Raw honey for hayfever?

Much has been written about the claimed benefits of raw local honey to help reduce the symptoms of hayfever. Little of it has scientific backing, perhaps because there is nothing to be gained, financially speaking, by the larger pharma companies from doing the work.

This leaves the anecdotal words of those who have suffered from hayfever and found local honey to be beneficial in reducing the affects, whether directly or indirectly. The principle is a simple one. Eat raw, unprocessed honey, which still contains pollen, and in consuming that pollen it finds its way into your mouth/nasal passages etc and helps desentisize you.

My own personal experience was that of a 20 something having steroid injections once a month through the summer just so that I could survive. After a season of taking regular unprocessed honey (teaspoon a day) I found my symptoms reduced to the level where only on the highest of pollen level days did I need an antihistamine tablet. This was a direct trigger to me starting to keep my own bees. Now the only pollen that affects me is when the grasses are in full flow, as bees don’t collect grass pollen, it is wind distributed.

So, if you want to give it a go what should you, or shouldn’t you, do?

Firstly you need untreated (not over-heated, not micro-filtered) raw honey. Overheating breaks the sugar strings and damages the more subtle enzymes and structure of the honey. Micro-filtering removes all particles, including the beneficial pollen. Both of these processes make liquid honey stay liquid for longer, ideal for bulk storage on supermarket shelves.

Whilst our use of ‘Raw’ to describe honey is unregulated, you get the idea and can decide how much processing you want in your honey.

Out of interest, last year we had our late season honey tested and there were 35 different types of pollen. When we jar our honey we mix early and late season, further increasing the range of flowers visited to produce the depth of flavour in the honey and for its pollen content. Ours includes:

  • Oil Seed Rape
  • Borage
  • Bramble
  • Turnip
  • Purple Viper’s Bugloss
  • Cabbage
  • Wood Forget-me-not
  • White Clover
  • Indian Balsam
  • Ivy
  • Privet
  • Mustad
  • Sycamore
  • Heather
  • Broad Bean
  • Blackberry
  • Weld
  • Thistle
  • Willow
  • Stag’s Horn Sumach
  • Bindweed
  • Coriander
  • Purple Loosestrife
  • Bird’s Foot Trefoil

This list surprised even us, our bees are truly busy when it comes to visiting a wide range of flowers and collecting nectar and pollen.

So, after ‘raw and unprocessed’, ‘local’ is a good principle to use when buying honey for hayfever. However, saying that, the important thing is to have honey from an area where the crops and wild flowers etc are similar to your area.  Taking it to the extreme, if you live in Essex and suffer when the oil seed rape is in flower, then pretty much any honey from Essex, or areas with fields of yellow, is going to be the honey to go for, whereas Scottish Heather honey isn’t going to help you much (delicious as it is).

Hope that explanation helps answer some of the questions I always receive at this time of year about honey for hayfever.




Honey harvesting

OK, I have to admit to being a bit rubbish at this blogging at the moment. Life has been extremely busy, but the bees go on and have had a very busy year, doing their bit for pollination and generously providing some excess honey beyond what they need for their winter stores.

A hot dry summer is a double edged sword. Whilst the bees are out and about in the heat, it isn’t great for honey. The general lack of water and moisture in the soil reduces the amount of nectar produced in flowers and so reduces honey production by the bees. We must also be extra vigilant to provide a water source for the bees as it is essential for their survival.

It didn’t deter the swarming season though. Here’s one after collection from a local village, just about to be rehomed.

September is the end of the beekeeping season. Whilst there are a few flowers left and the bees still fly on warm days, it is the month we remove the last of the excess late season honey and tuck up the bees for their, and our, winter rest.



Time for honey

Well, it’s April and the bees are flying at every opportunity. Whilst pollen and nectar sources are not overly abundant, when the temperature is above 12 degrees or so the bees fly. They do bring back some early pollen, which is a sign of a laying queen, always good to see, and they can use the good weather for a bit of spring cleaning.

The oil seed rape is already coming into flower and within a few weeks will yield nectar and ultimately provide the first honey harvest of the year.

It’s Spring…