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HealthWatch: Some Say Home Honey Remedy Helping Ease Allergies

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) - It's going to be sunny and dry for most of the San Francisco Bay Area over the next few days, which could mean sneezing and wheezing for people with allergies.

Some allergy sufferers are tossing out the allergy medication and trying what they call sweet relief and turning to honey. They're using local, unfiltered honey, made in the Bay Area in hopes of easing allergy symptoms.

At the San Francisco Ferry Building, a booth selling Marshall's Honey was getting a lot of interest. One patron said she buys the SF Beekeeper's Blend and it keeps her seasonal allergies at bay.

"I love it," said the young woman, who did not want to give her name.

Sheila O'Donnell also uses honey to tap down her allergies.

"I take a tablespoon of local honey everyday. And it's important to start at the beginning of allergy season, so I start in March. And I take it all the way through the frost," said Ms. O'Donnell.

The young mother has tried allergy medication, but she said the side-effects were so bad that she decided to try honey. She has no doubt that honey is helping her symptoms go away.

The theory at work in the home remedy is that local bees will carry local pollen back to their hives where they make the honey. When people like Sheila eat it, she's exposed to the allergen that makes her sick, and it slowly immunizes her against the effects.

However, doctors are skeptical.

Dr. Anju Peters is an allergist and immunologist at North Western Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Illinois.

"Unfortunately there is no evidence currently that, no scientific evidence whatsoever that honey can treat allergies," Dr. Peters said.

While honey sounds safe, Dr. Peters warns it could also pose some health risks.

 "Potentially a person could get an allergic reaction to honey consumption," said Dr. Peters.

O'Donnell has never had an allergic reaction to the honey, and she is convinced it worked for her because she can enjoy spring sneeze-free, adding that "It's sort of the best the best tasting medicine that I think you could ever find".

However, you should never give honey to little children or babies. Their immune systems are not fully developed and honey can contain a bacteria that can cause infant botulism.

(Copyright 2011 by CBSSan Francisco. All Rights Reserved.)

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