Why Buying Local Honey Won’t Help Your Allergies

Why Buying Local Honey Won’t Help Your Allergies
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Allergy sufferers are often told to eat local honey. This builds up your tolerance to local pollen, the theory goes, and it would make sense except for one inconvenient fact: Honey comes from flowers, and you aren’t allergic to flower pollen.

Photo by Bob Peterson

Flowers make sweet nectar to attract bees and other pollinators, and they also make big, sticky grains of pollen that will, with luck, stick to the bees’ legs so that they can pollinate other flowers. It’s true that honey, which bees make from the nectar, can contain trace amounts of this pollen.

But this isn’t the pollen you’re allergic to. Check out the typical allergy offenders: ryegrass, maple and oak to name a few. These plants do make something that a botanist would consider a flower, but they’re barely noticeable: not big, not colourful, not fragrant, not visited by bees. That’s because these plants are wind pollinated, relying on breezes to bring masses of their powdery pollen to faraway sexual partners. (Not to gross you out, but pollen is basically plant sperm.) It’s this wind-carried pollen that you get accidental whiffs of, and it’s small enough to irritate your nose and potentially trigger allergies. This explains why studies keep showing that honey doesn’t help allergies.

We don’t want to stop you from eating local honey — it will generally taste much better. Just don’t assume it will help your allergies.

Check out the full article at Slate for more on the allergy connection and why, even if you’re one of the rare people who is allergic to flowers, it probably still won’t help.

Honey Bunches of Lies [Slate]