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Honey!  Natural Treatment for
Gum Disease
There is quite a bit of talk going on about the antimicrobial properties of the sweetener, Xylitol, which is a product manufactured from cornstalks.  The dental hygienist community (discussion groups) is where I am seeing most of this and my understanding is that it is a pretty good product as a sweetener and good for your teeth and gums.  Something made me wonder, however, about going more natural, and 'honey' came to mind.  I wondered about the antimicrobial properties of this natural and healthy food.  What I found really surprised me!

Honeybee. Honey for gum disease?I was able to learn quite a bit about honey's properties in just a few hours - Yes, honey is a good antimicrobial and has a great number of applications for treating all sorts of ailments aside from gum disease.  Everything from eczema to prostate problems are being effectively treated with honey...  Honey!

Before you run to the cupboard, you should know that the variety of honeys are widely varied in their effectiveness, so not all types are the same.

Some honeys may not be any better for your teeth than refined sugar, but at the other end of the spectrum, there are honeys which are outstanding for their antimicrobial properties.  It appears that the majority of research on honey's antimicrobial properties and effectiveness in treating gum disease come out of New Zealand in the past half-dozen years.  Most of this may be attributable to Dr. Peter C. Molan, Associate Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Waikato, New Zealand:

"Honey contains an enzyme that produces hydrogen peroxide which is believed to be the main reason for the antimicrobial activity of honey. Types of honey differ greatly in their antimicrobial potency, varying as much as a hundred fold. The research has shown that honey not only stops the growth of the dental plaque bacteria, it reduces the amount of acid produced, which stops the bacteria from producing dextran. Dextran, a component of dental plaque, is the gummy polysaccharide that the bacteria produce in order to adhere to the surface of the teeth."

Honey derived from the Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) bush, found in abundance in New Zealand, claims the highest potency of antimicrobial properties.  In fact, Manuka honey's antibacterial factor is unaffected by enzymes in the body that destroy hydrogen peroxide components.  (Normally, peroxide isn't considered a good antimicrobial because the body too quickly dilutes it.)  It also has an exceptionally high level of plant-derived antimicrobial activity.  Antioxidants in honey prevent the formation of free radicals and the nutrient supply of honey is an important factor in new tissue growth, damaged by infection, as well.

In addition, a 'medicinal' honey has been developed in New Zealand and Queensland, Australia to fight against 'superbugs,' such as multiple-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE), attributable to a reported 100 deaths a week in the UK, according to one report.

"Laboratory testing is required to establish the level of anti-bacterial activity in honey. TheHoney comb. Manuka honey for treatment of gum disease. honey is compared with a standard reference antiseptic (phenol) for potency. So, for example, a honey with a rating of four would be equivalent in antiseptic potency to a four percent solution of phenol (carbolic disinfectant).  Honey should have a rating of four or higher before it can be regarded as a 'Active Honey'.  Laboratory tests have shown to be very effective against bacteria, the rating should be at least ten but does not need to be any greater.  Honey New Zealand produces a range of Active Honeys: Manuka, Rewarewa and Wild Flora.

"Manuka honey has UMF (this stands for Unique Manuka Factor) in addition to the usual hydrogen peroxide anti-bacterial activity making it doubly potent. UMF honey is more effective than hydrogen peroxide against some types of bacteria. The level of UMF activity is found in laboratory testing by removing the hydrogen peroxide from the honey and using the same test method for testing an 'active honey'. A rating is found describing the anti-bacterial activity remaining in the honey after the hydrogen peroxide has been removed. This is called Active UMF 10+.  UMF is an additional anti-bacterial component that is unique to Manuka Honey. No-one for the scientific discoveries of New Zealand active honeys has so far discovered the substance involved, so it is called UMF."  (Honey New Zealand)

How is the honey used on the teeth?  Some recommend simply rubbing it into the gums after brushing.  Since Maruka honey retains it's antimicrobial properties when diluted up to 50 times, it may likely be able to be used as an oral irrigant, when diluted with distilled or filtered water, and injected straight into periodontal pockets using an oral irrigator.  (It should be noted that honey is not to be given to infants under 24 months.)  If you have an irrigator, you might try it and let us know.  If you're already using it, send an email: .

For those who would like to see some research, here's a pdf file containing plenty of it:     In addition, you may go to the Waikato Honey Research Unit web site at:  .

All our lives we've been told to stay away from sweets.  Maybe now its time to do a hundred and eighty degree on that line of thought - at least with honey, anyway!

