How sweet it is

Published 12:02 pm Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Mary Poppins swears by “just a spoon full of sugar,” but beekeeper Sid Ervin says raw honey will do. Not to make the medicine go down, rather to reduce allergies and increase overall well-being.

“It’s like an anti-venom,” said Ervin, who harvests his product right here in Warren County. “Say you’re allergic to some kind of vine, bush or flower. The bees have that pollen, and they put it into this honey. When we put that honey into our bodies, it builds up a resistance like anti-venom. It helps you when you eat the honey.”

Raw honey is taken straight from the beehive into the jar, meaning it has not been pasteurized or filtered. Some believe consuming raw honey — preferably harvested in the area in which a person lives — can help reduce the sneezing, coughing and drainage brought on by allergies. The honey’s immune-stimulating properties act as a desensitizer, they say.

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Lois Weeks, a Tylertown herbalist trained by her grandmother, recommends raw honey for those seeking natural remedies.

“Back then, my grandmother would gather the pollen and she would put it out for us,” she said. “We were allowed to dip our finger in there and eat it. It was like a desensitizer.”

Helen McKenzie, 69, of Warren County, is one of Weeks’ patients, and she swears by raw honey. Her son-in-law, Wade Grant, is a beekeeper in Clinton and sells his product from the family’s Vicksburg business, Communication Specialists on U.S. 61 North.

“I take a teaspoonful before bedtime, and it helps me sleep at night,” McKenzie said. “I’ve been doing it for 22 years.”

While Vicksburg allergist Dr. Timothy Kerut doesn’t deny the health benefits of honey, he says he hasn’t found any solid medical research that suggests it can combat allergy symptoms.

“I’m not denying it’s a good product,” he said, (but) “it’s not significant in reducing allergies.”

The reason, Kerut said, is that the pollen that causes allergies is wind-born, and bees do not cross-pollinate wind-born pollen, which comes from trees in the spring, grass in the summer and weeds in the fall.

“Bees cross-pollinate a different kind of pollen,” Kerut said. “We don’t get exposed to flower pollen.”

According to the National Honey Board, a non-regulatory agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, honey contains antioxidants, which are believed to prevent cancer.

“Honey has high amounts of vitamins and minerals,” Weeks said. “It’s antibacterial properties are amazing.”

It can be used as a natural sweetener, and can soothe sore throats.

“It’ll make your throat feel so much better,” Ervin said.