HONEY Ain’t Just Sugar
– 9 Oral Benefits –

Dr. Al Danenberg Nutritional Periodontist

August 22, 2021

I thought my dental colleagues were going to laugh me out of my profession when I suggested that raw honey could be used to brush teeth. Several peer-reviewed medical articles have explained how raw honey could be used in the mouth to decrease the pathogens causing tooth decay and gum disease.

Well, the research is clear. Honey ain’t just sugar. And another beauty about honey is that it is an animal-based food, which I include in my modified carnivore diet that I call the Better Belly Blueprint.

In an April 2020 article published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, the authors concluded: “Honey showed a significant antimicrobial activity against all targeted periopathogens. Additional experiments are required to explore the entire antimicrobial spectrum of honey towards all pathogens involved in periodontal disease.”

The authors of this publication researched various databases since January 2019 for well-designed clinical trials and in vitro studies exploring the antimicrobial effects of honey against the bacteria causing periodontal disease. From all the databases, the investigators found 5 randomized controlled clinical trials and 11 well-designed in vitro studies. Manuka honey and multifloral honeys were the most frequently researched varieties.


Honey is Complex

Manuka Honey may be the best. As with all raw honey, manuka honey is roughly 80% sugars and 17% water, with the last 3% being comprised of minerals, organic acids, enzymes, etc. Its sugar content is made up of about 31% glucose, 38% fructose, and a mixture of more complex sugars that are harder for the body to breakdown.  Honey contains 4% to 5% fructo-oligosaccharides, which are excellent prebiotics to feed beneficial bacteria in the gut.

All honeys contain about 200 biologically active chemicals. These raw and unfiltered honeys are a good source of amino acids, B vitamins, zinc, potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous. But manuka honey has up to four times the nutritional content of all other flower honeys. Most of the pharmacological effects of honey come from polyphenols, which are found in large concentrations in honey.

But manuka honey has concentrations of a unique compound. Manuka has non-peroxide bacteriostatic properties that are the result of methylglyoxal (MGO).[1] This biologically active compound is not present to any great extent in other honeys, and it enhances wound healing and tissue regeneration by its immunomodulatory properties.

In 2017, Niaz et al published a review of the tissue regenerating effects of manuka honey.[2] The authors stated that their research showed, “Manuka honey can inhibit the process of carcinogenesis by controlling different molecular processes and progression of cancer cells.”


Honey Kills Microbes[3]

Numerous studies have shown that the antibacterial properties of honey primarily are due to its hydrogen peroxide and methylglyoxal content.[4]

Other bioactive components in honey that assist in its antimicrobial properties are phenols and flavonoids.[5]

In addition, manuka honey has a low water content and a moderate acid level of pH 4.3. These attributes contribute to its significant antibacterial potency.

The “sugar” part of honey also contributes to its medicinal benefit. The high sugar content causes hypertonic conditions around microbes which leads to the lysis and destruction of the microbial cell walls.


9 Oral Benefits

  1. Honey exerts antibacterial effects on nearly 60 species and prevents the development of resistant strains of bacteria.[6],[7],[8]
  2. Manuka honey is effective in preventing growth of biofilm organisms, reducing the production of acids, and reducing gingivitis.[9]
  3. Randomized controlled trials indicate honey helps prevent dental caries and gingivitis following orthodontic treatment.[10]
  4. A double-blind, randomized controlled trial demonstrates that manuka honey and other raw honeys are almost as effective as chlorhexidine as a mouthwash.[11]
  5. Manuka honey controls odor and inflammation in wounds secondary to squamous cell carcinoma of the oral cavity.[12]
  6. Honey has cytotoxic effects on cultured oral squamous cell carcinomas.[13]
  7. Multiple reports indicate honey is beneficial in the treatment of radiation induced mucositis in people undergoing curative radiotherapy for their head and neck cancer.[14]
  8. Honey is helpful in treating dry mouth in people undergoing radiation treatment for their head and neck cancer.[15]
  9. Honey enhances wound healing in non-healing or recurrent wounds in the head and neck area after radiotherapy.[16]

As you can see, honey and especially manuka honey wear many hats.[17] It can be a toothpaste, an antibiotic, an antiviral, an antifungal, a regenerative agent, an anti-cancer substance, an antioxidant, a prebiotic, an anti-inflammatory, and so much more.


