Local honey combats allergies
If you are like many Sacramentans, right about this time of the year you get a runny nose, begin to sneeze, and have a lot of chest mucus. These symptoms are part of your immune system’s reaction to allergens, also known as allergies. But did you know that besides taking traditional medicine for allergies, there might be another supplement that can help alleviate your symptoms? It’s honey — specifically, wildflower honey — and it can do much more than just help your allergies.
Sacramento Press caught up with local bee farmer and honey producer Britt Floyd, and he spoke in an email interview about why buying his honey at the Southside Park Farmers Market might help one’s allergies, beekeeping, and barbecues in the following email interview:
Are you originally from Sacramento, and how long have you lived here?
[I was born in] a tiny hospital off Highway 160 near Del Paso Boulevard in Sacramento and I have been here ever since.
When did you begin honey farming, and what inspired you to do this?
I have been a beekeeper since around 1995. I have always been into "clean" food and have long recognized the need to grow food crops in a way more in harmony with nature. Even then chemicals were in widespread use to control the many imported pathogens and diseases that plagued bees, which was not my cup of tea, providing the incentive to raise bees! Keep in mind that the honey bee, apis melifera, is not a native to the USA but was imported from Europe back in the early 1800′s.
In a nutshell, my inspiration was a desire to provide clean, pure honey for myself and a few friends using methods inspired by God and the bees as free of manmade chemicals as is possible in today’s world. Frank, my accomplice in crime, has been a beekeeper in the valley for over 55 years and taught me the ropes. Frank Leinert’s label is on most of the honey we sell at the market. I sell my excess to him as I consider his honey to be among the finest available on the West Coast and the finest except for mine in Central California.
What is your favorite type of honey and why?
I have no favorite honey. There are so many different kinds of honey, each unique in its own way with subtle flavor found nowhere else, making it impossible to narrow it down to just one. I can say I tend to like ones that have a thick, creamy texture on the tongue which are generally of darker color, like wildflower usually is.
What do you think of the Southside Park Farmers Market in Sacramento?
The Farmers Market does have drawbacks but in general it is the only place the average person can go and actually meet the person that produces his/her food. When a person puts their name on something, they are making a statement that this product is produced to that person’s personal standard. So by meeting this person and learning the kind of person he/she is, [this] enables one to better judge the quality of his products. I know farmers that put their name on product, but product that isn’t up to their specs, and this happens to all farmers and is no fault of [their’s], they sell off to clearing houses that then pack it under their generic names.
Some of the farmers at the market are large operators and use the market for side income or to sell culls. Culls are just product that is the wrong size [and/or] color but is still good to eat and often better than the supermarket grades. Other farmers are small in size with only a few acres and what they sell is their livelihood. I prefer to buy from the little guy, maybe because I am one of them or just maybe because I like to shake hands with those who produce the materials my body is made out of and repaired with.
I’ve lived in Sacramento for a long time, but only recently heard of eating honey to combat my spring allergies. Can you tell me why eating honey would help allergies?
Honey contains five antioxidants as well as small amounts of pollen. Pollen is the male sex cell or gamete of flowering plants, and in the spring breeding season, wafts through the air, irritating our lungs [and] causing hayfever and asthma. Wildflower honey contains small amounts of pollen in it from many different kinds of plants, which is ingested instead of breathed, allowing [our] body’s immune systems to produce substances protecting us.
Pollen, when breathed, lands on sensitive mucus membranes in our lungs which can become irritated from the pollen’s presence, causing a runny nose, coughing and other symptoms if our immune systems have not produced substances to protect us. Many people use bee pollen that beekeepers trap from bees in its pure form to jumpstart their immune systems. This looks like tiny pellets of different colors and is sold by the pound. Bees have baskets on their legs which they will fill with pollen, then when they return to the hive, if their hive is equipped with a trap, when they enter, the trap will knock off the pellet for the beekeeper to collect.
Besides combating allergies, what other benefits are there to eating honey?
It is almost twice as sweet as table sugar in taste so one can cut the amount of sweetener one uses in half without losing the sweet taste. This means half the carbs, and that is good. Honey kills all bacteria so it helps clean one’s mouth and can protect a person against bacterial infections that can cause sore throat. It’s also hydroscopic so that if you bake bread with honey instead of sugar it will stay soft for a longer period with better taste. According to one study, if you use honey in your barbecue sauce instead of sugar, the nitrosamines, which are carcinogenic, that form from the dripping juices, do not form and that is a big plus because I love barbecue. There are many more.
*photos credit Mark Forsyth and Jonathan Mendick