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Seasonal Allergies? This Sticky Superfood Can Help Soothe Your Symptoms

Spring is in the air (and so is pollen, dust, and dander)! If you’re suffering with seasonal allergies, honey can help.

In this blog, we’ll take a look at the different types of honey and how it helps ease some of the common symptoms of seasonal allergies.

Raw Honey vs. Regular Honey

To reap the benefits of honey, make sure that you’re eating the right kind. Each type of honey is different due to the way it’s created and processed.

Registered dietitian, nutritionist, and founder of FoodQueries, Melissa Wasserman Baker explains that “It's important to opt for raw, unpasteurized varieties whenever possible. This ensures you get all of the beneficial compounds without any added sugars or artificial ingredients.”

Raw honey is your healthiest option, since it’s the purest form. Other options include wild honey, farmed honey, and factory-farmed honey. Keep reading to learn the difference between these four types of honey…

Raw Honey

Raw honey is about as close as you can get to eating honey straight from the beehive. Raw honey is taken from honeycombs in the hive and poured over a cloth, which separates the honey from beeswax and other impurities (1). That’s the only processing raw honey goes through before it’s bottled up and ready to go.

Raw honey is rich in bee pollen, which is the source of most of honey’s major health benefits (2). Pollen is rich in amino acids, vitamins, antioxidants, and micronutrients (3, 4). The German Federal Ministry of Health even recognizes bee pollen as medicine (5).

Raw honey is not pasteurized, as that process removes many of its beneficial ingredients. It’s also not mixed with other ingredients like sugar or corn syrup, like regular honey is (more on that shortly).

Wild Honey

Wild raw honey is produced in natural hives in tree branches or other natural habitats for wild bees. Wild honey often has crystals in it, and a somewhat cloudy appearance.

Farmed Raw Honey

Some raw honey is farmed, meaning it’s grown in a bee box that houses a hive. The hive in the box does its thing, and farmers harvest the raw honey.

Factory-Farmed Honey

Factory-farmed honey—or what most of us call “regular” honey—is the type you find at the grocery store in the little plastic bear. This honey comes from factory farms, where the bees live in unnatural settings. The honey is pasteurized and filtered. It’s processed to remove cloudiness and air bubbles to prioritize appearance and shelf life over health benefits (6).

It has very little nutritional value or health benefits compared to raw honey. In fact, 75% of regular honey contains no bee pollen, the healthiest ingredient of honey (7). Regular honey’s filtration process removes many of its beneficial enzymes and antioxidants (8, 9, 10). Some manufacturers even add extra sweeteners to regular honey, including unhealthy ones like high-fructose corn syrup (11).

Nutrition Profile of Raw Honey

With those details in mind, it’s no surprise that raw honey is the most beneficial type of honey to eat.

Raw honey includes small amounts of around 22 amino acids, 31 minerals, and many enzymes and vitamins (12, 13, 14). It also has almost 30 different types of bioactive plant compounds called polyphenols. These are rich antioxidants associated with health benefits like a decreased risk of heart disease and some cancers (15, 16, 17, 18). In fact, raw honey may include as much as 4 times more antioxidants than regular honey (19)! Raw honey has also been linked to lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and better wound healing (20, 21, 22).

One quick word of warning: it’s important not to give honey to babies under one year old. This is because it contains Clostridium botulinum, which could cause botulism poisoning in little ones (23, 24).

Health Benefits of Raw Honey for Seasonal Allergies

You’ve probably been told that local raw honey can help with seasonal allergy relief by preventing symptoms from developing, but experts aren’t sure that this is true.

It’s easy to see why so many are optimistic about this idea, especially since people are always seeking new tips on how to stop allergies. The thinking goes that just as allergy shots expose you to a small amount of pollen to help your body fight it, local raw honey might do the same, because it would include the pollen that exists in your area.

Unfortunately, there’s no proof so far that raw honey is effective at this in the long term. For one thing, allergy shots expose people to a very specific standard amount of pollen. The amount and type of pollen in local honey varies in each jar.

