Himalayan Cliff Honey is harvested from the mountains of Nepal and known for its potential hallucinogenic effects.
For this reason, it is also known as mad honey or Himalayan mad honey.
The active compound in the honey is due to its grayanotoxin content, which comes from the rhododendron species of plant where the Himalayan bees collect their nectar.
While it has some benefits, there are also risks to eating too much or for certain groups of people, such as pregnant women.
Prices can reach up to $320 per kilogram.
Fake Himalayan honey can be an issue, however, there are products available certified by the Nepal government you can buy.
In the vast and majestic landscape of the Himalayas of Nepal, nestled within the steep cliffs, lies a sweet treasure known as Himalayan Cliff Honey, affectionately referred to as "mad honey."
This unique and rare honey has captivated explorers and honey enthusiasts for centuries, earning its intriguing nickname due to its fascinating properties.
Coming from New Zealand, we always love learning about, tasting and researching different honey from around the world.
Honey has been such a huge part of our lives, and it's wonderful to think there are people all around the world enjoying special and unique honey.
Let's take a look at what this mysterious honey is, why its famous, and how to get some!
What is Himalayan Cliff Honey?
Himalayan Honey is a type of honey produced by Apis dorsata laboriosa, the largest honeybee species in the world, native to the Himalayan region in Nepal.
These bees brave the treacherous cliffs at altitudes ranging from 8,000 to 15,000 feet to collect nectar from various alpine flowers and rhododendron flowers in particular.
The resulting honey has a distinct reddish color and a rich, robust flavor profile that sets it apart from other varieties.
Why is it called "Mad Honey"?
The moniker "mad honey" can be attributed to the unique psychoactive properties associated with its consumption, which you will not find in any regular honey.
When ingested in significant amounts, the active compounds present in the honey can induce a range of effects, including hallucinogenic visions, dizziness, and nausea.
These effects, combined with the thrill-seeking nature of those who sought out this honey, gave rise to its captivating nickname.
The Science Behind Mad Honey
Mad honey owes its psychoactive properties to grayanotoxins, a group of naturally occurring neurotoxins found in the nectar of certain plants, such as rhododendrons, which the honey bees pollen collect from.
Grayanotoxins interfere with the normal functioning of the nervous system by binding to sodium channels, leading to a series of physiological effects.
The concentration of grayanotoxins varies in different batches of honey, contributing to the varying intensities of its effects.
Who Discovered Mad Honey?
The discovery and use of mad honey can be traced back centuries.
Historically, local tribes in the Himalayas, notably the Gurung people of Nepal, were aware of the psychoactive properties of this honey.
They would incorporate it into traditional medicinal practices and cultural rituals.
In more recent times, explorers and adventurers, intrigued by the tales of its effects, sought out the honey, further popularizing its reputation.
Nowadays, mad honey is a big industry in Nepal. Honey hunters scale the cliffs hunting for hives, harvest the honey and prepare it for sale. Over the years the word has spread, and demand is now global.
The Health Benefits of Mad Honey
Despite its potential risks, mad honey also possesses certain health benefits when consumed in moderation.
It contains a variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, offering potential immune-boosting and anti-inflammatory properties.
Like most honey, mad honey is also believed to have antibacterial and antifungal effects, making it a popular choice for traditional healing practices.
Risks of Eating Mad Honey
While the allure of mad honey is undeniable, it is crucial to acknowledge the potential risks associated with its consumption.
The primary concern is the potential for grayanotoxin's toxic effects, especially when ingested in large quantities.
Excessive consumption of mad honey can lead to symptoms such as dizziness, vomiting, low blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, and, in severe cases, cardiac arrhythmias or even death.
Pregnant women, individuals with heart conditions, and those taking certain medications should exercise extreme caution or avoid mad honey altogether.
Where Can You Buy Mad Honey?
There are a number of places you can buy mad honey.
The best place we know of is Honey Nepal.
We have not personally tried or tasted this honey, but according to their website, they harvest mad honey straight from the mountains of Nepal, employ sustainable harvesting practices and their products are certified by Nepal’s Ministry of Agriculture.
Each jar is also traceable to the source.