15.10.2010 Promising results from honey desensitization therapy


Research on a new honey desensitization therapy has been underway at the South Karelia Allergy and Environment Institute for several years. The basic idea is that pollen is added to honey and given in small dosages as desensitization therapy before the beginning of the pollen season. The results have been promising. In many subjects the symptoms of birch allergy have decreased and medication has not been needed to the same extent as before the therapy.

According to Docent Kimmo Saarinen, director of the South Karelia Allergy and Environment Institute, the research was begun with suspicion, as the market is full of products that promise to cure all sorts of problems. But Saarinen admits that even the first small-scale trials indicated a clear benefit, with two out of three subjects reporting that honey desensitization seemed to be effective.

Desensitization therapy begins in the autumn with clear instructions. Daily dosages are at first under a gram. The dosage is then slowly increased throughout the winter. By the new year, a teaspoon of the preparation is taken each day. A short while before pollen season, the treatment is stopped.

-Significant side effects were not detected. Of course, there are always a few who are so allergic to birch that they are not able to use the honey preparation. Follow-up studies, for which there is more and more justification, must be carried out elsewhere. I believe that the Skin and Allergy Hospital [in Helsinki] has the knowledgeable staff and necessary equipment to bring even more clarity to the matter, says Saarinen.

Desensitization therapy is the only treatment for the root causes of allergy. Typically only the symptoms of allergies are treated, which does not cure allergies, but merely relieves the symptoms. The research showed that the symptom days for those allergic to birch decreased between April and May by half, and the number of days with severe symptoms decreased by 70%.

The creator of the honey desensitization product is beekeeper and honey producer Kyösti Pitkänen from Kerimäki, Finland, who started developing a honey for treating allergies over 10 years ago. Pitkänen has over 40 years' experience as a beekeeper. He was inspired to develop his product when customers reported that traditional honey helped relieve their allergies. Pitkänen wanted an unbiased inquiry into whether honey has a beneficial effect on allergies.

The pollen added to the desensitization honey is not plain pollen, but rather pollen collected by bees. For this and other reasons, the production of the desensitization honey requires many phases. The starting point is high quality honey. According to Pitkänen, high quality honey requires care in the location and maintenance of the hives and in the extraction, storage and packaging of the honey.

According to Professor Tari Haahtela of the Helsinki University Central Hospital, honey is a diversiform compound, which in some way simulates exposure to allergens.
- It seems that with honey desensitization therapy we get perhaps a more multifaceted effect on the immune system than by administering pollen or microbes alone, Haahtela says.

The research raises further questions; in particular, the combined effects of the allergenic components of microbes and foreign proteins must be researched. Protective agents rise out of a person's contact with nature. These agents are everywhere, in what we breathe, apply to our skin, eat, and what goes into our digestive and immune systems. More protective agents should be found, and honey seems to be a good example which brings extra protection.
- We should also start recommending local and fresh foods, Haahtela adds.

Source (orginal news):
Silvan, Sini 2010: Hunajasiedätyksestä apua allergiaan [online]. Yle.fi / Akuutti. 13 April 2010 http://ohjelmat.yle.fi/akuutti/arkisto/hunajasiedatyksesta_apua_allergiaan

 
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