The arrival of Fall usually results in a period of annual confusion for us in Texas: on the one hand, the summer heat flickers out to a cooler autumn breeze, a considerable amount of pumpkins go on display in neighborhood yards, and excited whispers of turkey (and football) fill the air; on the other hand, it means allergies. Annoying, persistent allergies. If you’re sick of ushering in your autumn with tissues and a red nose, the power of raw honey is at your service!
Honey: The Ancient Superfood
Historically speaking, the use of raw honey in medicinal practices is nothing new. The first historical record to mention honey dates back to approximately 15,000 B.C., and the Greeks and Egyptians paid great homage to the golden liquid through medicinal recipes and ointments. Once beekeeping was introduced, humankind quickly realized how beneficial honey was to the average diet, and it was, for centuries, reserved for royalty and the incredibly wealthy.
The two key components of raw honey are bee pollen (residue off of flowers bees pollinate) and propolis (resins from select trees, which bees use to line the hive). Both are nutrient-dense ingredients — with pollen bringing in proteins, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and bioflavonoids, and propolis contributing to its antibacterial, antiviral, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant qualities. Centuries ago, it was commonplace to find healers placing raw honey ointments on cuts, scars, and burns, as well as prescribing ingested doses for ailments such as ulcers, hindered digestion, and bronchitis!
The Science of Seasonal Allergies
Be it a persistent runny nose or full-on hives, seasonal allergy reactions are very real and coincidentally very disruptive. So where does something so aggravating originate? During times seasonal shift, especially from winter to spring, flowers and specific plants release their pollen in order to successfully reproduce; every small region on the globe has its own unique batch of pollen, determined by its unique combination of plant life.
Some more obvious cases of allergy trouble occur when you travel from region to region, experiencing an onslaught of foreign allergens that are unrecognized by your immune system. An allergy is characterized, in short, by the over-reaction of a person’s immune system towards a foreign pollen. However, that does little to explain why people suffer from seasonal allergies when they aren’t traveling!
Along with seasonal pollination, other allergens are stirred up from season to season, including mold, dust mites, dander, and airborne contaminates — all of which can irritate the human body when over-exposed. As for pollen-based allergens in particular, an allergic reaction occurs when your immune system confuses a regional allergen as foreign, and reacts by sending an excess of histamine and leukotrienes flooding to your mucous membranes, causing all of the typical symptoms: runny nose, cough, phlegm, restricted airways. (Read a detailed explanation of allergies and the human body here!)
Considered by medical professionals as an “immune system disorder”, allergies are triggered by an overanxious immune system response towards relatively harmless substances. Luckily for those with pollen-based allergies, raw honey is Holistic Remedy #1!
Not Just Any Honey
The ingestion of raw honey from your specific region means your body is introduced to local pollen and propolis, ensuring that the next time it encounters the airborne allergens, your immune system won’t attack them. Unfortunately, you can’t just grab any random honey bottle off the grocery store shelf and expect it to work its magic. There is a logic behind honey’s healing powers, and it goes like this:
These three requirements are what separates a beneficial spoonful of honey from a spoonful of high fructose corn syrup.
The honey you purchase must be harvested in the region where you’re suffering from symptoms; a bottle of honey from Wisconsin isn’t going to do you any good if you live in Texas! Keeping the honey raw, unpasteurized, and unprocessed is vital in preserving its antibacterial properties, which are drastically reduced in processed, re-heated honey. Corn syrup is also usually present in processed honey brands. For maximum benefits, try to buy raw honey during each season, in order to synchronize yourself with the allergen climate outside.
Buying from local beekeepers and/or local companies is the best way to ensure the quality of your raw honey. If you’re a resident of Austin, here are a few raw honey distributors nearby:
Be sure to take caution while regulating your intake of raw honey (sorry to say pregnant women and children under 12 months are off limits!), and enjoy the autumn season!