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Honey is usually a perfectly normal substance to eat and it’s consumed by the gallon around the world. But there’s a different type of honey that’s recently come into the spotlight and it’s called mad honey. This is a hallucinogen and is often used in places like Nepal by tribes for this very reason. But is Mad Honey legal?
At the time of writing, it is legal to buy mad honey if you live in the United States. However, there are some countries that have banned the sale of this substance including South Korea, India, Brazil, and Australia.
If you’ve never heard of mad honey and want to learn more about it then you’re in the right place. In this article, I’m going to explain what mad honey is, what it does to your body, and whether you can legally buy and use it.
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Mad honey is a type of honey that is produced by bees after they pollinate rhododendrons. The flowers of these plants produce a naturally occurring chemical called grayanotoxins although they’re not alone in this and there are other plant species that also produce the same toxins.
During the process of making honey, the sugars within the nectar from the flowers are broken down inside the bees’ stomachs. As this happens, moisture is removed and this means that the grayanotoxins become much more concentrated.
While mad honey has only recently come into the spotlight on the internet, people have actually been eating it for well over 2,000 years. While the honey is typically only produced in Turkey and Nepal, it’s been traded all over the world for thousands of years.
When we look at records, we can see one of the first incidents of humans eating mad honey in the year 401 BC! It was a philosopher from ancient Greece called Zenophon who created these records and in his literature, he talked about some soldiers who had eaten far too much mad honey. As a result, they ended up having some serious hallucinations and collapsing. The effects of the honey lasted several days and during this time, the soldiers experienced a wealth of nasty symptoms including gastrointestinal issues and weakness.
Over the years, mad honey began being exported to Europe and it’s thought that this happened in the 18th century. However, it wasn’t such a big hit and even today, most people don’t even know that it exists.
In Nepal, mad honey has been harvested for millennia but it’s not an easy process and in order to get to the honey, people have to literally risk their lives. They have to use very basic ladders, often made from rope to scale the cliff sides at the same time as trying to smoke the bees away so they can access the precious honeycomb.
While this might be dangerous, it’s vital that these people can get their hands on the mad honey because it serves as a viable source of income for people in remote, poor places.
Whether or not you’re legally able to buy mad honey depends on your location. There are some countries that have entirely outlawed the sale of mad honey while others are pretty lenient with it. However, it is worth keeping in mind that even where mad honey is legal, there are often age restrictions on who can buy it. Typically, it’s only available to those over the age of 18.
Coming from Nepal, it’s no surprise that mad honey is perfectly legal here. With that said, it’s not a total free-for-all and the government in Nepal has laid out some rules and regulations that must be adhered to.
This ensures that the harvest, sale, and consumption of mad honey is as safe as possible. Although, as I’ll discuss later, there are still risks involved.
In Nepal, the Department of Drug Administration has to monitor the production of mad honey and it’s also responsible for ensuring that the import and distribution of the product complies with government guidelines. This means that, in order to produce mad honey in Nepal, you must have the correct license and closely follow safety regulations. Producers are often expected to comply with inspections to ensure a continued safe production of the honey.
What’s more, when mad honey is produced and sold in Nepal, the container must display labeling that explains how the product may affect the consumer. It must also carry a recommendation for dosage.
In the USA, it is legal to buy mad honey although the production of the product is closely regulated by the FDA. This includes ensuring correct and informative labeling, as is the case in Nepal, and checking the product to make sure it’s safe to use.
In the event that mad honey is found to have any toxic substances or comes with a risk to the end user then the FDA is permitted to take appropriate action. This could mean the product being removed from the market.
If you live in Canada and want to try mad honey then it’s good news because it’s perfectly legal here. However, as with other nations, there are regulations in place to do with the sale and distribution of this honey, it’s labeling, and other factors. In Canada, these regulations are monitored by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency which is also responsible for setting these standards.
However, if you are in Canada then it is also worth looking at local laws because different provinces have different regulations. In some areas, the grayanotoxins found in mad honey are considered to be a controlled substance so there may be restrictions around possessing or selling the product.
The rules in Europe vary from country to country but in a lot of places, mad honey is regarded as a novel food. This means that anyone selling it must acquire the correct authorization. But this doesn’t apply to every country so it’s best to check your government website for more information.
