If you’re looking for a reason to push governments and agribusinesses to stop using pesticides that cause hive collapse, this might be it. Bees whose get their nectar exclusively from certain types of rhododendron flowers make honey that, in small quantities, can cause hallucinations and an increase in sexual performance.
According to a recent article in Modern Farmer, the buzz starts with rhododendron ponticum or rhododendron luteum which grow in Japan, Nepal, Brazil, parts of North America and Europe, and especially in the Black Sea region of Turkey, that nation’s primary honey-producing area. The secret ingredient is grayanotoxin and yes, it’s not a good sign that part of the name is “toxin.” It’s fatal to most bees but the Caucasian bees have grown immune to it.
In Turkey, the sweetener is known as “mad honey” or “deli bal” and is generally sold by beekeepers online or under-the-counter in stores, although a few stock in alongside other honeys. Turkish beekeepers place their hives directly in rhododendron fields to keep their deli bal pure and the best is untreated and unprocessed. Consumed in small amounts, often stirred into boiled milk, the honey is slightly bitter (a good sign you’re eating real deli bal) and causes slight hallucinations, light-headedness, loss of balance, giddiness and blurred vision for up to a few hours. It’s popular with men and a few women as a sexual stimulant. An early record of the effects of mad honey dates back to 67 AD when Roman invaders ate it, got stoned and were defeated.
Medical experts warn that grayanotoxin can cause dizziness and hypotension in low doses, while higher doses cause impaired consciousness, atrioventricular block and other conditions that are generally referred to as mad honey poisoning. Symptoms rarely last more than 24 hours and treatment is rest and support. No fatal cases of mad honey poisoning have been reported.
At $166 per pound online, mad honey is not a cheap trip and it appears that results may vary, especially if it’s poured over toast or spooned into a hot beverage like regular honey.
Another interesting gift from nature.