Mad honey is made by bees
that feed on rhododendron flowers, which give it its psychoactive effects. Rhododendrons, evergreen flowering plants that grow in temperate, mountainous areas around the world, contain chemicals called grayanotoxins.
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. The people of Nepal use it for medicinal purposes, as well as a recreational drug.
“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.