Bee Healed: A Tip for Allergy Season

It’s time to think about it. Spring blossoms will be here sooner than we realize. Although the first pollens are weeks away, now might be a good time to prepare the immune system for the springtime onslaught collectively called “hay fever.” Honey of a deal. People have been using honey medicinally for thousands of years. Vials of honey found in the pyramids were perfectly edible when found five thousand years later. Pure honey does not spoil. It may naturally crystallize but gentle, low heat will bring it back to its liquid state. Many people find that using honey in the springtime is a natural way to avoid allergies. Understandably, since Big Pharma could never patent honey and make billions, little official research has been done. But anecdotal evidence supports that beginning a regimen of eating local honey several weeks before pollen season can essentially immunize a person against the symptoms of sneezing and itchy eyes that are called hay fever. Anyone looking for an alternative to allergy drugs and their nasty side effects could look into beginning with honey by the end of February. One friend found success with a tablespoon a day. Bee food is our food. Bees visit flowering plants and collect two main items: flower nectar and pollen granules. Nectar is drawn up into a pouch-like structure called a crop. Pollen is trapped by hairs and moved into pouches in the back legs. When the bees have collected nectar, they return to the hive, communicate their findings to other worker bees, and then deposit their goods. The primary foods that bees eat are nectar, pollen and honey. In the hive, flower nectar is treated with enzymes and deposited into honeycombs. Bees beat their wings to remove some of the moisture and thicken the honey before capping the cell with additional wax. Pollen is usually fed to the larvae since it is high in protein. Throughout the process, small bits of modified flower pollen mix with the honey. This is an important part when it comes to allergy immunity for humans. Pollenoscopy. The agents that cause the human immune system to overreact into allergy mode known as hay fever are the protein molecules of the pollen grain. Seen under a powerful microscope, one can see why. These grains look like little burrs. They could irritate a monk! In the process of making honey, the protein is modified by the bees. When we eat the honey, we are acclimating the body to a slightly “weakened” version of the pollen. That’s why there are some important criteria to follow when using honey as a deterrent to allergy season. First, the honey should be local. The theory is that only local honey will confer allergy immunity because local honey contains local pollens. You don’t need to be immune to pollen from flowers or grasses in California if you live in Nebraska, do you? So why eat honey from California? Or China, for that matter. That’s part of why local is best. Additional criteria include the little-understood terms “unfiltered” and “raw.” Those characteristics are important but like the term “natural,” are somewhat hard to define. It is generally understood that unfiltered honey will contain more of the semi-modified pollen proteins than highly processed, highly filtered honey. But my beekeeper friends tell me that technically speaking, all honey is filtered to some extent. It’s a natural product and there is a need to remove larger artifacts that can get into it, like a piece of leaf or other such debris. The trick is to use as coarse a filter as practicable. When honey is described as “raw,” it generally refers to whether the honey was heated to an extreme. Honey is free of bacteria so it does not require pasteurization, but some processors heat the honey to higher temperatures so it is easier to handle in a more liquid form. This higher temperature destroys some of the vital enzymes in honey; so if you can determine that the honey you purchase was only minimally heated, it is best. Bee advised. Most people are allergic to gravity if exposed to it incorrectly and gravity has been known to be fatal when experienced at the end of a long fall. The point is that like many things in nature, honey and bee products have the potential to cause allergic reactions in sensitive people. Allergic reactions can be fatal. Bees in crisis. Anyone reading the news these past few years would know bees are in danger of extinction. Large numbers of beehives are being wiped out by a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder. With CCD, entire colonies of bees disappear. It’s believed that they become disoriented or suffer the effects of some neurotoxin. CCD could be considered a byproduct of industrial agriculture. That may sound odd at first because bees are known as one of the most prolific pollinators. Fully one-third of the food we eat is directly reliant on bees for pollination. If there were no bees, our food system as we know it would collapse. So why would industrial agriculture be to blame? The answer is simple. Agribusiness uses millions of tons of insecticides to make farming easier and make billions of dollars selling the insecticide to the farmer. Insecticides kill bees. And why would agribusiness ignore that? They don’t care. The major commodity foods agribusiness makes junk food out of — corn, wheat and rice — are wind-pollinated. They don’t need bees. Since the majority of the farmers in our lovely grain belt don’t grow foods that use bee pollination — for example nuts, melons and berries, citrus fruits, apples, onions, broccoli, cabbage, sprouts, peppers, avocados, cucumbers, coconuts, tomatoes and broad beans, coffee or cocoa — why should they care? We’ll have more on the bee crisis and what you can do about it. For now, get some of that local honey. Be well.

posted at 10:41 pm
on Thursday, February 17th, 2011

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