For intense allergy sufferers, the idea that eating local honey can reduce allergy symptoms seems almost too good to be true. And according to a new study, it is. Writing for the New York Times, Anahad O’Connor debunks the theory that eating locally-produced honey will help you with seasonal allergies:
“Scientists followed dozens of allergy sufferers through the springtime allergy season. The subjects were randomly split into three. One consumed a tablespoonful daily of locally collected, unpasteurized and unfiltered honey; another ate commercial honey; and a third was given a corn syrup placebo with synthetic honey flavoring.”
After tracking the subjects’ symptoms for months, the scientists found that neither of the honey groups saw improvements over the placebo group.
I’ve seen plenty of anecdotal evidence to the contrary from allergy sufferers and beekeepers alike. But whatever the verdict on honey and allergies, there are still plenty of ways honey can be beneficial (beyond tasting good in your tea). It contains all sorts of flavonoids and phenolic acids, which are thought to act as antioxidants. It’s good for the hair & skin. It can be used in wound healing.
But not all honey is created equally! The color and flavor of honey depends on the nectar source – the flowers visited by the honey bees producing it – and so do its medicinal properties. There are hundreds of different types of honey available in the U.S. alone. So what should you consider when looking to add a little honey for health?
* Darker honeys generally have higher antioxidant content than lighter honeys, according to the National Honey Board.
* Raw honey is generally considered to have more healing properties than pasteurized honey. Denser and more solid than pasteurized honey, raw honey contains all the things that nature put into the honey, such as bee pollen and propolis (which are said to have unique health benefits themselves). Most of the honey you see on grocery-store shelves is of the pasteurized variety. Many of these are labeled “pure” or “natural” honey, which doesn’t necessarily mean they’re raw. If it’s raw, it will almost always say “raw.”
* Buckwheat honey is a dark, almost amber-colored honey that’s rich in iron and antioxidants. It’s been shown to help relieve coughing in children more effectively than cough syrup. Fair warning, though: Buckwheat honey has a very rich, distinctive taste that some people find unpleasant. So use sparingly; this isn’t heaping-spoonfuls-in-your-Cheerios kind of honey.
* Manuka honey is honey that comes from the flowers of New Zealand’s manuka bush (also known as a Tea Tree). This is kind of the gold standard of medicinal honey. All honeys have antibacterial properties, but some manuka honey contains high levels of additional, non-peroxide antibacterial elements that other honeys don’t. The antibacterial potency of manuka honey is measured by something called UMF. The label will generally state a manuka honey’s UMF factor; those with UMF 10-16+ are considered therapeutic.
When processed to a medical grade, manuka honey can be used topically to effectively treat chronic, infected wounds. It does this by helping prevent bacteria from attaching to the tissue, allowing the healing process to accelerate. It also has properties that may restore people’s sensitivity to antibiotic-resistant bacteria (such as the dreaded MRSA).
Like buckwheat honey, manuka honey has something of an unusual, medicinal taste.
* Clover honey is the most prevalent type of honey in the U.S. It’s generally light in color and has a sweet, mild taste.
And in case you’re still unconvinced, check out these reasons honey is a “miracle food” here.