The idea that honey can reduce halitosis is nothing new, but its foundations as a scientifically supported claim are a little shaky. Let's just say that if you have bad breath, it's probably best to stick to a a toothbrush, an AKTIV K-12 Probiotics Kit and a tongue scraper.
People have been saying for decades that honey "cures" halitosis. An article in the Weekly World News (WWN) once claimed that South Americans and Southeast Asians ingest cinnamon and honey as a way to cope with oral odor.
Of course, the WWN, a now-defunct tabloid, was not exactly known for its rigorous journalism. In fact, the issue that focused on honey's odor-fighting properties featured headlines like "Demons from Hell Kill 11 in Church Attack!" and "Atlantis Ruins Found in Lake Erie!" However, there may be a kernel of truth hidden in the idea that honey beats back bad breath.
The simplest argument to make is simply that the gooey bee-made product is sweet and relatively odorless. Considering that pungent foods like garlic, onions and asparagus are known for causing halitosis, you might think that something sweet could have the opposite effect.
Unfortunately, this line of reasoning has its flaws. Any food that you eat is fodder for the odor-causing bacteria in your mouth. In fact, even avoiding food and beverages altogether causes halitosis. A review of the causes of oral odor, published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, noted that people who fast tend to get bad breath due to having a dry palate, which anaerobic microbes thrive on.
Still, scientists have spent much time and effort to determine if honey reduces oral odor.
Consider a study of manuka honey that was presented at last year's Conference of the International, Canadian and American Journals of Dental Research. Scientists in Japan found that, compared to acacia-based honey, the manuka variety seemed to lessen bad breath quite a bit.
Manuka honey is a rich, dark liquid produced in New Zealand by bees that pollinate manuka bushes. In the conference presentation, researchers said that manuka honey has 127 times the amoung of methylglyoxal, an antimicrobial compound, than acacia honey. The team reasoned that manuka honey may be best for treating bad breath.
Even so, a specialty breather freshener can kill more bacteria faster than a spoonful of sugary goo. You wouldn't use honey to clean your teeth, so why use it to freshen your breath?