Looking for a natural treatment for pollen allergies? Bee pollen can be one of the solutions to your problem. It sounds a little unbelievable, yet it is true.
There are some sayings in English you’re surely familiar with: “Fight fire with fire”, “One fire drives out another’s burning”, “habit cures habit” or “One devil drives out another”. And I know there are more than I can remember here.
Or the homeopathic concept “like cures like”.
While some early studies show this is not true when it comes to pollen because we are talking about 2 types of pollen here, one that is airborne and triggers allergies and one that it not and gets visits from the bees, later studies confirm that folk medicine is once again right.
Sneezing, wheezing, runny nose, and itchy, watery, red eyes – these are just some of the symptoms that more than 35 million Americans face each year. Allopathic medicine helps. but with side-effects. Naturopathic remedies are still not trusted enough and we still lack studies to give people the necessary trust.
What is hay fever?
First of all, when we refer here to allergies we mean hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis – an allergic inflammation in the nose which occurs when the immune system overreacts to allergens in the air, especially pollen grains.
The same symptoms can occur in other condition, nonallergic rhinitis, which is not typically caused by the proteins that trigger hay fever. When our rhinitis is clearly allergic, we can classify it in 2 types:
– seasonal, which occurs only during the time of year in which certain plants pollinate. The seasonal allergy can occur in spring, triggered by tree pollen. If it happens in summer it is caused by grass and weed pollen and if appears in autumn it is triggered by weed pollen. Fungus spores can give allergy all year round.
– perennial, which occurs all year round. It is caused by allergens found indoors, such as: house dust mites, feathers and animal dander (the tiny skin flakes animals such as cats and dogs shed along with fur), all of which may be found in pillows and bedding, heavy draperies, upholstery and carpeting. Another common allergen, mold, is usually found in bathrooms and basements.
What causes seasonal pollen allergy?
If it’s seasonal, the allergy is caused by flower pollen especially from trees, but also from grass and weeds.
Trees less likely to cause allergies: apple, cherry, dogwood, fir or pine trees.
Trees that may cause allergies: ash, aspen, beech, birch, box elder, cedar, cottonwood, elm, hickory, mountain elder, mulberry, oak, pecan, willow.
Flowering trees usually have bigger, stickier pollen that doesn’t blow in the wind or cause symptoms. These flowers are the ones visited by honey bees which will use the sticky pollen to pollinate the trees and make bee pollen. This is why tree pollen allergy is not given by flowering trees. But the fact that some pollen is not loved by honey bees, does not completely exclude it from their final products bee pollen or honey.
Why does the allergy even appear?
Your system overreacts, flooding your bloodstream with chemicals like histamine and leukotrienes, which inflame the lining of your nasal passages, sinuses, and eyelids and also set in motion other symptoms associated with hay fever, such as sneezing.
All of these symptoms are meant to protect your body either by trapping and expelling the allergen or by swelling body areas, such as the nasal passages, so the allergen can’t enter. As a result of congestion in the veins in the lining of your sinuses, dark circles, commonly known as allergic shiners, may appear under your eyes.
The first question that pops into everyone’s mind is “Doesn’t bee pollen worsen my allergies?” No. it’s a difference between inhaling flower pollen and eating bee pollen.
How can we treat pollen allergies?
The Allopathic Approach:
– Nasal steroids sprays: Budesonide (Rhinocort Allergy), fluticasone (Flonase) and triamcinolone(Nasacort Allergy) and otheres but only on prescription.
– Antihistamines, as pills and nasal sprays. The pills target itching, sneezing, and runny nose. The nasal sprays work on congestion, an itchy or runny nose, and postnasal drip: Cetirizine (Zyrtec), Desloratadine (Clarinex), Fexofenadine (Allegra), Loratadine (Alavert, Claritin), Brompheniramine (Dimetapp Allergy, Nasahist B), Chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton), Clemastine (Tavist), Diphenhydramine (Benadryl). Amd of course, other given only on prescription: Azelastine (Astelin), Azelastine/Fluticasone (Dymista), Olopatadine (Patanase).
