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Studies of honey treatment effects on allergies


I have had several patient's this spring ask me about eating local honey to treat allergy symptoms.  I think they heard this from a local alternative medicine person.

Can you find any relevant data that might help me discuss this topic with my patients.


To my knowledge, there have been very few controlled, blinded studies of the effects of honey ingestion on respiratory and ocular allergies. I have enclosed the abstract of one blinded study which showed no efficacy of honey ingestion in this regard. Also enclosed is the abstract of a review article co-authored by Dr. Leonard Bielory, an experienced investigator of ocular allergies as well as a careful reviewer of the overall subject of alternative/complementary approaches in allergic disorders. He concluded that honey ingestion has not been shown to be beneficial in ocular allergies.



Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2002 Feb;88(2):198-203.          Related Articles, Links


Effect of ingestion of honey on symptoms of rhinoconjunctivitis. Rajan TV, Tennen H, Lindquist RL, Cohen L, Clive J. Department of Pathology, UConn Health Center, Farmington 06030-3105, .


BACKGROUND: Allergic rhinoconjunctivitis is a common disorder, affecting >20% of people of all socioeconomic strata. Despite this high prevalence, relatively few sufferers seek professional medical help, presumably because of a widespread reliance on complementary remedies. OBJECTIVE: We investigated the widely held belief among allergy-sufferers that regular ingestion of honey ameliorates the symptoms of allergic rhinoconjunctivitis. METHODS: The study was conducted at the University of Connecticut Health Center's Lowell P. Weicker General Clinical Research Center. 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. They were asked to consume one tablespoonful a day of the honey or substitute and to follow their usual standard care for the management of their symptoms. All participants were instructed to maintain a diary tracking 10 subjective allergy symptoms, and noting the days on which their symptoms were severe enough to require their usual antiallergy medication.

RESULTS: Neither honey group experienced relief from their symptoms in excess of that seen in the placebo group.

CONCLUSIONS: This study does not confirm the widely held belief that honey relieves the symptoms of allergic rhinoconjunctivitis. Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol. 2003 Oct;3(5):395-9.       

Related Articles, Links


Review of complementary and alternative medicine in treatment of ocular allergies.

Bielory L, Heimall J.

Department of Medicine, UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School, Newark, New Jersey

07103, .

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Ocular allergy is a common complaint of allergy sufferers, many of whom may choose to use complementary and alternative medicine in the treatment of these symptoms. In this review major complementary and alternativem medicine modalities including herbal therapies, acupuncture, homeopathy,

alternative immunotherapy and behavior modification are assessed for evidence of their effectiveness in the treatment of ocular allergy symptoms.

RECENT FINDINGS: Certain herbs including Euphrasia officinalis, Petasites hybridus and Argemone mexicana have been evaluated in control studies in the treatment of ocular allergy. Honey is no more effective than placebo in the treatment of ocular allergy. Acupuncture used regularly has demonstrated some positive trends in ocular allergy sufferers. Homeopathy has shown conflicting results in the treatment of ocular allergy, while alternative forms of immunotherapy have been shown to develop immunologic tolerogenic effects in the control of the condition.

SUMMARY: Several forms of complementary and alternative medicine have been studied for their effectiveness in treatment of ocular allergy symptoms. Further research is needed to assess mechanisms of action and to establish practice guidelines for the use of these modalities


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