See Also:  The Potential of Honey to Promote Oral Wellness
Dr. Bee

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Further information:

• UMF is the name of a very beneficial antibacterial property found in some strains of manuka honey. (UMF is not in all manuka honey.)
• UMF indicates the honey has a high antibacterial component.
• UMF is a guarantee and measure of the antibacterial potency of honey.
• UMF Manuka Honey (UMF10 is minimum level) has enhanced antibacterial potency giving it special healing qualities.
• UMF Manuka Honey is the preferred honey when selecting honey for special therapeutic uses.
• UMF is an industry registered name, trademark, standard indicating antibacterial quality
• The UMF standard is the only standard worldwide identifying and measuring the antibacterial strength of honey.

UMF was first discovered by Dr Peter Molan, MBE, of Waikato University's Honey Research Unit.
Honey contains an enzyme that produces hydrogen peroxide, a proven antiseptic with antibacterial properties.
Dr Molan's research found another more powerful and more stable antibacterial property, called UMF, in some strains of manuka honey.
UMF is additional to the hydrogen peroxide antibacterial property.
These two properties together have a synergistic effect enhancing their effectiveness.
Studies are showing the enhanced antibacterial qualities of UMF Manuka Honey gives the honey special healing qualities.

There are Two Types of Manuka Honey:
1. Ordinary manuka honey with only the hydrogen peroxide antibacterial property common to most honeys. A very nice table honey.
2. UMF Manuka Honey with both the natural hydrogen peroxide antibacterial property plus its own natural UMF antibacterial property, giving it increased antibacterial potency. A specialty honey identified by the name UMF. It is the preferred honey for wound dressing and other special therapeutic uses.

The Name UMF
To distinguish between the two types of manuka honey Dr Molan (honey researcher) and the Active Manuka Honey Industry (AMHIG) have named the additional antibacterial property UMF (meaning Unique Manuka Factor).
It is unique because it is only in manuka honey and in only some (not all) manuka honey.

The name UMF is the seal and trademark of the Active Manuka Honey Industry and is available for use only by licensed users who must meet set criteria.

The UMF Standard is an industry registered standard indicating which honey has the special UMF property.
The name UMF on the front label guarantees the honey has this special property.

UMF Guarantee
The name UMF is a guarantee that the honey being sold has the special UMF antibacterial property to at least the level indicated on the label.
It applies only to honey packed in New Zealand and tested after each batch is packed. It does not apply to honey in drums, etc still to be packed, nor to honey not packed in New Zealand.

The UMF Rating
The name UMF is followed by a number indicating the strength of the UMF property after the honey has been packed in New Zealand. A UMF rating of 10 is the minimum.

Laboratory Testing of Manuka Honey for UMF Rating:
The special UMF antibacterial property is not found in all manuka honey.
The presence of this property can be detected only by special laboratory testing.
Samples of honey are sent to a specially appointed laboratory for testing for antibacterial activity using criteria laid down by the Honey Research Unit at Waikato University, New Zealand.
These tests measure the presence of and level of the UMF antibacterial property.

The Test Results
The testing of the honey provides two sets of results:
1. Total Activity rating which measures. Most honeys have a Total Activity rating with activity being due to the hydrogen peroxide property. Total Activity does not identify the UMF property.
2. UMF Activity rating indicates the strength of the UMF property. For this test a catalyse is added to the honey sample to remove the hydrogen peroxide so that all that is measured is the strength of the UMF property.
The UMF activity rating is the most important when identifying manuka honey with the special UMF property.

The UMF Ratings (measure of antibacterial strength):
0-4: Not detectable
5-9: Maintenance levels only (a nice table honey but not recommended for special therapeutic use)
10-15: Useful levels endorsed by the Honey Research Unit at The University of Waikato
16 and over: Superior levels with very high activity.

What Can UMF Do?
1. In laboratory studies the UMF property has been found to be effective against a wide range of bacteria including the very resistant helicobacter pylori (this bacteria causes most stomach ulcers), the wound-infecting bacteria staphylococcus aureus and escherichia coli, streptococcus pyogenes (causes sore throats).

2. Studies are showing UMF Manuka Honey with high levels of UMF could be very effective in helping relieve stomach ulcer symptoms and gastritis, and when applied topically, in assisting the natural healing of skin ulcers, wounds, burns, boils, cracked skin, MRSA.
Studies are also showing the UMF property helps make UMF Manuka Honey excellent for relieving sore throats and oral hygiene.

3. The UMF property is very stable, unlike the hydrogen peroxide antibacterial property common to most honey. The hydrogen peroxide property is easily destroyed by heat, light and water and also destroyed by the catalase effect of the body serum.
But the UMF property is quite stable.

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