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Manuka Honey: Can This Sweetener Replace Chemical Mouthwash For Reducing Your Dental Plaque?

Manuka Honey

Story at-a-glance -

  • Manuka honey, which has potent antibacterial qualities, works just as well as chemical mouthwash -- and better than the cavity-fighting sugar alcohol xylitol -- in reducing plaque levels
  • Clinical trials have found that Manuka honey can effectively eradicate more than 250 clinical strains of bacteria, including antibiotic-resistant varieties
  • The vast majority of honey sold and consumed in the United States is processed or refined, and will not offer the same types of healing properties found in raw, high-quality Manuka honey

By Dr. Mercola

Honey has been used as a natural wound healer and infection fighter since ancient times, and new research is showing that a specific type of honey from New Zealand -- Manuka honey -- may offer a wealth of additional healing benefits.

Manuka honey is made by bees that feed off the flowers of the Manuka bush, a medicinal plant native to New Zealand.

All honey contains varying degrees of hydrogen peroxide, which is formed when worker bees secrete an enzyme (glucose oxidase) into the nectar.

Manuka honey, however, has healing properties that extend beyond the healing effects attributed to its hydrogen peroxide content alone; properties such as improved dental health.

Can Manuka Honey Reduce Plaque Formation?

Researchers from India recently explored a number of strategies for reducing dental plaque:

  • Manuka honey, which has potent antibacterial properties
  • Chlorhexidine gluconate mouthwash, a chemical mouthwash often used to treat gingivitis
  • Chewing gum with xylitol, a sugar alcohol that has been found to help fight tooth decay

Sixty healthy subjects first received a professional prophylaxis with the purpose of making their teeth 100 percent plaque-free. They were then divided randomly into three groups, and given Manuka honey, chlorhexidine gluconate mouthwash, or xylitol chewing gum. After 72 hours, their plaque levels were examined and researchers found:

"Both Manuka honey and chlorhexidine mouthwash reduced plaque formation significantly, better than the xylitol chewing gum."

So Manuka honey worked just as well as chemical mouthwash -- and better than xylitol -- in reducing plaque levels, most likely because of its potent antibacterial qualities.

Another key difference is that chlorhexidine, according to the National Library of Medicine's toxicological database Toxnet, is "highly acutely toxic when applied to the eye" (which could happen accidentally), while Manuka honey is not.

Manuka Honey is Effective Against Hundreds of Bacterial Strains, Fungi and More

Clinical trials have found that Manuka honey can effectively eradicate more than 250 clinical strains of bacteria, including resistant varieties such as:

  • MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus)
  • MSSA (methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus)
  • VRE (vancomycin-resistant enterococci)
  • Helicobacter Pylori (which can cause stomach ulcers)

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) even approved Manuka-honey-based wound dressings in 2007. The verdict is still out on exactly how Manuka honey kills bacteria, but biochemist Professor Peter Molan at the University of Waikato, has named the effect "unique manuka factor," or UMF. As he told BBC News:

"We know it [Maunka honey] has a very broad spectrum of action … It works on bacteria, fungi, protozoa. We haven't found anything it doesn't work on among infectious organisms."

While it's known that honey's high sugar content suppresses microorganism growth, separate research has suggested that another mode of action is present, and the honey may actually work by destroying key bacterial proteins.

At you can see a list of numerous clinical studies showing Manuka honey's effectiveness against a wide variety of diseases and conditions, including:

Leg Ulcer Dental Caries Dental Plaque
MRSA Periodontal Infection and Gingivitis Ulcerative colitis and Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Helicobacter Pylori Infection Wound Healing Bacterial Infections
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Should You Eat Honey to Prevent Cavities?

There a couple of caveats you need to know about honey, the first being that the vast majority of honey sold and consumed in the United States is processed or refined. And, like most refined foods, processed honey can promote disease and damage your health (including your teeth) -- and it will not offer you the same health benefits as raw, high-quality Manuka honey.

Another important point to remember is that typically about 70-80% of honey is fructose, which, in excessive amounts can exacerbate pre-existing insulin resistance and wreak havoc on your body.

Each teaspoon of honey has nearly four grams of fructose so carefully add the total grams of fructose (including fruits) that you consume each day, and stay below 25 grams of total fructose per day. This is particularly important if you suffer from signs of elevated insulin, such as:

  • Overweight
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Midsection Fat

As long as it's used in moderation, eating raw Manuka honey, or alternatively using it topically on your teeth or wounds, is likely to promote health.

Even Better than Manuka Honey for Oral Health

In my view Manuka honey has some very compelling evidence to be considered as a potent healing agent. It was clearly superior to the chemical mouthwash used in this study. However, I believe there are even more effective alternatives based on my own personal health journey.

You might be surprised to learn that despite my outstanding diet, which has me grain and sugar free most of the time, and aggressive exercise program, I have struggled with dental plaque for some time. The plaque has been so bad that it requires monthly visits to the dental hygienist. This has frustrated me for many decades, as despite regular brushing, flossing and using a dental irrigator there has been no improvement in the plaque.

Well earlier this month I received my first feedback that I finally found something that worked. After speaking at the Weston Price Wise Traditions event in Dallas in November I was introduced to fermented vegetables and have been consuming them regularly since then. This is the only change I made in my health habits and my plaque was reduced by over 50% and was much softer.

There is little doubt in my mind that the beneficial bacteria in the vegetables have altered the flora in my mouth and help reduce the plaque. I am very excited about this improvement and will be doing many articles on it next year. I have also started oil pulling with coconut oil and butter and will see if that provides further improvement. 

My goal is to be able to go for years without having to see the hygienist as many of my friends are able to. I would still go for regular checkups but I really don't want to do the cleaning if I don't have to.

More Tips for Your Pearly Whites

Good oral health and strong, healthy teeth are NOT the result of drinking fluoridated water and brushing your teeth with fluoridated toothpaste. Rather it's all about your diet.

Dr. Weston A. Price, who was one of the major nutritional pioneers of the 20th century, completed some of the most incredible research on this topic back in the 1900s, and it is still very much relevant today. What he found, and documented in his classic book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, is that native tribes who were eating their traditional diet had nearly perfect teeth, and were almost 100 percent free of tooth decay -- and they did not have toothbrushes, floss, toothpaste, or root canals and fillings.

But when these tribal populations were introduced to refined sugar and white flour, guess what happened … their health, and their perfect teeth, rapidly deteriorated. By avoiding refined sugars and processed foods, you prevent the proliferation of the bacteria that cause decay in the first place.