‘Mad’ or Hallucinogenic Honey

Or How to Select Your Honey

Ever heard of hallucinogenic or ‘Mad’ Honey?
The 1st recorded report about the ‘Mad’ honey comes from a famous Greek warrior and historian Xenophon of Athens who in 401 B.C.E. was returning home with the Greek army along the shores of the Black Sea (now modern Turkey) after the battles with the Persians.

Xenophone wrote that after his fellow Greek soldiers feasted on local honey, they “were like people exceedingly drunk, while those who had eaten a great deal seemed like crazy, or even, in some cases, dying men”. 

The honey produced from the nectar of flowering rhododendrons that are especially abundant along the shores of the Black Sea contains grayanotoxin – it’s a neurotoxin that can cause intoxication characterized by dizziness, lowering of blood pressure and vivid hallucinations.

Although Xenophone’s soldiers had eventually recovered and escaped unharmed, over 350 years later when the Roman soldiers led by Pompeii the Great were passing through the same area and were not as fortunate.

In 67 B.C.E. the Roman army led by Pompei the Great was chasing the Persian army of King Mithridates of Pontus along the Black sea coast.

Retreating Persians left many honey jars of the same “Sweet but psychoactive” honey. After the Romans feasted on that honey and were similarly incapacitated, 1 thousand Roman soldiers were ambushed and massacred. 

While neurotoxins in honey are relatively rare as they can be avoided by not having any rhododendrons, azaleas and mountain laurels within a mile of the apiaries, there’s a lot of commercial honey containing hard-to-avoid harmful substances like pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. 

A large Swiss University study of hundreds of honey samples around the world found that pesticides commonly used to boost crop yield occur in 75% of the studied commercial honey samples.

A Danish study found dangerously elevated levels of herbicides in honey and pollen from beehives next to 20 conventional agricultural fields.

And a USDA study found elevated level of pesticides and chemical residue from beehive treatments in conventionally managed apiaries.

Chronic long-term health effects from pesticide and herbicide exposure include cancer, brain and nervous system damage; birth defects & infertility, damage to the liver, kidneys, lungs.

When you think you are getting your standard local raw honey, what you could be really getting is a nicely perfumed mix of harmful substances.

There is a way to avoid getting honey with elevated levels of pesticides/herbicides and fungicides:
(1) Forget large conventional apiaries
(2) Find out where your local apiary is located – should not be within 2 miles of conventional agricultural fields
(3) Make sure that the apiary does not use conventional chemical treatments for honeybees

There’s one more important issue with the commercial honey & here I need to tell you one Beekeeper’s secret.

When I was 12, my grandmother and I happened to be guests of honor at a beekeepers house and I still remember the taste of their absolutely delicious honey.

The beekeeper told us a secret why that honey was really exceptional: she said it came from 2 hives that were intended for their family only & that we were treated as family.

The beekeeper also said that when she sells her honey at a Farmers market it comes from the rest of her hives where she feeds her bees with sugar which increases her honey yield by the amount of sugar she feeds.

In his influential book on natural beekeeping “Keeping Bees with the Smile”, Lazutin suggests that to avoid supplemental feedings each bee colony needs a good clean natural forageable area with at least an acre of Spring-to-Fall rich nectar resources far away from any conventional agricultural fields.

Most beekeepers don’t have the luxury of having such vast amount of clean unpolluted land with rich nectar resources far away from conventional agricultural fields. And that’s why sugar feeding is rampant and that’s why conventional honey tastes mediocre.

Natural Beekeepers do not feed the bees with sugar syrup at all- there’s not enough nutrients in sugar! Too much sugar is as bad for the bees as it is for people!
Natural beekeepers tend to leave sufficient honey resources to the bees!

Just like you can taste and appreciate good wine, you can also taste and appreciate good natural unpolluted raw honey.
This was the first early summer honey sample from ForestBeehive that those who tasted is described as “incredible” & “joyful”- it’s a light amber sweet & very floral honey where you can almost “taste individual flowers”.