Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
23 Jan

Dear Mark: Raw Honey and Allergies, and Resveratrol Debunked?

honeyToday’s Dear Mark question and answer post is a quick one – a two parter. First, I discuss the anti-allergy merits of real, raw, unprocessed local honey and include my own harrowing experience with using raw honey to combat a pollen allergy. Then, I address the fall-from-grace of a prolific resveratrol researcher shown to have fabricated his data, and I discuss what it means for resveratrol research at large.

As a side business, I sell local, raw, unpasteurized honey. I would love to see a Daily Apple column on honey and honey production (local vs large-scale (esp. from China), natural hive treatment vs antibiotic use on hives, filtering, non-homogenized vs homogenized, etc.). I often have people who are reluctant to buy my honey because it crystallizes and is cloudy.  These are natural processes and desirable characteristics as the pollen and propolis are left in the honey.  Once explained, many people are quite happy to buy the product.

I know you have written about honey throughout the site, especially as it relates to insulin but I would love to see people have a little more knowledge as to the benefits of local, raw honey for allergy relief, antibacterial properties and just great taste.  :-)

All the best,

Anita

I don’t eat honey very often, but when I do, I prefer crystallized, cloudy honey. I’d definitely be a happy customer of yours.

As for the merits of honey itself, I think it deserves its own post sometime in the future. Honey and humans share a long and storied history together, and it isn’t “just sugar.” Right now, though, I’ll discuss the question of raw honey and allergies.

There’s very little formal research on the subject. Last year, Finnish researchers found that eating preseasonal (taken before hay fever season commences) birch pollen honey reduced birch pollen allergy symptoms and resulted in less usage of antihistamines when compared to eating preseasonal regular honey. And then there’s this German study from 1956 that has no abstract, but the title is quite promising: “Resultant therapeutic method variations in pollen allergy with special consideration of oral desensitizing of pollen-allergic children with honey.” Sounds like they found something to me. Any German readers with access to research literature want to chime in?

But my personal opinion is that it can really work for seasonal, pollen allergies, because I’ve experienced it firsthand. On a family camping trip to Big Sur, I got a horrible case of hay fever. It was insanely windy all week, so all sorts of allergenic plant compounds were blowing around. It was like I had a tiny cloud of dust and pollen following me around, a la Pigpen from Peanuts. I’d never had it that bad – headache, stuffy nose, bleary red eyes – and it hit me about three hours after our arrival. I felt like I had the worst cold in the history of the world. I actually wanted to go home. On our second day, however, while on a hike, I came across an old guy selling raw, local wildflower honey by the side of the road. A handcrafted cardboard sign read “Good for hay fever.” I thought, “Why not?” and bought a pint. The guy was nice and enthusiastic about his product, and I always like to support small apiaries.

I took a big glug of it and continued on the hike. It was real good, not too sweet and with a raw floral quality to it. Again, I don’t eat a lot of honey, but this stuff was legit – even through my clogged nasal passages. We got back to camp, made dinner, and I went to bed soon after darkness fell. Nose was still stuffy, head was still congested, misery level was still elevated.

And then I woke up, and while things were still backed up, I could tell it was better. A thin jet of air even squeaked through my clogged right nostril, allowing me to breathe and (most importantly) taste the bacon that morning. Another glug of honey down the hatch. Overall, I’d say things were 25% better at this point. By late afternoon, I was 75% better. I kept taking hits of honey and by next morning, I was perfectly fine. Now, I suppose it’s possible that the honey acted as a placebo and my hay fever was already on its way out – I didn’t control for variables, there were no placebos involved, and I randomized absolutely nothing, so there’s no telling for sure. But I doubt it had no effect. Too many other people report similar experiences to make me dismiss my own experience as nonsense or coincidence.

I will say that if you’re going to use raw honey to fight pollen allergies, you’ll want to buy honey that comes from bees who deal with the same plants and flowers that produce the allergenic pollen in question. That means buying local, preferably wildflower honey. Unless you know for sure that your allergy is caused by a specific pollen from a specific plant, wildflower will give you the most bang for your buck by covering a large assortment of plants. So, while raw, unfiltered honey lovingly puked up by bees who subsist only on wild edelweiss growing in the Swiss Alps might taste amazing, it probably won’t do much for your allergies if you’re not allergic to edelweiss pollen.

