Things to Know Before You Try Mad Honey—The Red Honey From Nepal

On the foothills of the Himalayas, hanging in the cliffs with a rope among thousands of bees whose one sting can cause you a lot. All those risks for just for the honey.

Up in the Himalayan foothills lives a tribe, the Gurung tribe. The tribe that has earned a certain reputation —that of being absolutely nuts as they make their living scaling dizzying cliffs to harvest wild honey popularly known as ‘Mad Honey’, which brings them a handsome payoff market because of the hefty price it carries at the local market.

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Mad Honey is a biological product of wild alpine honey bees found in the Himalayan region. These bees feed on rhododendron flowers, the source of the psychoactive element present in their honey.

What’s so mad about this honey, and why do people really risk their lives for it? Here are some of the interesting facts and things you would want to know before you try the Mad Honey.

  1. Rhododendron flowers contain grayanotoxin, a mild neurotoxin that is known to cause “hallucinogenic effects” when consumed. 
  2. In Nepal, one of the world’s giant honey bees—the Himalayan rock bees—build their hives in the crevices of towering cliffs. Himalayan farmers risk their lives collecting these hard-to-reach honeycombs and selling the honey to Korea, where its sold for a hefty price.


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  3.  Himalayan honey bees are also the largest in the world. They can grow up to 1.2 inches.

  4. “Mad Honey” is widely sought for its medicinal properties— from treating hypertension and diabetes to improving sexual performance—when consumed in small amounts.
  5. That said, it has a little more of a hallucinogenic effect than your average honey. To put it mildly, just one spoonful can get you as effed-up as a football bat. A tiny spoonful on the tongue is more than enough; any more and you’re at risk of “mad honey poisoning”. It causes low blood pressure and heartbeat irregularities, and in extreme, but thankfully rare, cases, unnecessary fatality. This is honey in its most hardcore form.

6It was once used as a weapon of war. In 67BC, King Mithridates’ army left chunks of “mad honeycomb” in the path of the Roman enemy, who gobbled them up, lost their minds and was promptly slain.

7. Medical remedies aside, if you’re searching for that next great high, mad honey is probably not the best place to look. Biologist Sean McCann agrees, “The compounds involved are not super fun. Not something I would recommend, as there are far better and safer hallucinogenic compounds that you can use.”

8.Other than the mountains of Nepal, the Turkish region closest to the Black Sea, the Pacific Northwest of the United States and a handful of other locales around the globe is home to a potent type of honey like ‘Mad Honey’.

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Written by Dorjee Khando

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