I’ve found a way to save the bees and save your itchy, watery, allergy eyes. And, no, it doesn’t come in an orange prescription bottle or costly over-the-counter remedy. It comes from my favorite source –- nature.
Yesterday I was outside at a shoot for the cover for my book, surrounded by blooming trees and shrubs, with pollen flying freely all around us. I, who have never suffered from allergies, suddenly had watering eyes and a cough that wouldn’t quit. My makeup artist was thankfully on hand to catch the running mascara (come on -- I have to look good on the cover of my book!) and as she dabbed and blotted, allergies became the topic of conversation.
What is an Allergy?
It’s crazy to think that so many people -- 40 million by many estimates -- suffer from allergies. How does it happen? Let me put on my scientist's cap and explain. An allergic reaction happens when an allergen triggers your body’s immune system and causes it to produce antibodies, which then attach themselves to cells within your body and release chemicals, including histamines. This is when you get all stuffy and sneezy. Once your body reacts to something like pollen, it often makes a conscious decision: A particular allergen is determined "hostile," and reaction to it becomes pattern.
So as we all took a quick break to let my eyes calm down, we started sharing allergy stories. My make-up artist recently started taking a sulfur product called MSM (Methyl Sulfonyl Methane) for her allergies. It helps your body flush out foreign particles that could be causing reactions. Interesting. I had never heard of it, but she was having good luck with it.
The photographer’s assistant, on the other hand, was eager to try anything…so I told him about my favorite cure. It’s been proven effective by many people all over the world, but maybe, most importantly (in my opinion, anyway) in my household, by my husband. The guy, poor thing, had horrible allergies every spring that would usually last throughout the summer. We’d go to my parent’s house in Michigan and he could hardly sleep with the windows open. He would, of course, (just to make me happy) -- and then wake up hardly able to breathe, with eyes so swollen they brushed against the wall. Ok, maybe a small exaggeration, but close.
Bee Pollen, the Natural Solution
So a few years ago, I suggested he start taking bee pollen. This man has tried many things that most people would deem strange, gross or insane because of me, so he didn’t hesitate to give it a try. He started, as I would recommend anyone do, with just a few granules and worked his way up to a teaspoon or two every day. A few months later, as spring began to take bloom, we waited for a sneeze or a stuffed up nose and none came. He went the whole season without suffering at all.
Bee pollen works by desensitizing your body to the pollen that travels through the air and causes your body to react. With small daily doses, your body builds up its defenses to fight off the allergens and avoid reaction in the future.
Sara Snow and her formerly allergy-suffering husband, Ryan.
How to Choose the Right Bee Pollen
There are two important things to keep in mind when selecting a bee pollen. First: Find one with the greatest variety of color. This indicates that the pollen came from a variety of plants and will help you build a strong defense. And second (and probably most importantly): Be sure you are buying local bee pollen so that the defense you’re building is to the plants around you.
I buy my bee pollen at my area Whole Foods because they carry produce, honey, pollen and other foods from local farmers or at the farmer’s market. To find a farmer’s market in your area visit Local Harvest’s http://www.localharvest.org/ and just plug in your zip code.
To be safe, don't take bee pollen if you have a history of anaphylactic shock.
My final argument for bee pollen is this. Honey bees are disappearing. It’s complex and there is still a lot of research that needs to be conducted in order to discover all of the causes for their accelerated deaths. And a lot needs to happen to reverse the damage and encourage healthy colonies and hives again. But, as I see it, if the demand for bee pollen goes up, maybe more farmers will put hives on their land. And more hives could mean more bees.
Let’s face it. Spring is no time to be inside. It’s a time for open windows, long evening walks, dinner on the patio and deep, deep breaths of fresh air. And if bee pollen can help you get there, wouldn’t it be worth giving it a try? Visit Mother Nature for more information on bee pollen. ::Whole Foods ::Local Harvest
More on the Bee Crisis
::Where Did the Bees Go?
::Bees Victim of Media Hype, Not Epidemic
::Beekeepers Utilize Internet to Fight Mystery 'Disorder'
::Honey Bee Mystery Solved?
More Ways to Support Bees
::Dzign Life Natural Soy Candles
::Beauty Lab: BeeCeuticals Organics Bee-Hair-Now
More on Allergies
::Kids Allergies On The Rise Around the Globe
::Green Basics: Indoor Air Pollution
::Ask TreeHugger: Pets and Allergies
Sara Snow is Planet Green's lifestyle expert, and a regular contributor to TreeHugger via her Green Eyes On columns. She can also be seen on CNN.com on Thursdays from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Photo credits, from top: Steve Hopkin/Getty Images; Altrendo Images/Getty Images; Pal Hermansen/Getty Images.