Practical Applications

Toothpaste: Put about 1/2 teaspoon of manuka honey in your mouth and spread it around all your teeth using your tongue. Then use an electric toothbrush as you would normally brush.

Healing oral soft tissue lesions: Swish 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of honey around your mouth for a minute or so, and then swallow. Use as often as necessary.

Lips and corners of mouth: Apply manuka honey to dry lips and sore corners of mouth as needed.

Systemic benefits: Eat about 1/2 teaspoon of honey 2-3 times a day for systemic benefits like improving a cough and cold symptoms from upper respiratory infections, preventing gastric ulcers, and improving digestive symptoms.

A mouthwash: If you feel you need to “freshen” your mouth, swish with 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of honey and then swallow.

Dry mouth: If you have dry mouth or xerostomia, swish with 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of honey as needed and then swallow.


Purchasing Options

The New Zealand government’s Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) created the first global standard and scientific definition for manuka honey in early 2018.[18] This is the only government-regulated and approved standard for manuka honey in the world.

As of February 5, 2018, all honey labeled as manuka honey and exported from New Zealand is now required to be tested to show that it meets the MPI standard before it can lawfully be exported. The test results from the certifying lab must accompany the export documents for the manuka honey ensuring that product packed in New Zealand is genuine.

There are many manuka honeys for purchase. I usually purchase Manuka Honey from Manuka Health of New Zealand. You should research other brands and make your decision.

Manuka Honey is part of my medicine chest, my kitchen pantry, and my bathroom where I keep my toothbrush, floss, TePe Easy Picks, and toothpaste.

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18210383

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28901255

[3] https://www.hmpgloballearningnetwork.com/site/wounds/article/honey-biologic-wound-dressing

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6613335/

[5] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30575387/

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Honey%E2%80%93a+remedy+rediscovered+and+its+therapeutic+utility

[7] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15055885/

[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6034044/

[9] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3220139/

[10] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1013905214000327

[11] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5855267/

[12] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25734464

[13] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2949736/

[14] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Topical+application+of+honey+in+the+management+of+chemo%2Fradiotherapy-induced+oral+mucositis%3A+A+systematic+review+and+network+meta-analysis

[15] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=The+effectiveness+of+thyme+honey+for+the+management+of+treatment-induced+xerostomia+in+head+and+neck+cancer+patients%3A+a+feasibility+randomized+control+trial

[16] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=The+treatment+of+chronic+wounds+in+the+head+and+neck+area+after+radiotherapy+with+medical+honey

[17] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28901255

[18] https://www.mpi.govt.nz/dmsdocument/17374-manuka-honey-science-definition-infographic


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Honey Heals Wounds
…3 Clinical Uses and More…

Dr. Al Danenberg Nutritional Periodontist
November 19, 2018




Honey Heals WoundsHoney is more than a sweet dessert. Honey has been used to heal wounds for 5,000 years. Raw honey contains anti-bacterial, anti-oxidant, and anti-inflammatory components that can actually repair and regenerate tissues. I have written about honey in several articles in the past. HERE. HERE. HERE.


In 2017, Sami K. Saikaly and Amor Khachemoune published an update on the research supporting the benefits of honey on wound healing.[1] In their article, they described three major clinical uses of raw honey:

  1. Acute wounds
  2. Chronic wounds
  3. Malignant wounds


In 2018, Sarkar et al. reported on their study about honey being incorporated into a unique surgical dressing to assist with the regeneration of damaged tissues.[2]


Interestingly, the healing properties of raw honey can benefit lesions in the mouth. Let’s get into the facts.



