Background: Allergic rhinitis (AR) is a common disorder worldwide. Estimates show that 10% to 30% of the world population is affected by AR and that the prevalence of allergic diseases is drastically increasing in both developing and developed countries. Ingestion of honey is widely believed to be a natural remedy to reduce symptoms of allergic rhinitis. There are many theories addressing the mechanism(s) of action in which honey may treat AR symptoms. Many of these theories are postulated as a result of research evidence garnered from animal trials. This systematic review is to evaluate human studies looking at whether ingestion of honey can be used as a complementary or alternative form of therapy in treating allergic rhinitis.
Methods: An exhaustive literature search was conducted to identify relevant published papers using Medline-OVID, CINAHL, PubMed, and Web of Science using the keywords: honey and allergic rhinitis. Quality of relevant articles was assessed using the GRADE criteria.
Results: Two randomized control trials met the inclusion criteria. One randomized, double blinded study published in 2013 demonstrated a statistically significant reduction of symptoms in the local honey group when compared to the control group. Another randomized, double blinded study published in 2002 demonstrated no therapeutic effect for either local honey or commercial honey in reducing symptoms of allergic rhinitis when compared to the control group.
Conclusion: The results from each study were contradictory. Both studies had limitations in design and methodology which reduced their quality of evidence. Overall quality of evidence is low. A weak recommendation can be made in support of using oral ingestion of local honey as an adjunct in treating symptoms of allergic rhinitis. There was no evidence of effect using commercial honey when compared to placebo. Further research in the form of large population RCTs is needed to validate the results presented by these studies.
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