Hey Mark,

Was able to get my parents eating according to the Primal Blueprint, and one of the things that really helps my mom is being able to eat the chocolate and the red wine (although she is saying that she is starting to feel pretty good). Then all of a sudden, this comes out:

Red wine researcher Dr. Dipak K. Das published fake data: UConn

What do you think of this? Is the reservatrol just one thing in the red wine, and it still has other antioxidants? What are a couple of winos to do?

Thanks,

Steven

Well, first of all, she’s feeling good, eating Primal, and that’s about all that matters.

Second of all, this guy who apparently fabricated a lot of his research on resveratrol, Dipak Das, isn’t the only resveratrol researcher in the world. He’s not even the foremost resveratrol researcher. He’s prolific, but others have done more. What I’m saying is that one guy fabricating his research doesn’t invalidate all the other research others have conducted on resveratrol.

Let’s put it into perspective with some actual numbers. He’s accused of fabricating data on 145 papers. That sounds pretty damning (and it is for his career and any research that relies on his) until you realize that a search for “resveratrol” on Pubmed alone returns 4, 479 papers. Subtract those 145 (and maybe another 145 to represent those papers that might have relied on Das’ research for some of their conclusions) and you’re still left with over 4,000 resveratrol papers. That remains an impressive body of research.

And red wine remains a delicious (potentially healthy) beverage. Besides, the potential health benefits of red wine extend beyond resveratrol (which isn’t actually present in very large amounts in wine). Red wine, being the product of grapes and grape skin, contains a bevy of phenolic compounds, many of which have antioxidant properties. Grape skins are particularly rich in flavonoids, including flavonols, anthocyanins, and tannins like proanthocyanidins. There’s even a Wiki page devoted to the phenolic compounds present in wine, and there are over three dozen individual compounds (depending on varietal and method of production). Some of the benefits of drinking red wine:

I don’t know about you, but I’m opening a bottle tonight. I suggest your mother continue to do the same (maybe with dark chocolate, too) if it pleases her.

That’s all for today, folks. Keep sending along your questions, and I promise to try to get to all of them. Thanks for reading!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Studies have shown that in order to get the enhanced health benefits of resveratrol you’d have to drink like hundreds of bottles a day. Even if this research fraud affected what we know about resveratrol (and like Mark says, it really doesn’t), you’re not going to get the stuff in a glass of wine but in a highly distilled supplement. Which might not be a great idea since we still don’t know that much about its long term side effects at such high doses.

    Gydle wrote on January 23rd, 2012
    • All good points. Moreover, resveratrol as an isolated element may not be where the benefits are obtained. It may be that we don’t actually need more than what is found in a glass or two or red wine; but, that we need some matrix/compound found in the wine that includes resveratrol.

      In my experience, a trial of 100 to 200 mgs of the highest grade trans-resveratrol (sourced from Japanese Knotweed) available produced little or none of the health benefits that I was looking for.

      However, I may not be in the norm in terms of the effects that I was looking for. I seem to have an unusual carbohydrate metabolism that appears to be associated with long term (life long), (subtle) untreated thyroid malfunction. The personal medical studies are still underway so its just an informed guess at this point.

      rrustad wrote on January 24th, 2012
  2. Mark – could you add in something about the preservatives in red wine. I enjoy it, but can only safely drink it in Greece, where the local red wine has none. Most of the cheaper red wines accessible in England give me a headache within 3 mouthfuls – no fun at all. Whereas white wines aren’t a problem.

    Jenny W wrote on January 24th, 2012
    • I second that request. Please.

