You know the old saying, “you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar”? Well, that works especially well when it comes to bees. Most types of honey are irresistible to our trusted pollinators and they respond in kind by making the sweet stuff and coming back again to make more. It turns out that not all honeys are created equal. In fact, there are so many different kinds of honey that it’s almost hard to keep track of them all. From blueberry honey to eucalyptus honey – even manuka honey – there is a world of variety in this natural sweetener. But perhaps one of the most unusual types of honey you can get your hands on is known as mad honey or also called rhododendron honey, which is produced from the nectar of certain plants and trees found in Nepal and Turkey.

What is Mad Honey?

Mad honey is a viscous, honey-like substance that is made from the nectar of certain types of rhododendrons. This type of honey is extremely rare and is generally only found in certain areas of Nepal and Turkey, where the tree grows in the wild. While you might be tempted to call mad honey a “superfood”, it’s actually not a type of food at all – it’s a medicinal product that can be used topically or even taken orally in certain cases.

Why is it Called Mad Honey?

Mad honey is called mad because of the hallucinogenic effect that it has on people. While the precise chemical composition responsible for this has not yet been determined, there is evidence that it includes small amounts of toxic chemicals. Rhododendron flowers contain grayanotoxins, which are potent neurotoxins. When the nectar of these flowers is made into honey, these toxins remain and get concentrated. When the honey is consumed, these toxins can produce symptoms ranging from mild delirium to hallucinations. However, some people may not experience any effects at all. In fact, the potency of mad honey varies greatly between regions. This is because the amount of toxins in the honey depends on the particular rhododendron species that the honeybees visit and the amount of nectar they collect from each plant.

What’s So Special About It?

Mad honey is a rare and exotic delicacy that is produced in very small quantities. It’s extremely expensive and is frequently used as a gift by dignitaries. But the real allure of mad honey is that it is produced from a very rare nectar source. This means that it’s very hard to find, let alone produce. In fact, only a few beekeepers in Nepal and Turkey have ever made mad honey, and these operations are very time-consuming.

How is Mad Honey Made?

Mad honey is made from a single species of rhododendron known as Rhododendron anthopogon. Rhododendron flowers have nectar that is extremely sweet – so sweet, in fact, that it’s been known to attract bees from miles away. Beekeepers take advantage of this by selecting rhododendrons that bloom on an extremely delayed schedule. This means that they only bloom once a year (usually in the spring), which gives beekeepers plenty of time to collect the honey before any bees are harmed. The beekeepers make mad honey by harvesting the nectar from the rhododendron flowers. This nectar is then heated to around 100 degrees Celsius, which kills any bacteria and breaks down the sugars. When the nectar cools, it becomes very viscous and turns into a sticky brown substance.

The Catch: Is It Harmful or Dangerous to Eat?

As mentioned above, mad honey is made from toxic nectar collected from rhododendron flowers. While some people experience no effects whatsoever from eating mad honey, others may experience delirium, disorientation or vomiting due to the toxic compounds in the honey. The exact composition of these toxic compounds remains a bit of a mystery – and that’s part of what makes mad honey such a fascinating product. Scientists have yet to determine exactly which compounds are responsible for the toxic effects of mad honey. As such, they don’t know how or even if the honey can be safely consumed.

Bottom Line

Mad honey is a rare and exotic type of honey that is produced from the nectar of certain types of rhododendrons. This honey is extremely expensive and is often given as a gift by dignitaries. Mad honey is also known for its hallucinogenic effects, although its precise chemical composition remains a mystery. There is evidence that mad honey also contains toxic compounds that can have adverse effects on consumers. Nevertheless, some people have successfully consumed this honey, and others have used it topically as a powerful medicine.