and even taking allergy medication as needed to help you function.  The honey will not help.

Take home message--save the calories and do the housework when it comes to allergies.

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