A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomised trial of active manuka honey and standard oral care for radiation-induced oral mucositis

Br J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2012 Apr;50(3):221-6. doi: 10.1016/j.bjoms.2011.03.005. Epub 2011 Jun 1.


Our aim was to investigate the effect of active manuka honey on radiation-induced mucositis. A total of 131 patients diagnosed with head and neck cancer who were having radiotherapy to the oral cavity or oropharyngeal area were recruited into the study, and were randomly allocated to take either manuka honey or placebo (golden syrup) 20 ml 4 times daily for 6 weeks. Mucositis was assessed according to the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG) scale at baseline, weekly during radiotherapy, and twice weekly thereafter until the mucositis resolved. The patient's weight was recorded at the same time as the mucositis was assessed. Throat swabs to identify bacterial or fungal infections were taken at baseline, and during and after radiotherapy. There was no significant difference between honey and golden syrup in their effects on mucositis. Active manuka honey did not improve mucositis, but both the honey and the syrup seemed to be associated with a reduction in bacterial infections. Compliance was a problem after the onset of mucositis, which may have affected the findings.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use
  • Bacterial Infections / prevention & control
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / radiotherapy
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Enteral Nutrition
  • Female
  • Honey*
  • Humans
  • Leptospermum*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mouth / radiation effects
  • Mouth Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Mycoses / prevention & control
  • Opportunistic Infections / microbiology
  • Opportunistic Infections / prevention & control
  • Oropharyngeal Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Oropharynx / radiation effects
  • Patient Compliance
  • Pharyngeal Diseases / microbiology
  • Pharyngeal Diseases / prevention & control
  • Placebos
  • Radiation Injuries / etiology
  • Radiation Injuries / therapy*
  • Stomatitis / etiology
  • Stomatitis / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Weight Loss


  • Analgesics
  • Placebos