Story of Hallucinogenic Mad Honey

(ORDO NEWS) — Everyone loves honey. A delicious, sweet treat, it can be used in recipes, cosmetics, or as a sugar substitute. However, not all honey is produced equally.

This is clearly seen in Nepal and Turkey, where a variety known as “mad honey” sells for almost $360 a kilo, or $160 a pound on the Asian black market.

Mad honey has a redder color than regular honey and a much more bitter taste, but is mostly known for its hallucinogenic properties.

Made by the Himalayan honey bee Apis laboriosa – the largest honey bee in the world – Mad Honey gets its hallucinogenic properties from grayanotoxins.

Grayanotoxins are found in the flowers, leaves and stems of rhododendron, the main plant from whose nectar the Himalayan bees get honey. Due to its hallucinogenic properties, “mad honey” has a fascinating ancient history dating back thousands of years.

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The Pontic king Mithridates VI, depicted on this coin, defeated the Roman army with the help of mad honey

Mad Honey: The First Bioweapon

One of the earliest records of the use and action of mad honey is found in Xenophon’s Anabasis. Xenophon, a Greek general and philosopher from Athens, was the commander of one of the largest Greek mercenary armies of the Achaemenid Empire in 401 BC.

This army, called “Ten Thousand”, was ordered to march on Babylon, but in the end they could not capture it. Xenophon recorded this campaign in his book Anabasis, which describes an unusual situation after eating wild honeycombs in the Turkish city of Trabzon.

Xenophon states that there were many beehives in the area, and that his men ate many hundreds in the evening as they passed through the city.

Shortly after consumption, the men reportedly became severely nauseous with vomiting and diarrhea, “passed out” and were unable to stand or even walk upright. That evening, the men lay in a heap, completely exhausted from the disease.

The next day, people came to their senses and were no longer sick, and not a single soldier died. The march soon continued, but it is not known if the army found out why the honeycomb caused them such illness.

Centuries later, Roman soldiers in 67 B.C. also discovered “mad honey”, and this discovery soon turned into a disaster.

The soldiers pursued King Mithridates VI, the ruler of the Pontic kingdom, in order to kill him and seize his kingdom. Together with his Persian army, Mithridates developed a plan to defeat the Roman army with the help of mad-med.

Mithridates ordered his soldiers to fill the streets with pots full of crazy honey for the Romans to find. When the Romans found them, they naively ate the honey and soon fell ill, as did the soldiers of the Ten Thousand.

When the army was weakened by disease, the Persians attacked, killing over 1,000 Roman soldiers with ease. This is one of the earliest examples of the use of bioweapons in military operations.

Empress Olga of Kyiv accomplished similar feats with mad honey. In AD 946, she tricked Russian troops into drinking mead made from mad honey, which weakened them so much that she and her followers killed over 5,000 delusional men.

In 1489, the troops of Ivan the Great did the same, leaving behind huge containers of mead made from mad honey for the Tatar troops to drink and get sick. Ivan’s troops returned to the camp and destroyed many of the delusional Tatars.

Although it is mostly found and used around the Black Sea, some mad honey has been found in the United States, although this is rare. Some rhododendron plants can be found among the Appalachian Mountains in East Tennessee, causing native bees to produce a milder form of mad honey.

Civil War stories detail how Union troops found wild beehives in these mountains and ate honey, experiencing the same symptoms as previously described. However, this is the only major case of such a disease recorded in US history.

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Apis laboriosa, the Himalayan honey bee, is known for producing mad honey

As stated earlier, Mad Honey is produced mainly in Nepal and Turkey by the giant Himalayan honey bee. In some regions, the main flower is the rhododendron, which gives the bees little or no choice of flower type for honey production. These bees take nectar from wild rhododendron flowers, which contain grayanotoxins in the petals and leaves.

When the nectar is used to produce honey, the honey becomes saturated with these grayanotoxins, which cause vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, and other psychoactive effects seen in those who have consumed “mad honey”.

The lower the floral biodiversity in a region, the stronger the mad honey produced. Weaker versions of mad honey can be found in regions where both rhododendrons and other types of flowers grow.

Scientists say that there are more than 25 types of grayanotoxins, which are found in different amounts in rhododendrons, depending on the specific type of flower.