Europe-wide, the responsibility for assessing mad honey and its safety lies with the European Food Safety Authority which performs detailed evaluations on the product, its risks and how it should be used.
What’s more, any mad honey products must meet the labeling standards set by the EU. This means that all labels should have dosage information, an ingredient list, and details on the potential risks.
It is worth noting that in Spain, there are much tighter restrictions. The sale of mad honey is monitored by The Spanish Food Safety and Nutrition Agency and it is not permissible to sell mad honey until it complies with their standards.
There are some countries around the world that have completely banned the sale of mad honey. If you live in any of the following nations then I would not try to obtain this product as you may face penalties.
- South Korea
There are tons of websites that offer mad honey and some of these may or may not have a physical store. You can even pick up Mad Honey on Amazon!
However, I would strongly recommend that you only purchase mad honey that is 100% produced in Nepal where the standards are incredibly high. What’s more, you need to be able to guarantee that the mad honey does not contain any additional, potentially harmful ingredients.
Mad honey is mainly promoted as a hallucinogen and is something that has been consumed in Nepal for thousands of years purely because of these effects. What’s more, the Nepalese people believe that there are a number of health benefits associated with eating mad honey including the treatment of aches and pains, hypertension, and diabetes. With that said, there isn’t a lot of research into these potential benefits and while it’s thought that grayanotoxins could help to lower blood pressure, the risks haven’t properly been assessed.
So, what happens when you consume mad honey? Let’s get sciency!
When grayanotoxins enter your body they bind to the sodium ion channels within your cells. This stops the channels from closing and allows a greater amount of calcium to get inside each cell. Calcium has the ability to boost the release of a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine and this is what causes the effects of the product.
While a lot of people are keen to try mad honey for its hallucinogenic effect, it’s worth keeping in mind that there are many other effects that may not be as pleasant. These can include any of the following and what one person experiences may be different from the next.
- Blurred vision
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- A tingling or prickling sensation in your extremities.
- Unconsciousness or impaired consciousness
- Low blood pressure
- Twitches or convulsions
- Muscle weakness or a lack of muscle control
- Problems with breathing
Since we know that mad honey contains a toxin, we have to keep in mind that this in itself comes with a risk. While a very small amount of grayanotoxin will likely result in a relaxing effect, taking too much can poison the body and result in some very unpleasant symptoms.
What’s more, it’s worth noting that some people may exhibit an allergic reaction to grayanotoxin. For some, this may result in minor symptoms that serve as nothing more than an irritation but for others, allergic reactions can be serious and even fatal.
You should also consider any medication you are taking because there is a risk that the grayanotoxins may have an undesired effect when mixed with these medications. If you are in any way confused about the interactions between certain substances and your medication, you should speak to your doctor.
As I have mentioned, there hasn’t been a lot of research into the use and effects of mad honey. However, it is reported that, while very rare, mad honey may lead to heart arrhythmia which, in some cases, can be fatal.
In most cases, the effects of grayanotoxins are temporary but there is no treatment other than symptomatic treatment. For example, if the honey results in hypertension then you’ll need to take atropine sulfate and plenty of fluids until the symptoms pass. Moreover, you should remember that prolonged use of mad honey and the resulting symptoms could have more serious long-term effects.
Whether or not you decide to try mad honey is a very personal decision. I would not want to tell you to go ahead and do it if you’re in any way unsure.
However, if you do decide to give it a try then it’s vital to only take a single tablespoon each day. For people who have never tried mad honey, it might be better to start with a very small amount and gradually increase this as you build tolerance for the substance.
I’d also urge you to consider the safety of the product. If you’ve done your research, you’ll know that mad honey is eaten all over the world and most people don’t even think twice about it. But since there are risks involved, it’s worth weighing these up to help you make a decision.
Not only does mad honey contain an active toxin but since it is a naturally produced substance, there’s no real way of knowing the potency of it. While one batch may not have much of an effect on you another could really knock you about.
Mad honey had long flown under the radar but recently, a lot more people are becoming aware of it and want to give it a try.
For the most part, when consumed properly, mad honey won’t have any serious detrimental effects (although it’s always possible), but since it contains a toxin, it makes you wonder if mad honey is legal?
The law on mad honey varies around the world but in most places it is legal. However, the production, sale, and distribution of mad honey is closely monitored and there are restrictions in place to ensure the safety of the public.