I used to dread the onset of spring.
Sometime in early May, my husband Brian’s allergies would start up. He would sneeze occasionally, and soon his eyes and the back of his throat would get itchy.
By mid-May, he was a goner: Itchy, watery eyes, sneezing fits (the kind where you have to wait until it’s over to say “Bless you”), and an extremely scratchy throat.
“I feel like using a toilet brush to scratch the back of my throat,” he would complain.
From May through July, Brian was miserable.
And very, very crabby.
When he couldn’t stand it any longer, he would take a Drixoral. Then he was a zombie for the rest of the day.
About three years ago, we started hearing about the benefits of eating local, raw, unprocessed honey. Eager to find relief for his allergies, and happy to try a natural remedy, Brian began taking a spoonful every day.
The effect was startling.
After about a week of this regimen, his symptoms improved. He was still sneezing and itchy, but less so.
The second week of May came along. I braced myself for sneezing fits and toilet brush comments.
Instead, I heard an occasional sneeze, but no complaints about itchiness.
It was the first spring in our 19 years together that Brian wasn’t crabby and miserable.
He has not taken Drixoral since.
Here it is, practically the end of July, and allergy season is still going strong for many people, due to the large amount of rainfall this year and our funky, fluctuating summer weather.
A lot of residents who moved here from outside the East Bay have told me they now have allergies when they never did before.
They want to know: How does the honey remedy work?
If you eat local honey from bees that live in your area, the nectar they collect contains pollen grains, which end up in the honey. Taking a spoonful a day, a month or so before spring begins (or before your particular allergy season starts), is a natural form of homeopathy; you’re being exposed to tiny amounts of the allergen, and that helps you become resistant to it.
You can start taking honey even when your allergies are in full swing. Eat a tablespoon a day, and after about a week or so you should start to notice a difference. Your symptoms will not go away entirely, but they will improve.
For some, like my husband, the improvement is considerable.
Consistency is key: Honey is most effective when taken every day.
On those especially challenging days when it’s windy or the pollen count is high, you can take an extra spoonful.
Or you can eat a small amount of bee pollen, which is more concentrated.
Brian adds a pinch of bee pollen to his tablespoon of honey on his bad allergy days, and within minutes he feels better (if you are new to bee pollen, make sure you only take a few granules at a time, gradually increasing the amount to allow your immune system to build up; if you take too much at once, you may have an allergic reaction).
Local honey not only tastes like heaven and brings allergy relief, it has a lot of health benefits.
According to nutritionist Sally Fallon, author of Nourishing Traditions, raw, unprocessed honey has been used successfully to treat a variety of ailments, including asthma, menstrual irregularities, constipation, diarrhea, anemia, low energy, cancer, rheumatism, arthritis, and toxic conditions.
It has a high enzyme content; enzymes initiate digestion and increase your energy. The bee pollen it contains has 22 amino acids, including the eight essential ones, 27 minerals and the full gamut of vitamins, hormones, and fatty acids.
Glucose tolerance tests indicate that, for most people, honey does not upset blood sugar levels as severely as does refined sugar.
A Russian study of residents in the province of Georgia, where many live to 100 years and a few to age 150, revealed that “a large portion of these centenarians were beekeepers who often ate raw, unprocessed honey with all its ‘impurities,’ that is, with the pollen,” Fallon writes.
My downstairs neighbor puts honey in everything: Tea, green smoothies, shampoo. She uses it to treat scrapes and cuts, as it is naturally antibiotic.
I met my friend Cynthia at Peet's the other day - she takes honey for her allergies, and needed a jar. As we greeted each other, she started to cough.
“See?” she said, placing a hand on her chest. “That’s my allergies.”
I passed her the honey jar and told her I’d be right back. When I returned, I handed her a spoon.
“Here, take some right now,” I said.
She unscrewed the lid and ate a spoonful.
A few minutes later, as we sat talking, Cynthia said, “It’s already helping.”
A couple of people have told me that taking honey for their allergies didn’t work.
It could be that what they are allergic to isn’t represented in the nectar the bees are collecting.
Perhaps they didn’t follow the daily regimen of a spoonful a day (consistency is key).
Or maybe it just doesn’t work for some people.
I have a lot of regular customers who keep coming back because it is helping them.
And I have a husband who is no longer miserable from May through July.
That’s proof enough for me.
Did you know that San Ramon has a new farmers market on Thursdays? Stop by our booth (Steve’s Bees) and experience some sweet relief for yourself! The market, located at 2641 Camino Ramon (at the corner of Bishop Drive and Camino Ramon), is open Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.