The Benefits of Local Honey

All foodies will be at home with these titles.

Virginia’s slogan is “Virginia is for Lovers.” Hampton Roads or the “seven cities” is located on the coast of Virginia just before you cross the North Carolina border. Locals here, especially in Norfolk, have a little twist on the state slogan:

“Virginia is for locavores.”

Like many in this area, I do my best to buy local produce and seafood when it is in season. I also eat at restaurants that pride themselves on local goods and seasonal menus. I can’t always eat local because it gets expensive and sometimes I want a tomato when it’s the middle of winter. But there is one thing you will find in my pantry that is always local. Honey.

The Benefits of Honey

Honey has numerous health benefits. I’ve summarized some of these benefits based on information from bees-online.com, benefits-of-honey.com, and whfoods.com.

    • Honey contains magnesium, potassium, calcium, sodium chlorine, sulphur, iron, phosphate, B1, B2, C, B6, B5, and B3. This in and of itself is reason enough to use honey instead of sugar or high fructose corn syrup whenever possible!
    • The sugars found in honey maintain more stable blood sugar levels than other types of sugar.
    • Honey is a great hangover cure when added to orange juice or yogurt.
    • Honey has antimicrobial properties that help to sooth sore throats and coughs. We’ve probably all heard of the classic warm honey, lemon, and whiskey sore throat remedy!
    • Honey can help with insomnia when mixed with milk and chamomile.
    • Honey has antiseptic properties. That is, it can help wounds heal by killing bacteria and preventing infection. Side note: You can use honey on acne and chapped lips!
    • Honey can help relieve dry, itchy skin. Just apply a little honey, olive oil, and lemon juice to your skin, let sit for 15 minutes, and wash off.
    • Honey works well on chapped lips and for acne because it has antibacterial properties.
    • To make your hair shiny, you can mix some honey with warm water and rinse through hair.

Why Buy Local Honey

Why do I include in my diet only honey that is local to my region?

Allergies (aka chronic rhinitis).

The information I am going to share comes from a few years of investigating the correlation between allergies and local honey. I have summarized some information from an article at Discovery Health and Tom Ogren’s personal website.

When pollen enters the body, histamines are released and create tissue inflammation and irritation. It’s just an autoimmune response. Antihistamines come in many forms, but they can cause dryness, drowsiness, insomnia, anxiety, heart palpitations, etc.

Most of us took Biology 101, so I’m not going to get into all of that. All you need to remember is flowers make seeds after pollen from a stamen of one flower attaches to the pistil of another flower. Yes, kids, that is the miracle of pollination.

Some plants can pollinate themselves, while others have pollen that travels on the wind. Bees, and other insects, help flowering plants reproduce because the pollen gets stuck to the insects when they are hopping from plant to plant to find nectar. Some of the pollen stays attached to the bees once they return to their hives, thereby transporting the pollen to the regurgitated nectar (yep, the first step in the honey making process). The pollen is trapped in the honeycomb and then we consume the pollen that is in the liquid goodness we call honey.

How can local honey help your allergies?

Well, here’s the thing – no one knows if local honey really does reduce allergies symptoms.

There is no scientific evidence that honey improves allergy symptoms. A recent article in The New York Times, for example, mentions a 2002 study that showed no conclusive evidence to support local honey therapy.

That being said, one school of thought seems to be most prevalent. Consuming local honey on a consistent basis over time will act like a vaccine. Just like immunotherapy, in which you go to an allergist and receive shots on a regular basis, your body eventually adjusts to the presence of the allergen and the histamine response is less likely to occur. Ideally, you want to consume honey that was produced as close to your home as possible (e.g., within a few miles). The closer, the better because the pollen from the flowering plants closest to you is the pollen that will most likely create the histamine response.

I would like add some other caveats to the theory of local honey therapy.

  • If you are allergic to pine, grasses, and ragweed, local honey will not help your allergies at all. Why not? Bees do not pollinate these plants. The wind does all the work. The goal is to help your body adjust to plants local to one region that may bloom on a seasonal basis.
  • If you move a lot, your body won’t really have time to develop immunity against certain pollen. It takes awhile for this process to occur, just like immunotherapy.
  • If you take a spoonful of honey daily and have an allergic reaction after a few days, do NOT continue to use that honey on a daily basis.
  • Honey can cause infant botulism because of the presence of a certain bacteria, so children under a year old should not consume honey.

If you are not sure where to find local honey, I recommend checking out your local farmers markets. In Virginia alone, there are dozens of farms, co-ops, and farmers markets that harvest and sell their own raw honey. Check out Buy Local Virginia for more information on where your closest honey supplier is located!

Editor’s note: I’ve heard a lot of this honey-for-allergies talk here in Portland, and local honey is available in many different flavors and from different farmers at most (if not all) of the Portland farmers’ markets. My favorite is a honey-maker from Beaverton, Boyco Foods’. Their Wildflower Honey, and I enjoy it most frequently in my chamomile tea with milk before I go to bed. — DW

alexproaps

Alex is a full time Doctoral student studying Human Factors Psychology in Hampton Roads, Virginia. She is a locavore who believes in buying fresh food from local businesses whenever possible. Her diet might be considered pesco-lacto-ovo-vegetarian. She has a weak spot for IPAs, Pinot Grigio, and Manchego.

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  1. At our local farmer’s market we’ve got the coolest old couple who sell local honey. I love their honey and I love supporting local businesses. Also, honeycomb is the original candy bar and such a good treat when chewed.