Mad Honey Straight From the Himalayas

Mad honey is red, pale and semi-liquid honey which smells like mud and flower combination derived from wild honey bee popularly referred to as Apis Dorsata Laborasia. These are the biggest honey bee breed inside the world. As the source of this honey is pollen of Rhododendron, coloration varies primarily based at the bee forage and age of the honey; that consists of red, orange yellow, whitish crimson and dark brown. Mad honey is widely recognized for its hallucinogenic, toxic, anti-cancer, aphrodisiacal (thrilling sexual desire), dietary and one of a kind medicinal value. The bee forages on the Ericaceae family of Rhododendron which contains a freaky chemical compound called “GARAYANOTOXIN” including Tropane alkaloids. They collect the nectar from these species of flower and store them. Thus, the compound facilitates the hallucinogenic property in the mad honey. 

History of mad honey:

It is said that mad honey was used as weapon for mass destruction for invading armies. In history, the presence of mad honey was first mentioned in 401 B.C. by Xenophon, an Athenian author and military commander. He described how his troops were poisoned by mad honey who were heading back from a battle in Turkish province to Persia. Later in 67 B.C., under the order of the General Pompey, the Roman soldiers invaded Black Sea region with an intention of capturing the Turkey but however, the admirer of the existing King Mithridates of that time, covered their whole path with Honeycombs of Mad honey. At that time, the soldiers who started their journey from one place to another used to rely on the food available in the forest and the soldiers consumed those honey. In this way Roman troops were poisoned by mad honey. After 18th century, the honey was deliberately harvested as many health benefits were detected. Later, people begin to sale the mad honey in comparatively higher price than that of normal honey as it is one of the rarest honeys in the world. 

Things to be cautious about before consuming mad honey:

The mad honey should not be taken more than 1 tablespoon within the span of 24 hr. 1 tablespoon is enough to do wonders to your body due to its strong effect. The children below the age of 10 shouldn’t be given to consume it. It shouldn’t be taken with alcohol as honey itself has strong psychedelic effect.

Poisoning effect of mad honey:

There is this saying “If you take too much medicine, it becomes poisonous.” It is same with the mad honey as well. The consumption of mad honey more than 1 tablespoon results in poisoning i.e., honey intoxication. The intoxication is due to the compound called Garayanotoxin. The symptoms of poisoning are seen after 2 minutes to 3 hrs. The symptoms include Vomiting, Dizziness, Nausea, Salivation, Lacrimation, Urination, Defecation, Gastrointestinal distress, low blood pressure and drop-in heart rate. In case of high dose, the person might die as well. However, there are only few death cases. As described by Justin Brower, a forensic toxicologist, the Garayanotoxin binds with voltage gated sodium ion channels in the cells located in the membrane of neurons. Thus, this results in depolarization wherein the sodium is freely flowing in the cells and calcium is increasing. The increase in calcium leads to release of acetylcholine. Thus, excess of acetylcholine shows the above-mentioned symptoms. In serious cases, the intoxication might lead to convulsions, muscular weakness, hypotension, altered mental status, life threatening bradycardia, extrasystoles and ventricular tachycardia. 

The garayanotoxin present in the Rhododendron not only affects the life of human when taken in large amount but also results in death of honeybees. Some bees do not have resistance to it so when they go to collect nectar in such flower, they tend to die. 

Treatment for Intoxication:

As soon as the symptoms start showing up, the patient should be given saline infusion and atropine. This has helped in many cases to reduce the intoxication. As intoxication also results in heart block, in few cases a temporary transvenous pacemaker was required. Also, in some cases if saline infusion and atropine isn’t enough then Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) bradyarrhythmia protocols is required. Thus, there should be constant supportive care with electrocardiographic monitoring. The complete recovery may take 6 to 24 days. 

Expiry date of mad honey:

Archaeologists has found out that 3000-year-old pure honey is still edible which means that the pure mad honey has no expiry date. However, the hallucinogenic property differs according to time. It is at peak at the time of harvest and the hallucinogenic property decreases by the time. However, the medicinal values don’t decrease by the time, it remains same. The color of the honey changes gradually into the dark black as the time passes. People store it for 1 to 5 years and consume it. 

Honey Hunting in Nepal

Honey hunting — Not just about collecting honey, it’s much bigger. 

For Mad Honey Hunters and the hunting communities cash income from bees are not important the main priority of honey hunting; during this time the community is involved in social gatherings, interactions, religious ceremonies, and rituals. The honey hunters of Nepal value this sport as an event for spiritual and social occasions. This event provides an opportunity for locals to meet and chat with inhabitants of villagers, share laugher and sorrows, settle disputes and misunderstandings. 

In the ancient days, it was a hotspot for young men and women to be together and get to know each other and develop a relationship. It was also an opportunity for men to showcase their audacity and bravery climbing the ladders for cliff honey and harvesting mad honey. However these days because of technology there are many other opportunities. 

Content from this website is based on first-hand interviews and interaction with locals after years-long interaction and research by the Best Mad Honey team. It holds the copyright of all photos and information provided.