Topical application of honey in the management of radiation mucositis: a preliminary study

Support Care Cancer. 2003 Apr;11(4):242-8. doi: 10.1007/s00520-003-0443-y. Epub 2003 Feb 19.


Background: The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of pure natural honey on radiation-induced mucositis.

Patients and methods: Forty patients diagnosed with head and neck cancer requiring radiation to the oropharyngeal mucosal area were divided in to two groups to receive either radiation alone or radiation plus topical application of pure natural honey. Patients were treated using a 6-MV linear accelerator at a dose rate of 2 Gy per day five times a week up to a dose of 60-70 Gy. In the study arm, patients were advised to take 20 ml of pure honey 15 min before, 15 min after and 6 h post-radiation therapy. Patients were evaluated every week for the development of radiation mucositis using the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG) grading system.

Main results: There was significant reduction in the symptomatic grade 3/4 mucositis among honey-treated patients compared to controls; i.e. 20% versus 75% ( p 0.00058). The compliance of honey-treated group of patients was better than controls. Fifty-five percent of patients treated with topical honey showed no change or a positive gain in body weight compared to 25% in the control arm ( p 0.053), the majority of whom lost weight.

Conclusions: Topical application of natural honey is a simple and cost-effective treatment in radiation mucositis, which warrants further multi-centre randomised trials to validate our finding.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anti-Infective Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Body Weight
  • Female
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Honey* / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutritional Support / methods
  • Radiation Injuries / therapy*
  • Radiation-Protective Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Stomatitis / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Radiation-Protective Agents