3 Clinical Uses

1. Acute Wounds

When it comes to burns, there are problems with bacterial contamination of the wound. In a study by Maghsoudi et al.[3], the researchers compared the application of honey dressings and mafenide acetate in two randomized groups of 50 patients with fresh partial thickness burns. Their study showed the honey-treated group had faster healing along with better infection control and reduction of inflammation than the mafenide acetate group.


In another study by Subrahmanyam[4], skin graft donors were divided into a honey-treated group and a Vaseline gauze-treated group. The honey-treated group had significantly faster healing than the Vaseline-treated group.



2. Chronic Wounds

Khadanga et al.[5] compared the effectiveness of honey and povidone iodine dressings in decubitus ulcer healing. Decubitus ulcers develop in patients who are lying in bed for an extended period of time. A significant reduction in subjective pain was recorded for the honey group compared to the povidone iodine group. However, both honey and iodine were effective with healing the ulcers.


Saha et al.[6] reported on a randomized study comparing honey treatment plus metronidazole powder to metronidazole powder alone in cancer patients with bedsores. There was a statistically significant improvement in wound healing and a decrease in pain among the honey plus metronidazole group compared to the metronidazole group alone.


In another study, Kamaratos et al.[7] performed a double-blind study examining the use of Manuka-impregnated honey dressings in type 2 diabetic patients with foot ulcers. These patients were divided into a honey treatment group and a saline-soaked gauze-dressing control group. The honey decreased the healing time. In addition, the honey group required no antibiotic treatment while some of the control group required antibiotic treatment and hospitalization.



3. Malignant Wounds

Malignant wounds occur in 5–10% of cancer patients, with the most common side effects being malodor and exudate. Lund-Nielsen et al.[8] conducted a randomized study comparing the use of Manuka honey-coated bandages with silver-coated bandages in patients with malignant wounds and advanced cancer. The honey group experienced significantly less malodor and exudate compared to the silver-coated bandages.



Effects in the Mouth

Raw honey has decreased malignant odors and inflammation from oral squamous cell carcinoma.[9] Honey is also effective in healing mucositis,[10] which can be a complication from cancer treatment. Those patients suffering from dry mouth have had relief using honey to swish and swallow several times a day.[11] Various bacterial infections in the mouth also have been treated with honey rinses.[12]



Summing Up

Honey is considered by many as a sugary dessert without any redeeming qualities. Raw honey is without a doubt a significant medicine that is natural, effective, and with little to no side effects. It should be in everyone’s medicine chest for good reason. Its efficacy is well-researched in wound healing.




[1] Saikaly, S.K. & Khachemoune, A. Honey and Wound Healing: An Update. Am J Clin Dermatol (2017) 18: 237. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40257-016-0247-8

[2] Sarkar, R., Ghosh, A., Barui, A. et al. Repositing honey incorporated electrospun nanofiber membranes to provide anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory microenvironment for wound regeneration. J Mater Sci: Mater Med (2018) 29: 31. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10856-018-6038-4

[3] Maghsoudi H, Salehi F, Khosrowshahi MK, et al. Comparison between topical honey and mafenide acetate in treatment of burn wounds. Ann Burns Fire Disasters. 2011;24(3):132–7.

[4] Subrahmanyam M. Dressing accelerates split-thickness skin graft donor site healing. Indian J Surg. 2015;77(Suppl 2):261–3.

[5] Khadanga SDD, Karuna T, Khetri R, et al. Effects of topical honey dressing in decubitus ulcer. Asian J Med Sci. 2015;6(4):99–101.

[6] Saha A, Chattopadhyay S, Azam M, et al. The role of honey in healing of bedsores in cancer patients. South Asian J Cancer. 2012;1(2):66–71.

[7] Kamaratos AV, Tzirogiannis KN, Iraklianou SA, et al. Manuka honey-impregnated dressings in the treatment of neuropathic diabetic foot ulcers. Int Wound J. 2014;11(3):259–63.

[8] Lund-Nielsen B, Adamsen L, Kolmos HJ, et al. The effect of honey-coated bandages compared with silver-coated bandages on treatment of malignant wounds-a randomized study. Wound Repair Regen. 2011;19(6):664–70.

