honeycomb (two), harvested from the bee hives in our orchard,
October 2008, photos © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.
It just dawned on me. My late summer, early fall allergies never transpired. They usually start in August and stick with me until the first freeze. But this year, not an itch in my eyes nor a drip from my nose. How did I manage that?
The culprit is ragweed, a ubiquitious plant in the Rio Grande Valley. Could be that there’s less of the noxious weed here, in our new place, than in our old ‘hood. Ragweed grew like mad up and down the road and on the ditchbank behind our former residence, but it’s not exactly absent around these parts. After all, we only moved about two miles away.
I’m beginning to think it must be the honey. For a couple of years now, I’ve been consuming local honey—that is, honey collected from bee hives within about a five-mile radius of our home. The latest blast of honey came directly from the bee hives in our orchard. Dr. Moses, keeper of those hives, pulled out an entire honeycomb and handed it over as a special treat. It lasted exactly ten days. We ate honey by the spoonfuls, and we even ate most of the soft edible beeswax that made up the comb itself.
According to Tom Ogren, author of several books on allergies and how to prevent them, honey contains bits and pieces of pollen from the plants that surround the bee hive. As honey bees zip from plant to plant, they carry with them the pollen from those plants and deposit it into the honeycomb. When we eat that honey, the pollen acts as an immune booster, especially when taken in small amounts consistently over time prior to the onset of the allergy season.
It may seem odd that straight exposure to pollen often triggers allergies but that exposure to pollen in the honey usually has the opposite effect. But this is typically what we see. In honey the allergens are delivered in small, manageable doses and the effect over time is very much like that from undergoing a whole series of allergy immunology injections. The major difference though is that the honey is a lot easier to take and it is certainly a lot less expensive. I am always surprised that this powerful health benefit of local honey is not more widely understood, as it is simple, easy, and often surprisingly effective.
Allergies run in our family. Before he succumbed to a battery of allergy shots taken over many years, Dad always carried with him a sinus inhaler, a small white tube that fit into the nostril. I cringed in church whenever I saw him pull out the tube and then watch it disappear up his nose. That was the height of embarrassment for a kid aged 8-11, before I learned about all the other things my parents did that would eventually embarrass me.
My own allergies made their first appearance when I was 17. I worked as a hostess at a famous restaurant in the heart of the Rio Grande Valley. One night my allergies got so bad that I crouched behind the reception counter, sopping up the drips from my nose with a cloth napkin. I couldn’t find a box of tissues, and I was wearing a spaghetti strap dress, else I would have used my sleeve. I could hardly move from behind the counter given that my nose and eyes were running profusely. I finally had to go home.
It’s been a blessing not worrying about allergies this year. Usually I buy over-the-counter Claritin and take a dose on the worst days when my allergies hit. But this year I’m letting the honey do its magic.
I feel like someone who’s stumbled upon the best-kept secret in the world. What could be better than honey as preventitive medicine? It’s relatively inexpensive compared to Claritin and/or allergy shots, plus it tastes fabulous!
I just wish honey worked for the flu, too. Alas, I don’t think it’s that powerful. But, the good news is, I already got my flu shot—a week ago today—and even though it made me feel achy and sick for two days, I’m now ready for the onslaught of germs that always descend on our family when the weather gets cold.