      I have the same type of reaction to red wine here in the US. I have been told that its the naturally occurring sulfates – but your lack of reaction to the Greek wine makes me wonder about that reason.

      rrustad wrote on January 24th, 2012
  3. Raw, unfiltered local wildflower honey contains living pollens which help stimulate the immune system to fend off allergic symptoms when those pollens are encountered in the air. When you heat the honey above 120 degrees Fahrenheit they living product is killed and you will no longer reap the benefits. I am an Advanced Level Beekeeper with the University of Florida Master Beekeepers Program and an enthusiastic backyard beekeeper in the lovely City of Belle Isle near Orlando International Airport & offer beginner beekeeping classes at Harry P. Leu Gardens in the City of Orlando. See leugardens.org for more information & Bee Happy as the amazing lives of Honey Bees and their help from beekeepers make about every third bite of our food supply in the U.S. possible. There would not be so many choices of quality foods without their hard work :) Chris Stalder

    Christopher Stalder wrote on January 24th, 2012
  4. O.K. new to the honey thing….,.. do you need to refrigerate it???

    Vicki wrote on January 24th, 2012
    • no you do not need to refrigerate honey, it does not spoil.

      Yvette wrote on January 24th, 2012
  5. I became familiar with the use of honey to treat alergies when I had a sinus infection years ago. I was desperate for something other than antibiotics, becuase I had taken so many I had built up a tolerance. I was told by a homeopath to take local honey, and within 3 days, I felt better than I had in years. Coongestion gone, infection gone, breathing free and easy. Since then, I have recommended the honey treatment to dozens of people, who have had brilliant success. Yes, it does have to be a very specific, local honey that contains those pollins causing the reaction – but everytime I’ve suggested it to people it has worked beautifully. I’m sold. I travel often for work, and the first thing I do is find a local farm market and seasonal honey. I haven’t had a sinus infection in years, and considering I used to havee an average of 6 per year, find it a truly amazing cure! (My constant push of honey has my friends calling me “Mother Nature”)

    janet wrote on January 24th, 2012
  6. Ah, how I do love red wine. I’m dropping it through June to see if I can bring my Triglycerides way down. I started Primal end of November, so that’s not even 2 months. But my lab work last week showed high trigs (164, but they were 154 in September, so this is not a huge jump), but the Hba1c was 5.8! Something about me… Maybe red wine’s not good for all of us? I wish it weren’t to blame in my case. I don’t eat sweets, otherwise.

    Joy Beer wrote on January 24th, 2012
    • Good for you for catching the trig elevation early before you start to see crazy high numbers! Please do share (with us) your lab results as you find what works best for you.

      Evidently there is something about (at least) some of us that causes us to elevate trigs on what seems like thin air. My own elevated trigs are what led me to the Primal lifestyle – but its too soon to know if my hypotheses hold water.

      I recently did a three month trial of very carefully controlled diet and exercise, which should have made a major impact on my trigs. It did help lower them a little but not as expected. My doctor had no explanation – and likewise for my body fat distribution that has been so resistant to interventions. So, I (once again) decided to do my own research. The trials continue.

      In a nutshell, what I believe is happening is that my carb burning fast twitch muscle fibers have largely converted to fat burning slow twitch muscle fibers. Thus, my body’s ability to utilize carbs for energy is significantly impaired while my body’s ability to convert carbs to fat is still quite active, thank you very much! NOT!

      Thus, a diet like Primal Blueprint makes perfect sense to (for) me. Likewise, the PB fitness program is also perfect for restoring a higher level of fitness to my muscles – which do not respond appropriately to exercise under the current conditions.

      In my case, what I believe has happened is that I have an inherited case of thyroid malfunction – which coupled with calorie deficit dieting (which my body reads as starvation) – resulted in a a common adaptive strategy, the above mentioned muscle change.

      I have had a (diagnostically) low basal temp my whole life. I looked symptomatic for hyper thryoid when I was young – including but not limited to a super fast metabolism. Ate like a horse and never gained weight. Had low blood pressure, low glucose, and low lipids. Even in my 40′s I had the same glucose and lipid profiles – and a 25 inch waist.

      Then, menopause arrived and I switched to a set of hypothyroid symptoms, including serious menopausal symptoms that didn’t fully respond to any approach either “natural” or conventional.

      Moreover, most what I did to support my health for the next ten years may have actually undermined it. Such as the extremely calorie restricted dieting. For another example, any form of estrogen, including soy based – further reduces TH (thryoid hormone) functioning. SO forth and so on.

      Over those ten years, I tried many forms of diet and exercise only to watch a slow elevation in my weight and lipids – but a steady normal blood pressure, heart rate, and glucose.