These grayanotoxins cause a physical effect by binding to sodium ion channels with tension in the cells of the body, which allows them to be kept open longer. When these channels are open, cells receive more sodium and calcium, which leads to the release of acetylcholine.

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An excess of acetylcholine results in the physical symptoms seen in those who consume Mad Honey, such as vomiting, urination, diarrhea, sweating, drooling, and emotional distress, a condition commonly referred to as cholinergic syndrome.

Grayanotoxins are also known to cause a drop in blood pressure and an increase in heart rate in small doses, and in large doses can be fatal. Fortunately, there are few reports that Mad Honey contains high enough concentrations of grayanotoxins to be lethal to humans, unless they are ingested in extremely high amounts.

Symptoms usually disappear after about 24 hours, although some symptoms disappear sooner. The more honey consumed, the more time it takes to process it and remove it from the body. As knowledge about mad honey spreads, fewer cases of poisoning are reported each year, and Turkey now averages only 12 cases per year.

While mad honey is not usually fatal to humans unless ingested in large amounts, animals such as dogs and cattle are much more likely to be fatal. In this regard, there are significantly more reports of accidental mad honey poisoning of animals that encounter honey in the wild.

To avoid poisoning and death of livestock, ranchers often check livestock areas for wild rhododendrons and Himalayan honey bees.

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Today, mad honey can still be found throughout Turkey and Nepal, both on the open market and on the black market. Although it costs less on the black market, safer, regulated versions can be found on government markets for a higher price.

Because mad honey is commonly found at high altitudes, such as mountains and cliff sides, hunting it can be a major problem. Honey gatherers often risk their lives traveling through unsafe areas in search of natural hives in order to take, process and sell mad honey for a profit.

Some public sellers now keep bees and rhododendrons themselves to make the process much safer for pickers. To get stronger honey, the bees should only be in the area where the rhododendrons grow, so that they do not have the opportunity to “weaken” the honey with the nectar of other flowers.

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Those who consume honey today are advised to consume only a small amount at a time. In small enough doses, honey can cause mild intoxication, which can lead to stress reduction, euphoria, dizziness, and mild hallucinations.

In Mad Honey’s countries of origin, some populations choose to consume honey instead of intoxicating themselves with alcohol, marijuana, or other recreational drugs. Others add honey to alcohol to enhance the effect.

However, even those who use honey are often warned against eating pure rhododendron. After being converted into honey, mad honey contains significantly less graanotoxins than the pure rhododendron plant.

Ingesting even a small amount of the plant itself can cause severe symptoms that could land you in the hospital or, worse, the morgue.

However, not everyone who takes Mad Honey consumes it for the high. Some use mad honey for a supposedly long-term effect on the body, which they claim is more effective than pharmaceuticals.

Those who use Mad Honey for medicinal purposes claim that it can relieve arthritis pain throughout the body, while others claim that it improves sexual performance and treats erectile dysfunction.

The latter view has likely contributed to the rise in cases of mad honey poisoning among middle-aged men in recent years.

While there is little evidence to support these claims, some research suggests that minimal doses of graanotoxins can have beneficial effects on the body. Some of these effects may help treat diseases such as hypertension, high cholesterol, sore throat and diabetes.

Trials of topical balms made with grayanotoxins have been shown to improve the healing of cold sores. However, you should not immediately run for “Mad Honey”: these tests are still ongoing, and the results cannot yet be called unambiguous.

The researchers hope to continue studying the effects of graanotoxins and mad honey in the coming years to determine if they could be used in future treatments.

For now, honey can still be found primarily in Turkey and Nepal, although it can be legally imported into several US states other than Indiana, Tennessee, Vermont, and Wisconsin as an herbal supplement.

However, it is recommended not to use this substance for medical purposes without a doctor’s recommendation due to its unpredictable nature. What may start out as a simple attempt to reduce anxiety can quickly turn into evening vomiting if too much is taken.

Although the research is not yet complete, the current findings on the effects of mad honey are very interesting.

If research continues, it is possible that future discoveries could lead to rabid honey being used as a natural treatment for certain ailments. In the meantime, we can only guess about the possibilities of this unusual red honey.


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