Dr. Al Danenberg ● Nutritional Periodontist
June 12, 2022 [printfriendly]
Peek into the newest news for raw honey. You might be surprised.
A paper published in April 2022 may turn the medical world upside down.
I’m shouting this out to all who want to listen and learn …
- Raw Honey is healthy
- Raw Honey is healing
- Raw Honey is protective
- Raw Honey can replace many prescriptions
- Raw Honey does not cause tooth decay or gum disease
Wow! These are powerful statements. A teaspoon of raw honey is not a teaspoon of sugar – not by a long shot!
When I was lecturing and writing about raw honey and how it could be used as a toothpaste, I was scorned and laughed at by my profession. Most in the dental world still think I am a charlatan to make such an outlandish statement. But the science is out there, and the science is growing.
Sadly, practicing physicians and dentists rarely take a deep dive into the published peer-reviewed literature to learn the newest news, which is based on respected and replicable science. Most health professionals learn what they need to know in medical and dental school, but few go out of their way to think outside of the box and investigate “unusual” methods of treatment.
When it comes to the mouth, I wrote a Blog about honey and its oral benefits. Then in April 2020, a peer-reviewed article showed that honey significantly reduces all pathogens that were investigated in the mouth that cause periodontal disease.
And the newest news about honey was published in a medical paper in Drug Resistance Updates in April 2022. It cited 111 peer-reviewed articles and described in detail that honey is revolutionizing non-conventional wound healing by simultaneously targeting multiple molecular mechanisms.
Of course, there are a few people with specific metabolic and health conditions that might not be able to consume raw honey. You should check with your healthcare professional if you are one of those who should not consume honey.
Newest News about Raw Honey
Raw honey has antimicrobial and healing effects. In fact, conventional medicine has approved honey as a topical method to aid skin wound healing. But there are many other applications of honey beyond topical use. And it is important to understand that pathogenic microbes do not develop resistance to honey, which makes it extremely effective as a medicament for many infectious wounds.
Honey Prevents Resistant Bacteria
The reason that honey does not allow microbes to become resistant is because honey possesses multiple mechanisms of antimicrobial activity. A diversity of antimicrobial mechanisms makes it almost impossible for pathogenic microbes to develop resistance. This is a critical fact since an increasing percentage of pathogenic bacteria turn into superbugs. Superbugs are microbes that have become resistant to conventional antimicrobial agents and therefore are extremely difficult to kill. This is reflected by the increased number of hospital-acquired infections with resistant bacteria.
The properties of honey that are responsible for wound healing are based on two main principles: its antimicrobial activity and its pro-healing activity. Because of these principles, honey is revolutionizing wound repair by preventing and treating severe infections and by aiding the healing process.
Honey Improves Wound Healing
When honey is applied to active wounds, it “sucks” the water out of colonizing bacteria. Then honey’s acid level and the presence of antimicrobial molecules create an unsuitable environment preventing the invasion and survival of bacteria within the wound.
Two different types of honey exist, depending on the specific types of flowers that the bees pollinate. One type has “peroxide” as its main antimicrobial mode of action The other type has “non-peroxide” as its main mode of antimicrobial action.
In the “peroxide-based” honey group, bees convert the glucose in honey into gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). Hydrogen peroxide is highly bactericidal.
In the “non-peroxide-based” honey group, the antimicrobial molecule is methylglyoxal (MGO). Manuka honey is the best-known non-peroxide-based honey. The nectar of the flowers of the Manuka tree contains high amounts of dihydroxyacetone, which bees convert into MGO.
Both honey types contain additional molecules that exert direct antimicrobial effects, including polyphenolic compounds (phenolic acids, flavonoids, and tannins) and antimicrobial peptides such as bee defensin-1. It is important to note that some lesions respond better to the peroxide-based honeys, and some respond better to Manuka honey.
All these bioavailable chemicals in honey kill more than bacteria. Honey also shows activity against fungi and viruses such as candida albicans, candida auris, herpes simplex virus (cold sores), and varicella-zoster virus (chickenpox and shingles). In addition, honey can eradicate biofilms, which encase and protect microbial colonies. Biofilms make microbes hard to reach with antibiotics.
Besides its antimicrobial properties, honey also has multiple properties that enhance wound healing by restoring the integrity of the injured tissue. Honey …
- Contains necessary nutrients which cells use for healing
- Assists in the formation of new blood vessels
- Enhances the closure and healing of wounds
- Reduces edema and inflammation
- Has phenolic compounds which act as antioxidants, scavenging free radicals which protects the wound microenvironment
- Minimizes scar formation because of honey’s anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, and remodeling properties
- Reduces pain in the wound site
Beside topical wound healing, honey improves healing in oral, abdominal, and subcutaneous wounds.
Oral mucosal wounds, such as post-extraction sockets, surgical mucosal wounds, or ulcers, generally heal faster than skin wounds with less scar formation. But applying honey to oral wounds has been shown to enhance healing of these wounds.