      Thus, the diagnosis of metabolic disorder never actually fit. I was finally properly diagnosed a year or or so ago with high TSH, low TH, and mild thyroid inflammation. I am now normal/stable on a low dose of 50 mcg of levothyroxine and am starting to see a change in how my muscles respond to exercise. And, for the first time in my life my basal temp is a steady 98.6 with little variation.

      Now, my focus is on getting my carb/fat metabolism in order – and the notion of eating Primal the rest of my life is actually becoming more of a happy thought for me everyday :-). I feel better all the time.

      Looking forward to seeing what my next lab results look like. I expect to see continued improvement – but it may take more than a few months to turn around a long standing state of disorder. Whatever, its all good.

      rrustad wrote on January 24th, 2012
      • Fascinating stuff! I hope that you nail the carb/fat metabolism. I’m 46, and been a runner for 32+ years. My brother is wiry like me, long-term endurance athlete, and also puzzles over his high trigs, given that other numbers are good… what you wrote about the slow-twitch fiber made me wonder. I’m also wondering about the impact of hormonal birth control. I hope I get to see a follow-up for you, rrustad. My check will be in June.

        Joy Beer wrote on January 25th, 2012
        • Thanks, Joy. I’d like to follow your situation as well. Perhaps the PB forum might be a good place to have this ongoing “discussion”. I haven’t visited the forum yet. What do you think?

          Seems to me, given your brother having a similar situation, that something genetic/familial may be involved. The more I learn about trigs the more complex the situation seems. We can’t just settle for understanding how it all works in “normal” cases we have to understand variants as well.

          Estrogen interferes with thyroid function. Soy also interferes with thyroid function, btw. So, soy based estrogens may be a double curse. Thyroid function affects lipids. At any rate, if I were you I’d definitely look at a hormonal connection as well. Even athleticism can affect hormones, as I’m sure that you know. Its all detective work, IMO.

          I have had a mix of both hypo and hyper thyroid symptoms my whole life. I have raised the question of thyroid malfunction with doctors since my 20′s – but until recently no one took that notion seriously. It took my insistence and changing doctors even then. From what I’m learning, its very common for doctors to overlook or disregard thyroid issues even when they are staring them in the face.

          Even more recently I discovered that there are inherited forms of thyroid malfunctions that have a mix of hyper and hypo symptoms like mine. So, next stop for me is the endocrinologist and maybe genetic testing. I have a family history that points to possible thyroid malfunction on both sides.

          Meanwhile, the learning curve is pretty steep but I finally feel like I’m making progress. I changed my insurance policy to one that doesn’t require me to have a PCP (primary care physician) or a referral to see a specialist. Now I have the ability to chart my own path a bit better with fewer obstacles.

          rrustad wrote on January 25th, 2012
  7. Raw honey saved my life – literally. I had vicious seborrheic dermatitis all around my mouth and face. It hurt to talk. I became depressed.

    And then I found a site that told me about a honey mask. I slathered honey on my face for three hours a day, every other day, for months.

    My face is now clear (which I also attribute to this site as well, as I believe my healing was aided by being primal).

    I then told my mother that people with unsealing wounds from surgery had great results with manuka honey. She had a friend with a son with MRSA, and he tried it – and it healed his rashes/scars/whatever other awfulness he endured. This after every doctor prescribed every damned cream and/or steroid in the book.

    Raw honey is nothing short of magical. And the answer to most health problems almost always lies in nature.

    James wrote on January 24th, 2012
  8. Just got a 1 pound jar of raw clover honey. I’ve been taking little shots from it and dipping protein bars in it, indulging.

    Animanarchy wrote on January 25th, 2012
  9. This compound is actually used in Pharmacy school kinetics classes. The main issue is a few of the chemical functional groups, when they undergo metabolism by the body, are rendered non-bioavailable. Pretty interesting example especially how it is marketed as a supplement to do everything from reduce inflammation to solve world hunger. Well, maybe not that, but way more than it can deliver on.

    Max S. wrote on January 26th, 2012
  10. As A primal fanatic and a beekeeper I would love to see more articles on the benefits and uses of honey!

