Does Honey Help with Allergic Symptoms?

A runny nose and sore eyes are common symptoms of allergies. This condition is called allergic rhinoconjunctivitis. This disorder may affect nearly 20 percent of the population. It is believed that taking honey ameliorates the condition and this alternative therapy is widely relied upon. This study was conducted to assess the effectiveness of honey in reducing and improving the symptoms of this allergic condition. In a group of participants, some were given honey and the others were given corn syrup with honey flavor. The participants did not know if they were taking honey or the dummy syrup. The results showed that honey does not alleviate the symptoms of the allergic rhinoconjunctivitis.

Allergic rhinoconjunctivitis is a condition that affects close to 20 percent of the population. It leads to runny nose, reddening of eyes and other allergic symptoms like sneezing. With rise in urbanization, there has been a rise in this allergic condition. Despite its rising prevalence, it is seen that only one out of eight sufferers seeks medical help for this allergic condition. Many people tend to rely upon alternative medicines for achieving relief. Honey is believed to aid in symptom reduction of many conditions, including wound healing and allergic conditions. It is believed that honey contains some of the allergy inducing pollen. Regular intake of this pollen could help to strengthen the immune system and improve the allergic conditions. Honey is also said to possess some antiallergic properties of its own. This study was conducted to assess if regular intake of honey could indeed benefit people with allergic rhinoconjunctivitis.

* For this study, 36 patients who suffered from symptoms of allergic rhinoconjunctivitis were chosen.
* These patients were randomly divided into three groups. The first group took unfiltered, unpasteurized local honey; the second group took filtered and pasteurized honey; and the third group took corn syrup with honey flavor.
* The dose of the medicine was a tablespoon each day. All the patients recorded their daily symptoms of allergy in a diary during the study period. They also had to report when their condition worsened enough for them to take antiallergy medicines.

Data/Results/Key findings
* The results showed that neither the patients in the honey or corn syrup groups had better symptom relief.
* Symptoms such as blocked, runny, itchy nose and itchy, watery and sore eyes remained the same for all the groups.
* The patients were exposed to grass/oak pollen, tree pollen and ragweed pollen and all of them showed equal sensitivity in terms of the symptoms.

Next steps/Shortcomings
The authors agree that the dose of honey used in this study may have been inadequate and that if the study medication honey were tried for a longer duration over several seasons, the results may differ. The authors also add that the dose of one tablespoon a day led to 13 dropouts in this study due to perceived excessive sweetness. They add that that it is doubtful whether patients would tolerate further increase in dosage. They suggest that further larger studies should be performed to confirm these findings.

This study was conducted to assess the effectiveness of honey in improving symptoms of common allergy to pollen in those patients who are susceptible. The patients took honey preparations that were locally obtained or nationally obtained. Some of the patients were also given dummy corn syrup. At the end of the study, it was seen that no group reported any benefits in terms of symptom relief and some had to resort to antiallergy medicines for more severe symptoms. The authors conclude that honey does not reduce allergic symptoms in susceptible individuals. They add that this was a small study and further research involving larger populations over longer periods covering various seasons would be able to clarify if there is indeed any benefit of taking honey regularly.

For More Information:
Effect of Ingestion of Honey on Symptoms of Rhinoconjunctivitis
Publication Journal: Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, February 2002
By T. V. Rajan, MD, PhD; Howard Tennen, PhD; UConn Health Center, Farmington, Connecticut

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.

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