[9] Drain J, Fleming MO. Palliative management of malodorous squamous cell carcinoma of the oral cavity with Manuka honey. J Wound Ostomay Continence Nurs. 2015;42(2):190–2.

[10] Khanjani pour-fard-pachekenari, A., Rahmani, A., Ghahramanian, A. et al. The effect of an oral care protocol and honey mouthwash on mucositis in acute myeloid leukemia patients undergoing chemotherapy: a single-blind clinical trial. Clin Oral Invest (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00784-018-2621-9

[11] Charalambous, Andreas et al. The effectiveness of thyme honey for the management of treatment-induced xerostomia in head and neck cancer patients: A feasibility randomized control trial. European Journal of Oncology Nursing , Volume 27 , 1 – 8

[12] Atwa, Al-Dany A et al. “Effect of honey in preventing gingivitis and dental caries in patients undergoing orthodontic treatment” Saudi dental journal vol. 26,3 (2014): 108-14.



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Confection or Powerful Medicine?

        Alvin H. Danenberg, DDS       October 26, 2015
evolution rHoney! It’s sticky, sweet, and yummy. Is it a confection, or is it a powerful medicine? It’s both.
Interestingly, the anecdotal health reports over the centuries are now supported by clinical trials. The peer-reviewed articles I researched were not sensational; they very well may have been understated. Read the facts; then you decide.
It all started a long time ago. Recorded history about honey’s medicinal and antimicrobial properties for wound healing goes back about 5000 years. However, the use of honey as a food and as a medicine probably goes back to the beginning of primal societies who discovered this luscious, nutrient-dense food of the bees.
Honey is a supersaturated nectar collected by honeybees from a wide variety of plants. The actual composition of honey depends on the composition of the nectar collected from specific flowers around the world. The highest percentages of components are fructose (about 38%) and glucose (about 31%).
It is surprising that such a sweet, sugar-laden food could offer so many medicinal properties. While these biological processes are still not well understood, honey’s benefits have been demonstrated in many recently published, peer-reviewed studies.
In addition to fructose and glucose, there are over 180 substances that have been identified in raw honey. No doubt, many have yet to be discovered. Some of the compounds contained in honey include sugars (other than fructose and glucose), phenolic acids, flavonoids, amino acids, proteins, vitamins and enzymes – all of which synergistically account for honey’s biological effects. The benefits include antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, antithrombotic, and vasodilatory actions.
Honey also stimulates wound healing even in wounds that have not responded to other treatments. Some of the unique qualities of honey that may be at work here are its acidic level (pH of 3.2 to 4.5), its activation of the immune system, and its promotion of cell growth.
Eating honey can improve cardiovascular risk. Consuming honey has been shown to increase HDL-cholesterol, reduce LDL-cholesterol, and reduce triglycerides. (Here, Here)
Even type 1 and type 2 diabetics have benefited from the inclusion of honey in their diets. (Here, Here)
With all the sugar, one would think that honey would cause gum disease and dental decay. But, the facts are just the opposite.
In this randomized, controlled study, patients were given three different sweeteners to eat – honey or sorbitol or sucrose. The results were surprising. Eating honey actually decreased the bacteria that caused gum disease and tooth decay, while consuming sorbitol or sucrose did not.
In this intervention, patients were studied who had their normal saliva flow compromised because of radiation treatment for head and neck cancers. Individuals with no or little natural saliva are at greater risk of tooth decay. The results of this clinical trial clearly demonstrated that participants who had compromised salivary function and who ate natural honey had a significantly lower amount of Strep Mutans (a bacterium that causes tooth decay) than the control group.
There is good honey and bad honey. Processed or heated honey has lost most of its medicinal benefits. Honey that had anything added to it would not be my choice. The best honey to consume is locally collected, unfiltered, raw honey.
So, how much honey should you consume?
Many studies on humans suggest that the ideal amount of honey to consume per day for a 150-pound person is approximately 3-4 tablespoons. (Here, Here) Some beneficial results have been recorded within an hour or two of ingestion.


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