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Beekeepers tout honey for treating seasonal allergies

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Inge Kautzmann, the vice president of the Person County Beekeepers Association, shows two kinds of honey made from pollens from different blossoms. Inge Kautzmann, the vice president of the Person County Beekeepers Association, shows two kinds of honey made from pollens from different blossoms.
HURDLE MILLS, N.C. -

The yellow clouds of pollen in the air have some people turning to pharmacists for allergy remedies; but others look to local beekeepers.

The vice president of the Person County Beekeepers Association said the pollen in honey makes it a remedy for seasonal allergies. But for the honey to work, Inge Kautzmann explained that the pollen must be very specific.

"Some people say, 'Yeah, it works for me.' Some people say it doesn't work for them," Kautzmann said. "That reason could be that they might be taking honey that has pollen in it that's not an issue for them. So, people who say it doesn't work, that could be why."

Kautzmann explained that if someone is allergic to something that blooms in the fall, the honey they take to remedy the allergy should also have been collected in the fall. The same goes for spring allergies.

"The pollen from that springtime allergy is not going to be beneficial to you if you're suffering from allergies that happen in the fall," she said. "So, it's really good to know where you're buying your honey from. It's best to buy it local."

Kautzmann cautioned that beekeepers can harvest honey in late May, June and into July, although it is rare to collect in the fall. So it is important to communicate with the beekeeper if you have fall allergies.

"That's why you need to be able to ask those questions of the beekeeper, to find out if they did get a second harvest of honey that would have included some of that fall nectar," she said.

She also said it is important for the honey to have come from local bees to ensure it contains pollen from blooms that most affect your allergies.

"If you're suffering from things that are blooming in your area, you want to take honey that was from that area -- a few miles away," Kautzmann said. "A county over probably isn't going to make that much difference."

Kautzmann said honey will go through a filtering process to remove wax and debris, but she said the honey shouldn't be overly filtered because the honey can lose some of the pollen needed for it to be effective.

Weeks before your allergy season hits, Kautzmann said it is best to start honey therapy to build up immunity to the pollen, starting with a small spoonful daily and building up over time as you monitor the effects.

"If you start taking it when you're having the symptoms, it still may have an effect, but it's much more powerful if you're able to build up a couple of weeks before whatever is coming into bloom," she said. "If you have springtime allergies, you might want to save back some of the honey that you've bought for the previous year and start taking it a few weeks before things come into bloom because during the springtime most beekeepers haven't harvested their honey yet."

When taking the honey, Kautzmann said it should not be heated, even in coffee or tea, but the heating process with breakdown the helpful qualities.

"When you heat honey, it starts to break down the medicinal value of it," Kautzmann said. "It's going to break down the qualities that the pollen has. It's going to break down the natural medicinal effects that honey has naturally."

While Kautzmann and others certainly stand by the effectiveness of honey therapy, researchers at Bayer Bee Care Center in Research Triangle Park said they do not look at the effective of honey on allergies, adding that there is not scientific proof to back up the impact.

Still Kautzmann said she takes the honey herself and knows "what works and what doesn't work, and that's evidence enough for me."

"Most of the medicinal value of honey -- the apitherapy of it -- is considered 'folk medicine' in the states," she said. "But if you go to Europe, you go to South America, the medicinal use of honey and products of the hive is much more widely known. So, it's somewhat of a cultural thing, I think."

Copyright 2014 WNCN. All rights reserved.

Justin Quesinberry

Justin is a reporter for WNCN and a North Carolina native. He has spent the better part of the last decade covering the news in central North Carolina.  More>>

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