    PrimalMikey wrote on January 30th, 2012
  11. Honey helps some folks, but can also make people worse. If they’re folks who tend to react to everything (indicating an imbalanced immune system, likely leaky gut, etc.), be super careful. What’s in the honey may have nothing to do with the allergy they’re experiencing, and instead sensitize them to a whole new bunch of things.

    There are lots of natural options for fighting allergies. I’ve written about some of them here: http://www.celilohealth.com/fear-not-the-flower/

    And here:
    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1594/is_3_12/ai_74628722/

    Orna Izakson, ND, RH (AHG) wrote on February 8th, 2012
  12. I recently moved to Santa Barbara, California from Arkansas. I am a 27 year old female and when I moved here, for the first time I started to have asthmatic attacks and allergy symptoms, along with a runny nose and coughing throughout the night. It was absolutely horrible. I had never had any kind of allergies or asthma before. I stayed for a few months and just dealt with the symptoms by taking medicine. But I was miserable.
    I moved back to Arkansas for three months and my symptoms went away. But whenever I would start strenuous exercising the coughing would rear its ugly head again. I think the stay in Santa Barbara had triggered something. Then I moved back to Santa Barbara and my symptoms came back worse. I went to an urgent care facility and they diagnosed me with bronchitis and put me on antibiotics, and inhaler, pain medication and coughing medication. I took everything but I felt so frustrated because I felt like the doctor was just covering up my symptoms and not really addressing the underlying problem. Three weeks later, my bronchitis had cleared up but I was still having the asthma attacks 4 to 5 times a day with horrible sneezing, wheezing, painful coughing, and all of the allergy symptoms. It was so embarrassing. I could hardly go anywhere and I knew that holding down a job would have been impossible with all the coughing and hacking I was doing. I hated the antihistimine medicine because even though it may stop the runny nose, it gave me a headache and sinus pressure.
    I started taking raw, local, unheated honey because I was at the farmers market and I just wanted to try some, not thinking it would have any effect on my allergies and ashma. I just love honey and I always eat it straight and use it with hot tea, but up until that point I had just been using some raw organic honey from whole foods. But it was not LOCAL. I remember buying the raw local honey from San Marcos Farm at the farmers market and then walking back to my car, coughing the whole time. It would not go away!!! After a week of using the local honey my coughing and runny nose and asthma attacks started to become less and less. I went from using my inhaler several (5 or 6) times a day to 1 time a day. It has now been about a month after starting the local honey and I have not had to use my inhaler for the last 2 weeks. All of my other symptoms (the runny nose, painful sneezing, the headaches, the coughing, and wheezing) have completely disappeared. I am so excited. I had no idea local raw honey could have this effect until I noticed my symptoms were all gone and tried to figure out what it was that could have possibly gotten rid of them. Then I realized that switching from regular to local honey was the only thing I had been doing differently. So I am a firm believer in local raw honey. It treats the causes, not just the symtoms.
    Now I have recently gotten two jobs singing for entertainment and working at a tea shop which would have been impossible 4 weeks ago. I could barely talk normal, much less sing. I have been eating at least 2 tablespoons a day. I just love the stuff! It tastes so good. I put it on toast, put it in hot tea, and eat it straight. E-mail me if you want some more info. stephanieleeshepherd@gmail.com . So I looked it up and contrary to most people’s opinions there has been a study done by a university on the subject and it proved local honey to be effective. Here is their statement and webite: “At least one informal (unfunded) study on allergies and honey conducted by students at Xavier University in New Orleans produced positive results. Researchers divided participants into three groups: seasonal allergy sufferers, year-round allergy sufferers and non-allergy sufferers. These groups were further divided into three subgroups with some people taking two teaspoons of local honey per day, others taking the same amount of non-local honey each day and the final subgroup not taking honey at all. The Xavier students found that after six weeks, allergy sufferers from both categories suffered fewer symptoms and that the group taking local honey reported the most improvement.”
    Full article link: http://health.howstuffworks.com/local-honey-for-allergies.htm

    stephanie wrote on March 22nd, 2012
  13. Hey there! This is my first comment here sso I jut wanted to give
    a quick shout out and tell you I really enjoy reading
    through your posts. Can you suggest aany other blogs/websites/forums that deal with the same topics?
    Thanks!

    shorl.com wrote on October 11th, 2013

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