In many studies reported in the April 2022 published paper, the placement of honey in extraction sockets provided significant benefits compared to sockets without the introduction of honey. Sockets treated with honey experienced …
- Fewer inflammatory signs such as redness, edema, and halitosis
- Faster healing
- Less pain
- Increased bone formation
In other oral lesions, honey has played an important role:
- Tonsillectomy patients: Honey helped to lower postoperative pain and improve healing after tonsillectomy in children. Patients using honey had less fever and quicker healing time in the post-surgical period.
- Cleft palate surgery patients: Patients undergoing Cleft palate surgery had less scar formation and better jaw growth when honey was applied to the healing surgical sites.
- Cancer patients: For cancer patients, the combination of radio- and chemotherapy can cause a debilitating side effect called mucositis. Mucositis is a painful ulceration in the oral, nasal, and/or esophageal mucosa. Patients experiencing these ulcerations noticed more rapid healing when they applied honey to the lesions. It also was reported that honey showed prophylactic properties by helping prevent oral mucositis. However, a few studies showed that peroxide-type honeys did better than Manuka honey in preventing and managing radio- and chemotherapy-induced mucositis. Also, a few studies showed Manuka honey can be cytotoxic at high concentrations, resulting in slower wound healing.
The oral use of honey logically raises the question, “Could the use of honey in the mouth increase tooth decay because of its low pH and high sugar content?”
The answer is, “No”.
Published peer-reviewed studies do not show an increase of tooth decay or periodontal disease from the use of honey. In fact, honey has repeatedly been shown to decrease the potentially pathogenic bacteria causing tooth decay as well as periodontal disease.
In many abdominal surgical procedures, a frequent complication is abdominal adhesions occurring during the healing process. Several animal studies have shown that applying honey to the surgical site significantly reduced the incidence of abdominal adhesions. Interestingly, oral consumption of honey alone demonstrated similar protective effects on abdominal adhesions as did the application of honey on the surgical site. The anti-adhesive effect of honey might be mediated by increased anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects of honey.
Lesions and lacerations underneath the skin have been treated with honey successfully. The honey-treated wounds were more likely to heal completely and were less likely to have signs of inflammation like redness or edema than lesions which were allowed to heal without the application of honey. The investigators of several animal studies suggested that the antibacterial effects of subcutaneous honey cleared the affected tissues from bacterial contamination and subsequently aided the wound repair from deeper within the wound. One interesting fact about honey is its ability to diffuse from its application site into deeper wound tissues. This may be a significant factor in healing subcutaneous wounds.
Honey’s Healing Mechanisms
Honey can create signals that activate various pathways of repair. Here are a few of the specific healing mechanisms that are stimulated by honey. Honey …
- Activates a pro-inflammatory response, which is necessary during the early inflammatory phase. Pro-inflammatory stimulation causes the immune system to send out various white blood cells to eliminate the debris in the wound and protect the area against pathogenic bacteria. Then honey suppresses the production of these pro-inflammatory cytokines when the time is right, by downregulating various pathways and thereby reducing inflammation.
- Stimulates antioxidant pathways which neutralizes the formation of damaging reactive oxygen species (ROS) and reactive nitrogen species (RNS).
- Promotes the creation of blood vessels in the wound.
- Stimulates the proliferation of new dermal cells to promote tissue regeneration.
- Creates a pro-healing microenvironment that optimizes scarless wound healing.
- Has analgesic effects, which reduces pain.
- Contains components that can trigger the immune system into action when “danger” is encountered.
As I mentioned earlier, the type of honey may influence the healing potential. For example, Manuka honey may be less effective than peroxide-type honeys with cellular migration in the healing process.
Honey can kill microbes, target multidrug resistant pathogens, and enhance wound healing. Since honey activates critical signaling pathways, honey plays many additional roles in the prevention of infections and promotion of wound repair.
There have been no reported adverse, harmful, or side effects from the use of honey mentioned in the cited studies in the April 2022 paper. And most of these studies have used various unprocessed raw honeys. However, it must be noted that unprocessed raw honey could have adverse effects because of the possibility of contamination with herbicides, pesticides, heavy metals, antibiotics, and bacterial spores.
As I stated above, there are a few people with specific metabolic and health conditions that might not be able to consume raw honey. You should check with your healthcare professional if you are one of those who should not consume honey.
There is a medical-grade honey (MGH), which is processed and tested to prove its safety and efficacy for use in medical wound care. But the processing of MGH may inactive some of the important enzymes in raw, unprocessed honey. Honey consists of over 200 bioactive components, including enzymes, amino acids, carbohydrates, vitamins, organic acids, mineral compounds, and other derivatives from the environment where the nectar was collected. Any commercial processing of honey into MCH might affect these bioactive components.
My Personal Use of Honey
I eat honey every day.
I eat Manuka honey, and I eat locally collected raw unprocessed honey. When I have any skin lesions or cuts, I apply honey to the wound. My experience has been that honey has healed my skin wounds quickly and effectively.
In addition, I use honey occasionally as my toothpaste.
After reading this, you may have lots of questions. Maybe I can help you with them. Set up a Free 30-Minite Consultation with me to discuss.
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