– Decongestants. They can come as pills or liquids, like pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine and others come in a nasal spray, like oxymetazoline and phenylephrine.
– Other drugs, usually combinations of the above. Cromolyn (NasalCrom) (OTC) and Montelukast (Singulair) (on prescription). Allegra-D, Claritin-D, and Zyrtec-D have both an antihistamine and the decongestant pseudoephedrine.
– Allergy shots. You are injecting with small, gradually increasing amounts of the pollens that are causing your symptoms. Over time, your body builds up a resistance to them. This is done for long period of time, usually 3 to 5 years and there is no guarantee you’ll be free of your allergy. Your doctor will see if you still need them.
– Under-the-tongue tablets: Grastek, Oralair, and Ragwitek. They work the same way as shots and their goal is to boost your tolerance to allergy triggers. Some secondary reactions may happen in the first days of the treatment: itching or burning in the mouth or lips or have stomach troubles.
Bad sides: Some drugs can make you feel drowsy. Decongestants can cause problems such as increased heart rate and blood pressure. They can also worsen the symptoms of men with prostate problems, making it even harder to urinate. Plus other side-effects that you can read on each drug’s leaflet.
The Naturopathic Approach:
– Butterbur (Petasites hybridus). A group of Swiss researchers showed how just one tablet of butterbur extract (Ze 339) four times daily was as effective as a popular antihistamine drug in controlling symptoms of hay fever – without the traditional symptom of drowsiness that sometimes occurs.
– freeze-dried nettles, goldenseal tonic and saline water make an efficient nasal spray.
– grape seed extract and a flavonoid compound known as quercetin. Both occur naturally in many foods (especially red wine), but when used in supplement form they can be extremely helpful in reducing allergy symptoms, particularly in conjunction with vitamin C, says James Dillard, MD, clinical adviser to Columbia University’s Rosenthal Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
“Quercetin may control the release of histamine and other chemicals that help initiate the allergic response,” says Dillard.
Bioflavonoids such as quercetin, catechin, and hesperidin are natural antihistamines and combining them with bromelain and Vitamin C will enhance their activity. The recommended dose includes 2-3 grams daily and when symptoms are severe, up to 6 grams.
– Eliminate food intolerance. You have to really look at your diet and cut out any foods that seem to provoke even a mild sensitivity, such as occasional hives or even stomach upset. This will lighten the burden on your immune system, which in turn may help reduce the impact of seasonal allergic reactions.
– Avoid cross-reactivity between aeroallergens and food allergens. People allergic to ragweed or other weeds, should avoid eating melon, banana, cucumber, sunflower seeds, chamomile, and any herbal supplements containing echinacea, all of which can make symptoms much worse,” says allergist Clifford Bassett, MD, from New York University.
– Accupuncture. It works by stimulating points outside the body that can change or initiate reactions inside, in this case treatment is thought to affect the immune system, where allergic reactions begin.
– Homeopathic remedies. Starting from the principle that like cures like, there have been results using: Allium cepa, Euphrasia, Natrum muriaticum, Nux vomica, Wyethia.
– Honey. In the article Can honey treat allergy? Is it true? you’ll see how this can be possible. The trick is that honey has to be raw, preferably organic, thus containing grains of pollen in it.
Eating 1 spoonful of honey per day, can build immunity through gradually exposure, when taken during autumn and winter.
It is considered that honey produced within a 25 mile radius of where you live will most likely contain what you are allergic to the most. By ingesting small doses of these local pollens, your body can build up a natural resistance to the allergy symptoms. Pretty much like the allergy shots.
Yet, studies proved that not only local honey works for you as an anti-allergic, any type of honey will do the job – though not with an equal rate of success.
