Frequently asked questions
What is Mad Honey?
Deli bal or Mad Honey
To some, this curious honey is considered highly medicinal and worth its weight in gold — almost literally. To others, it’s known as “mad” and even “toxic.” As it happens, both groups would be right. Both neurotoxins and powerful natural compounds contribute to sickness in some and healing benefits in others. A truly paradoxical honey.
Where does hallucinogenic honey come from?
“Mad” honey is nothing new to the world. For millennia, beekeepers around Turkey’s Black Sea region have collected honey that’s made from the nectar of pink-colored rhododendron flowers. Those flowers are highly toxic. The bees pass those toxins from the flower into their honey, which then creates a neurotoxic, sometimes hallucinogenic effect.
Those rhododendron flowers contain a compound called grayanotoxin. This neurotoxin is known to cause hallucinogenic effects in those who consume honey from its pollen.
Who hunt mad honey in Nepal?
Known as “honey hunters,” these brave foragers are trained from generation to generation. They bring in the valuable proceeds from selling the honey to enthusiastic black market buyers in Korea and elsewhere. According to some reports, that honey reaches up to five times the price of normal honey, fueling the honey hunters’ daredevil efforts.
Those nests can reach up to five feet in diameter and contain up to 132 pounds (60 kilograms) of honey, making the harvest of this hallucinogenic food very lucrative indeed. The hunt takes place twice a year, in the spring and again in autumn. The villagers pack their knapsacks with rope and provisions, setting off for the cliffs their ancestors have visited for generations. Then, using only hemp rope and bamboo ladders, they begin their climb. They scale the precipitous cliff faces to collect the honey in a large bucket. They then pass it back down the ladder to another “honey hunter.” Over the course of a year, the 12 villages of “honey hunters” will collect around 6,613 pounds (3,000 kilograms) of red honey.
What are the effects of eating Himalayan honey?
"I have eaten two teaspoons, the quantity recommended by honey hunters and approximately in 15 minutes have begun to feel something, similar to a weed. It seemed to me that my body cools down, since a nape and down. The deep, ice, but at the same time hot feeling has stopped in a stomach — and all this proceeded several hours" — the traveler David Caprara who in 2016 has gone to Nepal to take part in honey hunting writes on Vice. In the traveling notes he notes that his dose was slightly lower than average so the effect can quite be more intensive.