Allergies: Separating Fact from Fiction

Raw Honey, Hepa Filters and The Neti Pot

Today, we continue our Allergy Series by exploring some commonly held beliefs and separating fact from fiction.  Don’t worry. If you don’t feel like digging through the research, you can find the “short story” at the bottom of each section.

Just now joining us? You may want to go back and read:


Raw honey is a complex natural sweetener that offers many amazing benefits including:

  • a rich, satisfying taste
  • antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties
  • an anti-inflammatory action on the cells
  • trace vitamins, minerals and enzymes

Raw, unfiltered honey also contains small amounts of local pollens and many people claim that consuming it regularly has reduced or eliminated their allergy symptoms. This is based on the premise of “like cures like” – a natural parallel to conventional immunotherapy in which allergen extracts are administered via shots or sublingual (under-the-tongue) tablets to gradually build resistance.

But does it really work?

Skeptics use two main arguments against using honey as a valid allergy treatment. Let’s explore them!

1. “People are allergic to lightweight windborne pollens, not the large sticky grains carried by bees.”

True. However, scientists have discovered that bees have an electromagnetic charge that attracts all pollens. As bees venture in and out of the hive, it is likely that they pick up airborne pollens and deposit them into the honey.

2. “Studies have shown that local honey offers no relief for allergy symptoms.”

The idea of honey as immunotherapy is vastly under researched, so skeptics often cite a single study from 2002 as proof that it doesn’t work. But there are some apparent flaws in the research, one being that the pollen content of the honey wasn’t tested. So it’s unclear whether the honey was a good match for the participants.

A more recent, well-executed study shows promising results:

A group of Finnish researchers studied a group of 44 people with a birch pollen allergy. Those who received birch-pollen-laced honey had significantly better control of their symptoms than those who received no honey, and took fewer antihistamines than those who received regular honey.1

THE SHORT STORY: Raw local honey does seem to calm the body’s allergic response, whether it acts directly on the immune system (immunotherapy) or indirectly as a nourishing superfood. Take a tablespoon daily before and during allergy season. Your body will thank you!


By definition, HEPA filters grab at least 99.7% of particles from the air (.3 micrometers and smaller). This is much smaller than the finest pollen particle. So yes, HEPA filters can reduce the amount of pollen in your home!

Consider purchasing a vacuum cleaner with a built-in HEPA filter or using an air purifier (particularly in the bedroom where you likely spend most of your time).

But while this may offer temporary relief, it does nothing to address the internal imbalances that are causing the immune system to over react in the first place.

Reduce the amount of pollen in your home, but also take measures to support your INTERNAL filter – your liver!

  • Drink fresh juices – particularly beet juice.2
  • Eat an apple a day.3
  • Incorporate turmeric into your diet.

THE SHORT STORY: HEPA filters do in fact reduce the “pollen count” in your home.

3. Does the Neti Pot offer significant allergy relief?

By now you are probably familiar with the neti pot, a genie-bottle-shaped nasal irrigation device that flushes out mucous and debris from the sinus passages.

I love using my neti pot and recommend it to my allergy patients because it provides immediate relief as well as long-term improvement of sinus health.

To quote one study:

Daily hypertonic saline nasal irrigation improves sinus-related quality of life, decreases symptoms, and decreases medication use in patients with frequent sinusitis. Primary care physicians can feel comfortable recommending this therapy.4

THE SHORT STORY: Using a neti pot during allergy season can make a huge difference, especially if you are prone to sinus infections. Make sure to use filtered water and a properly prepared saline solution, according to the directions that come with your neti pot. If your local water is questionable, boil it and let it cool before using, or use bottled, distilled water.

Stay tuned for the rest of the Allergy Series.

If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear from you!


1) Saarinen K, Jantunen J, Haahtela T. Birch pollen honey for birch pollen allergy–a randomized controlled pilot study. 2011;155(2):160-6. doi: 10.1159/000319821. Epub 2010 Dec 23. source

2) Krajka-Kuźniak V, Szaefer H, Ignatowicz E, Adamska T, Baer-Dubowska W. Beetroot juice protects against N-nitrosodiethylamine-induced liver injury in rats. 2012 Jun;50(6):2027-33. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2012.03.062. Epub 2012 Mar 24. source

3) Szaefer H1, Krajka-Kuźniak VIgnatowicz EAdamska TMarkowski JBaer-Dubowska W. The effect of cloudy apple juice on hepatic and mammary gland phase I and II enzymes induced by DMBA in female Sprague-Dawley rats. 2014 Mar 3. source

4) Rabago D, Zgierska A, Mundt M, Barrett B, Bobula J, Maberry R. Efficacy of daily hypertonic saline nasal irrigation among patients with sinusitis: a randomized controlled trial. 2002 Dec;51(12):1049-55. source