Skip to main content

This post is part of our “AAFA Explains” series looking at complementary and alternative medicine aimed at asthma and allergies. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) wants to guide you as you decide between choices that may be “likely safe” or “potentially unsafe.”

There is a common myth that says eating honey helps desensitize your body to pollen and improves your allergy symptoms. Many people believe you need to eat honey found in your local area so it will contain the pollen you are reacting to.

But is this true? Can honey actually relieve pollen allergy symptoms? Let’s look at the facts.

What Is Honey?

Honey is the thick, golden, sweet liquid produced by bees. For centuries, it has been a popular sweetener used in a variety of foods.

Bees make honey by collecting nectar and pollen from flowers. They carry it in their honey sacs, which is like an extra stomach. The bees then store the honey in honeycombs in their hives. The bees fan the honey to evaporate the water and then seal it with a liquid that turns into beeswax when it becomes hard.

What Are Seasonal Allergies?

Seasonal allergies are commonly called “hay fever.” Experts call it seasonal allergic rhinitis. It is an allergic reaction to pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds. It can cause symptoms during certain times of the year – usually in the spring and fall.

Common rhinitis symptoms include:

  • Sneezing
  • Stuffy nose
  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Itching of the nose, eyes, or the roof of the mouth

What Does Science Say About Honey and Seasonal Allergies?

Unfortunately, honey does not help with allergies. Bees eat nectar and gather pollen produced by brightly colored flowers. These are not the same pollens responsible for most allergies (trees, grasses, and weeds). Very little of these common pollen allergens would make it into honey.

Also, the bees mix their food with enzymes to start digesting it to turn it into honey. This changes the pollen protein. And then processing, pasteurization, and even digestion by your own stomach’s enzymes would remove or break down pollen. You would not ingest enough intact pollen for your immune system to start becoming desensitized to it.

David Stukus, MD, and a member of AAFA's Medical Scientific Council, gives a simple explanation:

A group of University of Connecticut allergists conducted a study with a small number of people with seasonal allergies. The people in the study ingested a tablespoon of honey each day. They kept a diary log and tracked common allergy symptoms. The study concluded that the people who had taken the honey did not get relief from their seasonal allergy symptoms.1

What Treatments Are Available for Seasonal Allergies?

Honey may not give you relief from your pollen allergy, but thankfully, there are allergy treatments that can. The most common treatments for seasonal allergies are:

  • Over-the-counter or prescription allergy medicines – such as nasal corticosteroid sprays or non-drowsy antihistamines
  • Immunotherapy – allergy shots or tablets for long-term treatment to reduce how severe your allergic reactions are

Many medicines to help you manage your seasonal allergies are available without a prescription. You can also take steps to reduce your exposure to pollen when counts are high.

If seasonal allergies are making you miserable and over-the-counter medicines and other at-home treatments are not helping, a visit to an allergist may be very helpful. They will determine if other treatments, like immunotherapy, can help you.

Immunotherapy is effective at improving seasonal allergy symptoms. It can actually help you achieve desensitization. Allergy shots contain controlled amounts of your specific allergen. Your doctor injects you with increasing amounts as your body adjusts and then watches you for allergy symptoms.

The Bottom Line

Honey won’t help relieve your seasonal allergy symptoms. If you want relief from your allergy symptoms, talk with an allergist to find the best treatment and management plan for you.

Medical Review: April 2022 by Clifford Basset, MD

It is important to stay up to date on news about asthma and allergies. By joining our community and following our blog, you will receive news about research and treatments. Our community also provides an opportunity to connect with other people who manage these conditions for support.


1. Rajan TV, Tennen H, Lindquist RL, Cohen L, Clive J. Effect of ingestion of honey on symptoms of rhinoconjunctivitis. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2002 Feb;88(2):198-203. doi: 10.1016/S1081-1206(10)61996-5. PMID: 11868925.

Add Comment

Comments (1)

Newest · Oldest · Popular

As always, I greatly appreciate the sincere effort of AAFA to write a well researched and thoughtful article on the role of local honey in seasonal allergies. I always find such article informative.

Unfortunately, in this particular case, I would like to point out that this article can benefit from several major updates as some of the stated facts are not accurate. For instance, the section "what does science say about honey and seasonal allergies" start with a bold claim that unfortunately local honey does not help with allergies.

On the contrary, the International Consensus State on Allergy and Rhinology: Allergic Rhinitis -2023 cites three human studies and some animal studies to suggest that "Local honey may be able to modulate symptoms and decrease need for antihistamines." While the grade of evidence is D (Level 2: 3 studies, conflicting evidence), these findings are contradictory to what the current article states.

I am not allowed to post any links to articles in my comments per the community guidelines, otherwise my comments are removed. But if anyone is interested in learning more about value of local honey, I would suggest googling the following two topics:

1. Local Honey for Pollen Allergies: Myth or Miracle? By We Duh People

2. My Allergy story: Discovering the potential of local honey By We Duh People.

These are two of the several blog posts I have written on the topic of local honey.

I am an allergic rhinitis patient. I started We Duh People to help other allergic rhinitis patients make informed decisions about their health. All my writings are backed by science and real patient stories. I hope AAFA would consider updating their current article to reflect what ICAR-Allergic Rhinitis 2023 states as well as what personal stories like my own and my family's show us.

Thank you!

Vishvas from We Duh People
Link copied to your clipboard.