• A study done in 2002 was conducted by the University of Connecticut Health Center’s Lowell P. Weicker General Clinical Research Center to study the effects of eating honey local honey for allergies. The 3 groups taking 1 tablespoon of raw honey, processed honey and placebo per day, showed no reduction in their allergic symptoms.
• In 2011, another study, a joint study published by researchers from South Karelia Allergy and Environment Institute in Lappeenranta, and the Department of Allergy from Helsinki University Central Hospital in Helsinki, Finland, also verified the effects of local honey on 44 patients with birch pollen allergies. The results were much different than the earlier study at the University of Connecticut.
The studies were taken differently. Instead of focusing on patients in the middle of allergy season trying to combat their allergy symptoms, this study was conducted in pre-allergy season to see if honey could be used as a preventative if eaten regularly from November to March prior to the birch pollen season.
The results showed that during birch pollen season, compared to the control group, the patients using birch pollen honey experienced: 60 percent reduction in symptoms, twice as many asymptomatic days, 70 percent fewer days with severe symptoms, 50 percent decrease in usage of antihistamines.
Start your natural treatment 3 months before the allergy symptoms kick in.
Eat one tablespoon of raw local honey per day. Other naturopaths recommend 2 tablespoons per day.
Results are not 100% successful for everyone. It has worked for thousands of people but disappointed many as well.
Make sure your Vitamin D3 levels are about 60 ng/ml. During winter take more Vitamin D3 supplements.
– Bee Pollen
Widely used in Chinese medical clinical practice, recognized by the German Federal Board of Health as a medicine, bee pollen proved to improve microcirculation and dyslipidemia and prevent and control coronary heart disease and myocardial infarction [Gibbs A, 1983 and Zhao, J 1990). It also has cytotoxic effect against tumor cells (Chung S et al., 2002), regulates immune activity (Qin F et al. 2005), and it is recommended to enhance athletic performance, reduces the side effects of chemotherapy and improves allergies and asthma (Burke L.M. et al., 2009).
Studies have showed that bee pollen has an anti-allergic effect, even if it’s local or not. Its components (mostly flavonoids) are responsible for the reduction in allergic symptoms.
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Bee pollen for seasonal allergies
• The study Anti-allergic effect of bee pollen phenolic extract and myricetin in ovalbumin-sensitized mice, by Medeiros KC et al. from Brasil, published in 2008, evaluated the anti-allergic property of the bee pollen phenolic extract (BPPE) and the flavonoid myricetin (MYR) in murine model of ovalbumin-induced allergy.
The BPPE treatment (200mg/kg) showed inhibition of the paw edema, IgE and IgG(1) OVA-specific production, leukocyte migration to the bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) and EPO activity in lungs.
In addition, BPPE treatment showed partial protection on the anaphylactic shock reaction induced by OVA.
Treatment with myricetin (5 mg/kg) also inhibited pulmonary cell migration and IgE and IgG(1) OVA-specific production.
Conclusion: Myricetin is one of the flavonoids found in bee pollen phenol extract. The study proved that both bee pollen extract and myricetin had anti-allergic effects, which led to the conclusion that myricetin is the compound in bee pollen responsable for the anti-allergic effect.
The same recommendation applies with bee pollen as with honey.
Start taking it a few months PRIOR to the pollen season, to allow your system to build up immunity.
For doses, side-effects and allergic hazards please read How to take bee pollen
You might also be interested in knowing why is bee pollen so healthy and how it is made: Bee Pollen Composition
– Burke L.M., Castell L.M., Stear S.J., Rogers P.J., Blomstrand E., Gurr S., Mitchell N., Stephens F.B., Greenhaff P.L. BJSM reviews: A–Z of nutritional supplements: Dietary supplements, sports nutrition foods and ergogenic aids for health and performance Part 4. Br. J. Sports Med. 2009;43:1088–1090. doi: 10.1136/bjsm.2009.068643. (http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/43/14/1088)
– Linskens H.F., Jorde W. Pollen as food and medicine-a review;
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