This sounded dubious to me. I figured that exposing someone to allergens in honey would just cause them to have symptoms. Allergy symptoms are just an out-of-control immune reaction; I know of no way to reduce allergic reactions through greater exposure to the allergens.
Nonetheless a quick search the internet found this claim being promoted on a lot of sites. About.com wasn't enthusiastic, but didn’t rule out the possibility either.
My husband and I decided to give the local honey a try. My husband after just a few days noticed a significant difference in the way he felt. After one day of taking a teaspoon of local honey, my allergy symptoms got worse. I even tried a second day, but I continued to feel rotten so I discontiued using the honey.On the other hand ReallyRawHoney.com is a big promoter of the idea:
An Oklahoma allergist told a meeting of 150 beekeepers that raw honey is an effective treatment for 90 per cent of all allergies. Dr. William G. Peterson, an allergist from Ada in the 1950's, said he now has 22,000 patients across the nation who are using raw honey along with more customary medications to relieve allergy symptoms.If only Dr. Peterson’s statements constituted real evidence. Unfortunately, he has only provided a wealth of anecdotes. He has lots of patients using raw honey, but they’re also taking conventional allergy medications. What’s really needed is a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study to determine whether honey actually reduces allergy symptoms. Conveniently, a summary of such a study is available from PubMed.
"It must be raw honey because raw honey contains all the pollen, dust and molds that cause 90 per cent of all allergies," he told a meeting of the Oklahoma Beekeepers Association. "What happens is that the patient builds up an immunity to pollen, dust or mold that is causing his trouble in the first place. The raw honey must "not be strained, not even through a cloth." he added. "I know the customer wants good, clear strained honey, and that's fine, but for health reasons, raw honey is what we need."
Department of Pathology, UConn Health Center, Farmington 06030-3105, USA.
BACKGROUND: Allergic rhinoconjunctivitis is a common disorder, affecting >20% of people of all socioeconomic strata. Despite this high prevalence, relatively few sufferers seek professional medical help, presumably because of a widespread reliance on complementary remedies.
OBJECTIVE: We investigated the widely held belief among allergy-sufferers that regular ingestion of honey ameliorates the symptoms of allergic rhinoconjunctivitis.
METHODS: The study was conducted at the University of Connecticut Health Center's Lowell P. Weicker General Clinical Research Center. Thirty-six participants who complained of allergic rhinoconjunctivitis were recruited. All recruits were scratch-tested at entry for common aeroallergens. The cohort was randomly assigned to one of three groups, with one receiving locally collected, unpasteurized, unfiltered honey, the second nationally collected, filtered, and pasteurized honey, and the third, corn syrup with synthetic honey flavoring. They were asked to consume one tablespoonful a day of the honey or substitute and to follow their usual standard care for the management of their symptoms. All participants were instructed to maintain a diary tracking 10 subjective allergy symptoms, and noting the days on which their symptoms were severe enough to require their usual antiallergy medication.
RESULTS: Neither honey group experienced relief from their symptoms in excess of that seen in the placebo group.
CONCLUSIONS: This study does not confirm the widely held belief that honey relieves the symptoms of allergic rhinoconjunctivitis.
This was a pretty small study, of course, having only 36 participants, so it’s just a preliminary result. Nonetheless, it’s a preliminary result that seems to refute claims that eating raw honey will reduce allergy symptoms. Furthermore, a number of the websites discussing the subject noted that some people actually had worse symptoms after taking raw honey (which is what I would expect if the honey actually contains something to which the person might react).
Pending further study, I’d say its reasonable to assume that eating lots of raw honey does not reduce allergy symptoms, and eating honey containing your specific allergens might actually cause an attack. Be smart: take your medication and get your honey filtered.