Treatments for Allergies That, Well, Don’t Work So Well

Yesterday I told you about some non-drug therapies that work well for some people in reliving seasonal allergies (and year-round ones, too). Here are two that have plenty of word-of-mouth support, but not much in the way of research to back them up.


Honey seems like the perfect solution for seasonal allergies. After all, the standard “cure” for allergies is regular injections of tiny amounts of known triggers, a process known as desensitization. And for many people who have seasonal allergies, the biggest culprit is pollen. What’s in honey? Pollen, of course.

Unfortunately, clinical trials using raw local honey have not found any benefit for common allergy symptoms. In one trial, 12 people received one teaspoon of local, unfiltered, unpasteurized honey a day. Another 12 received grocery store honey, and another 12 honey-flavored sugar syrup. There was no difference in symptoms among the groups after several months of daily use.

One study from 2011 showed that birch pollen honey was effective in reducing symptoms in people who were allergic to birch pollen. It’s important to note though, that this was regular honey that had birch pollen added to it by the researchers, not straight-from-the-hive honey. The people in the study who used regular local honey didn’t see any benefit.

So why doesn’t honey measure up? Pollens that trigger allergic symptoms tend to have small grains that are easily blown around. The pollen in honey is generally from plants with larger pollen grains that are more easily collected by bees and other insects.

If you happen to be allergic to the pollen from clover, or orange blossoms, or sourwood (my favorite!), then you may see some benefit from regular consumption of a teaspoon a day. Otherwise, it’s not likely. If you do decide to give honey a try, check around for a local beekeeper.

Apple Cider Vinegar

This is the mother of all folk cures. Apple cider vinegar is supposed to be the remedy for everything from arthritis to high cholesterol.

A quick search of the web provides dozens, maybe hundreds of anecdotes about how apple cider vinegar (ACV) relieved someone’s allergy symptoms after just a few days. Unfortunately, there are no studies—not one—looking at the use of apple cider vinegar for allergy symptoms.

Still, people swear by ACV. They have their own way to take it: how much, what time of day, what to mix it with. There’s certainly no harm in taking a couple tablespoons of ACV daily. You’ll want to water it down, and probably add a sweetener or other flavoring to cut the sour taste.

One consistent recommendation for ACV is that you want it raw and unfiltered. Look for a product such as Bragg’s at health food stores or on the web.


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