Honey has been used as a healing agent for thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians recognized it as one of the “three healing gestures”:
1) Cleaning the wound;
2) Applying a salve made of honey, vegetable fiber and animal fat; and
3) Bandaging the wound.
Ancient Greeks extolled the importance of honey as both a topical treatment and edible elixir. So why isn’t it used more today? Interestingly, medicinal honey is undergoing a bit of a renaissance due to some unfortunate developments.
Honey and medicine
Honey is once again being investigated as a healing aid largely due to antibiotic resistance.
Until the era of modern antibiotics, honey was commonly incorporated in basic wound care for humans and animals. Humans, horses, cattle and other animals with abscesses, bite wounds and burns were treated with topical medicinal honey. Patients suffering from ear infections, ulcers and allergies were given local varieties to ease symptoms. Because certain prescription medications are causing undesirable side effects and resistant bacteria, practitioners are once again peering into the amber gel for insights and assistance.
The most common veterinary usage of honey in dogs (and, to a lesser extent, cats) is for seasonal allergies or atopy. The reason it works is simple: local honey contains a variety of the same pollen spores that give allergy sufferers so much trouble when flowers and grasses are in bloom. Eating honey introduces these spores in small amounts and helps make the body accustomed to their presence, decreasing the chance an immune system response like the release of histamine will occur. Histamine is the body’s reaction to allergens and causes the symptoms of itchy skin and runny eyes.
Testing it out
While far from a cure-all, local raw honey can help desensitize allergic patients to certain pollens. Keep in mind a dog’s allergies may worsen at first. If I don’t see any improvement within a couple of months, I leave it up to the client to decide if they want to continue. I often combine local honey with other herbal remedies in pets with mild to moderate symptoms. Pets suffering from severe allergies will typically require prescription medications to find relief.
Raw honey has about 60 calories per tablespoon, so be extra careful when dosing: more isn’t better and won’t provide any additional benefits. I suggest offering adult pets about one teaspoon of raw, locally-produced honey for eight weeks beginning about a month before pollen season. If there’s no decrease in itching after one to two months, it probably won’t help. I’ve also used raw honey topically on an inflamed outer ear, poorly healing wounds and “hot spots” with varying degrees of response.
“Honey Don’t Itch” Bites
By Dr. Ernie Ward
Here’s one of my favorite sweet treats or food toppings for my patients with skin allergies.
- ½ teaspoon coconut oil - extra virgin unrefined
- 1 omega-3 enriched egg
- 1 teaspoon local honey
- ¼ teaspoon spirulina
Heat coconut oil in a small skillet over low heat. Gently mix in the egg and lightly scramble. In a separate bowl add the egg, spirulina and honey. Depending on your dog’s weight, give as a meal or treat using smaller portion sizes. If you give your pet a small amount of honey for four to six weeks before the onset of allergy season, it can help reduce allergy symptoms.
Prep time: minutes
And remember, always check with your vet before adding something to your pet’s diet, or if your pet’s allergies are severe or persist.
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