Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Good placebo, bad placebo


Sweet, isotonic crack makes me smile. How about you? (Image credit: NeilMed)

Last week in a post on DIY seasonal allergy treatments from Design*Sponge, I read about a legitimate treatment, a good placebo, and a bad placebo. Crash and burn, Design*Sponge. Crash and burn.

The post author Ashley begins by suggesting the neti pot. This saline nasal irrigation technique seems Ayurvedic in origin. Using the device gives you quite an intimate understanding of how the cavities in your face are all connected. It uses an isotonic saline solution to rinse out one's sinuses by gravity flow. Sounds disgusting, doesn't it? Well, it makes sense that if you gently rinse all the gunk out of your sinuses, the gunk won't be around to aggravate your allergies. NeilMed's website sites a ton of published research on the effectiveness of the sinus nasal irrigation, too. It also gets my personal endorsement.

Next, Ashley furthers the common thought that ingesting local honey can alleviate seasonal allergy symptoms. The thought is that ingesting the pollens in the local honey can immunize you against those same pollens that bother your upper respiratory system during blooming season. Well, there's only been one controlled clinical trial on honey and seasonal allergies [Pubmed abstract]:

RESULTS: Neither honey group [unfiltered local or filtered national] experienced relief from their symptoms in excess of that seen in the placebo group [honey-flavored corn syrup].

CONCLUSIONS: This study does not confirm the widely held belief that honey relieves the symptoms of allergic rhinoconjunctivitis.

In fact, there have been a few cases (1, 2, 3)where the ingestion of honey and/or pollen produced anaphylaxis, or a major allergic response. That's not good at all.

I doubt the effectiveness of local honey to alleviate seasonal allergy symptoms. I mean, unless you're snorting your local honey, you're probably not immunizing yourself against your local allergenic pollens. There are shots for that; ask your doctor. Although local honey might not do anything positive for your allergies, buying local honey supports local business, which is good.

Finally, Ashley has the gall to suggest homeopathic bullshit "remedies."

GAAAAAHHHHH!!!! The stupid! It makes my brain hurt!

Shame on you, Ashley. Shame on you, Design*Sponge.

Homeopathy hurts. Remember that, kids. Better yet, go read about Bonnie Blodgett's memoir on losing her sense of smell after taking some homeopathic drivel for her allergies [NPR]. Dude, she lost her sense of smell! Not cool!

In short, do use a neti pot. Do buy local honey to support local business. DO NOT resort to homeopathic bullshit!

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