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In folk medicine and some schools of modern natural medicine, bee products--including honey, bee pollen, and royal jelly--are thought to help reduce or even heal allergic rhinitis.
Effect of Bee Products on Allergic Rhinitis
The theory behind using bee products for allergic rhinitis is based on the fact that local bee products contain local allergens, such as pollens. Exposing yourself to small doses of these allergens might help your immune system become accustomed to them, avoiding a stronger and more symptomatic reaction.
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Research Evidence on Bee Products
There is not much significant research evidence to support the use of bee products for allergic rhinitis. Because bee products are delicious and mostly harmless, it might be worthwhile to experiment with them.
Honey is believed to reduce the symptoms of allergic rhinitis. However, the one published study designed to test this suggestion failed to find benefit.50 Another study failed to find the bee product royal jelly effective.59 The effectiveness of bee pollen is also not proven by scientific research.
How to Use Bee Products
Bee products from local sources are most likely to be effective in treating allergic rhinitis because they contain small doses of the specific allergens that might be causing or contributing to your symptoms. It is generally recommended that you start with a small amount of the product and gradually increase your dose.
Oral dosages of honey for medicinal purposes range from 1 to 5 tablespoons, up to several times daily. Typically, honey that is raw and minimally processed is recommended, because most of its natural properties are intact.
Bee pollen can be purchased in its whole granule form, in tablets, and is also added to some snack products that are available in pharmacies and healthfood stores. Recommended doses vary--see individual products for more information, and experiment to see what works for you.
Types of Professionals That Would Be Involved with This Treatment
Practitioners of natural medicine, such as herbalists and naturopathic doctors, are most likely to be knowledgeable about bee products and how they might help treat allergic rhinitis.
As a widely consumed food, honey is believed to be quite safe. However, infants younger than 12 months should not consume honey, due to the risk of infant botulism. Honey may contain slight amounts of pollen. However, it appears that allergy to honey is uncommon among pollen-allergic people.1
Several cases of serious allergic reactions to bee pollen have been reported in the medical literature, including anaphylaxis,2 an acute allergic response which can be life threatening. The anaphylactic reactions occurred within 20 to 30 minutes of ingesting fairly small amounts of bee pollen—in one case less than a teaspoon. The majority of these case reports involved people with known allergies to pollen. Similarly, royal jelly is safe for most people but might cause an allergic reaction in some.
- Kiistala R, Hannuksela M, Mäkinen-Kiljunen S, Niinimäki A, Haahtela T. Honey allergy is rare in patients sensitive to pollens. Allergy. 50(10):844-7.
- Cohen SH, Yunginger JW, Rosenberg N, Fink JN. Acute allergic reaction after composite pollen ingestion. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 64(4):270-4.
- Rajan TV, Tennen H, Lindquist RL, et al. Effect of ingestion of honey on symptoms of rhinoconjunctivitis. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2002;88:198-203.
- Andersen AH, Mortensen S, Agertoft L, et al. Double-blind randomized trial of the effect of Bidro on hay fever in children. Ugeskr Laeger. 2005;167:3591-3594.
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