Studies on the topic are conflicting. One study found that raw honey provided no allergy relief to participants (25). Another study found that participants who ate honey at a high dose did experience some relief, but the benefits only lasted for eight weeks (26). We would need to see more studies with larger sample sizes to know more about its efficacy among home remedies for allergies.

One thing we do know about raw honey is that many of its other well-known health benefits offer helpful solutions for seasonal allergy symptoms. Here are some of its symptom-soothing perks and natural allergy remedies…

1. Anti-Inflammatory Properties

“Honey has been used as a home remedy for centuries due to its anti-inflammatory properties and soothing qualities,” says registered dietitian and nutritionist, Melissa Wasserman Baker.

Some animal studies found that raw honey may work similarly to the way anti-inflammatory drugs do (27, 28). When it comes to allergies, this means it could help relieve a scratchy throat, ease airway inflammation, and soothe eczema rashes.

2. Reduces Coughing

If your allergies cause coughing, raw honey can help (29). One study found that honey may be as effective in managing coughing as the cough medicine dextromethorphan (30).

“Honey can act as a natural cough suppressant, which may help reduce the frequency and severity of coughing,” says Brian Gans, MD, a physician who also studied nutrition prior to medical school. “A study published in the journal Pediatrics found that honey was effective in reducing cough frequency and cough severity in children with upper respiratory infections.” (31)

3. Soothes a Sore Throat

Raw honey is a natural way to alleviate sore throats. Its thick consistency helps coat the throat and provides temporary relief from discomfort.

Raw honey’s anti-inflammatory chops can help reduce inflammation in your airways and may help break up mucus in the throat. Honey causes your salivary glands to create more saliva, which can help ease scratchiness, rawness, and pain.

“While honey can help alleviate some symptoms of a sore throat and cold, it is not a cure-all,” Dr. Gans says. In cases where raw honey isn’t enough on its own, it can be mixed with warm water or tea, or combined with lemon and ginger for added benefits.

4. Eases Runny Nose & Sneezing

Many people with seasonal allergies endure itchy eyes, a runny nose, and sneezing. Raw honey may offer added relief to these symptoms.

According to a 2013 study, when paired with an antihistamine, raw honey may add an extra boost to symptom management (32). In the study, one group of participants took an antihistamine daily along with a high dose of honey (1 g per kg of body weight), while another group took an antihistamine daily along with a placebo. In the first month both groups saw an improvement in their symptoms, but one month after stopping the treatment, only the honey group still saw improvement in their symptoms. More research is needed on the subject, but early findings look promising.

The Bottom Line

Raw wild honey is an incredible gift from nature, packed to the brim with beneficial properties (and a great taste). Research on whether honey can help reduce seasonal allergies is conflicting, but honey can help manage allergy symptoms like inflammation, coughing, a sore throat, and sneezing. The next time your allergies are bothering you, reach for some raw wild honey!

As a writer, editor, and wellness seeker, Claire has written for Self, Health, Prevention, CNN, Mic, Livestrong, and Greatist, just to name a few. When she's not writing, she specializes in traveling, getting lost in health-related research rabbit holes, and finding new ways to spoil her cat.


  1. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10942910600981708 

  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27013064 

  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4377380

  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25861358 

  5. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF02910407

  6. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10942910600981708 

  7. http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/11/tests-show-most-store-honey-isnt-honey/

  8. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10942910600981708

  9. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814605003262

  10. https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/membrane1976/29/1/29_1_58/_article

  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19943465

  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15481469

  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28539734

  14. http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/sweets/5568/2

  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24146441

  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22897371

  17. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/btri/2011/917505/abs/

  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27556486

  19. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814605003262

  20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22315654

  21. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22547185

  22. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23997898

  23. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3448763/

  24. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12432974 

  25. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11868925

  26. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24188941 

  27. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20573205

  28. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20645809

  29. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29633783/

  30. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20618098/

  31. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18410789/ 

  32. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24188941/

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Medical Disclaimer
This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.

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