As a child, my allergies were so bad that I would get spontaneous nose bleeds. My parents took me to an ear, nose and throat doctor who for years, treated me with a weekly dose of whatever I was allergic to, condensed into a shot to desensitize me. I had to stay at least a half hour in the waiting room afterwards, should any side effects occur. In subsequent years I tried all sorts of OTC remedies; nasal sprays (which are highly addictive), and antihistamines that did little more than turn me into a walking zombie, eventually slamming me back into my symptoms with what’s called the “rebound effect.” I also learned to stay away from anything viscous and/or mucus-causing, like dairy products, beer, wine or even citrus, during allergy season. It was a regimen I could not always stick to.
While spending summers in the Adirondacks in the 1980s, I read about the honey cure. It was important, the article said, to use honey from bees within a 10-mile radius of where you live. The bees do all the work, collecting nectar from things you’re allergic to, synthesizing the allergens into tasty liquid gold. I quickly found a beekeeper in town who sold me packages of honey comb. He instructed me to eat a small amount of honey every day beginning in March the following year, before coming back to our summer retreat. So I did. It really worked—when I returned, my allergies were practically nil!
Traveling and living in several low-allergy cities for years, I forgot about this remedy until I finally landed in a place where my allergies could catch up with me.
I bought a house in southern Oregon and settled in. And of course, my allergies began spiking after a year or so. I was back to springtime sneezing, wheezing, itchy, watery eyes, congestion, and a stuffy nose so blocked I would often begin to lose equilibrium. Then I remembered the honey cure.
I’ve found the most delightful beekeepers right here in nearby Phoenix, Oregon, who make honey which I buy on a regular basis and use in my tea every day. I’m in the height of allergy season now, with barely any symptoms. And it’s a rough year, according to statistics and the level of coughing and sneezing I hear in town. I won’t say that I’ve completely cured my allergies – I still pack Claritin (a no-zombie formula) and eye drops in my day bag for emergencies, but I rarely use them.
I was buying a rash remedy at the Ashland Food Coop one day, my forearms swathed in gauze, when someone mentioned there was a man who sold poison oak honey at the farmer’s market on Saturdays. Poison oak honey?!? I was at the beekeeper's stand the following Saturday, and after a short, how-to lecture by the owner, bought some of the honey.
"Take a small drop at first," he told me. Then, a few days later, if I didn’t have a strong reaction, two small drops. I worked my way up to a dab on the end of a kitchen knife. Soon I was out in my woods with my chain saw, cutting firewood in jeans and a t-shirt! I haven’t had a case of poison oak once since I discovered this treatment, save for a faint, small rash now and then, which goes away in less than a day. Of course, I’m still careful in the woods and wash my hands after I come in, so as not to tempt fate.
With climate change, noxious weeds like poison oak, stinging nettle and star thistle are becoming more virulent. And nearly every day on Facebook, I see a plea to save the bees. They are important in so many ways, and we need them to carry on with life as we know it. (I just saw a video of bees someone had trained to make cannabis honey—guaranteed to give you a buzz!) You can help by having a small patch of something to attract them, such as lavender, or any source of nectar they might find tasty. And of course, ixnay on pesticides like Round-Up.
If you want to curb those allergies in a very sweet way, find some local honey. Meanwhile, get educated on ways you can help save the planet: