Friday, September 18, 2015

Quick skeptical thought: local honey for allergies

This is probably the worst year I have experienced for allergies. It hits me mid-August and goes on into September. I was taking four or five "24-hour" pills a day and still had issues. 

Thinking about cures, I've seen on Facebook and heard from others that eating local honey cures you of allergies.

I think the logic is that local honey contains pollen from the plants that make you ill and by consuming it or maybe the process of making honey from it there is some sort of effect.

Not only is this not biologically-based, some ecological thinking could demonstrate why this shouldn't work.

Allergies are caused by our immune system responding to pollen that we inhale or get in our eyes. The plants that cause allergies, therefore, must be plants that have wind pollination and produce copious amounts of pollen. See where this is going? Ragweed is an example and so are most tree species that cause spring allergies. Honey is the regurgitated nectar from plants that are bee pollinated. That type of pollen is larger and sticky and doesn't get blown around and doesn't cause the allergies that most people suffer from. So, even if eating honey did make you "immune" or suppress the immune system (would you really want that?) then it still wouldn't help because you're eating goldenrod and aster pollen (if there's pollen at all). 
Wall of ragweed in the understory of my road. Note that it's green - no need to attract bees. I wonder if roads and fragmentation contributes to asthma and allergic reactions by providing habitat via edges. Hmmm.

Goldenrod - does not cause seasonal allergies - unless you stick your face in it like a bee



    "Effect of ingestion of honey on symptoms of rhinoconjunctivitis.


    Thirty-six participants who complained of allergic rhinoconjunctivitis were recruited. All recruits were scratch-tested at entry for common aeroallergens. The cohort was randomly assigned to one of three groups, with one receiving locally collected, unpasteurized, unfiltered honey, the second nationally collected, filtered, and pasteurized honey, and the third, corn syrup with synthetic honey flavoring.


    Neither honey group experienced relief from their symptoms in excess of that seen in the placebo group.
    This study does not confirm the widely held belief that honey relieves the symptoms of allergic rhinoconjunctivitis."

    1. I think I've seen this from the skeptisphere - probably I suppose we have to do these things to confirm but what is the proportion of people that believe in folk remedies also read the medical literature or science blogs?

    2. and how many read my blog? **sniffs** : )

    3. Few and fewer 8-P. The thing that I like about this paper, however, is that the authors and reviewers had the guts to go ahead with the publication of a negative result.

    4. with the approval of the reviewers and an editor that even agreed to pass it on to reviewers.

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