Local Honey and Hay Fever
The Irish Times recently received an interesting letter from a gentleman explaining his experience using local honey which had totally removed his hay fever symptoms for ten years – long enough to verify his claim. He explained how, for forty years, he had used conventional medicine to treat his hay fever, without benefit. Not to be outdone by a cheap remedy, a consultant immunologist replied with a patronising letter.
I responded to both letters (see below), siding to a large extent with the hay fever sufferer even though I know of homeopathic remedies which would be a better long term answer for the symptoms of hay fever than local honey.
Both Mr O’Deasmhumhnaigh and Dr Conlon make the mistake of assuming honey is beneficial due to its connection with pollen. This may not be so as it could be due to some other factor (e.g. honey was an effective treatment for “slapped cheek syndrome”, a viral infection, yet had nothing to do with its connection with pollen).
Sir, – Dr Conlon, in his letter (July 25th), admonishes Pascal O’Deasmhumhnaigh for “following fashion” by treating his hay fever with honey (Letters, July 20th), despite Mr O’Deasmhumhnaigh having used “science” and “evidence-based” treatments for forty years to no avail, yet finding total relief for ten years now, thanks to local bees. In contrast, Dr Conlon confesses his treatments only “manage” symptoms.
Their exchange raises a few questions for medicine and science. First, the scientist, without bias or prejudice experiments, collaborates, gathers information from more than one source,¹ verifies empirically and shares his findings – something like Mr O’Deasmhumhnaigh did.
Second, we need to explore the nature of knowledge. How did the Greeks, 3,000 years ago, learn that the liver could regenerate itself? They probably didn’t come to this knowledge the way we would today.² Knowledge offers more when holistic,³ i.e., learning from various disciplines.
Third, causation needs to be understood. Pollen alone doesn’t cause hay fever; it’s only the exciting cause. The fundamental cause is one’s susceptibility. A maintaining cause is being constantly exposed to whatever excites our symptoms.
Honey and bee venom cause allergy symptoms. Using them to treat hay fever is scant different to Dr Conlon using his “grass-pollen” tablets4 – only far cheaper and without need for a prescription.
– Yours, etc.
Bee Products and Hay Fever
Honey and the other bee products, by causing symptoms similar to hay fever, are homeopathic (to hay fever). The immunologist’s grass-pollen tablets are isopathic and less likely to be beneficial but more likely to be suppressive, at least if taken during the hay fever season. (There is a different outcome between treating while one is suffering symptoms and when not suffering eg. in-between the hay fever season.)
Further, since bee products can cause anaphylaxis, they are also homeopathic to anaphylaxis caused by other allergens and so possibly beneficial there also.
Sufferers of hay fever might like to try something which has been found to be more effective than local honey, according to anecdotal evidence, namely bee pollen, either in tablet or granular form. And since there is good anecdotal evidence for local honey, wouldn’t it be a good idea for Dr Conlon to be a scientist and put it to the test..?
1. Information about a prospective medicinal substance will give a fuller picture by appreciating its many interconnecting associations, so anthropology, biology, botany, mythology, taxonomy, zoology etc will give a fuller and deeper insight.
2. See the story of Prometheus.
3. For example, History of Science by Sean F. Johnston, Oneworld Publications, pp. 40, 57 and 195.
4. Timothy grass is a common cause of hay fever.