Mad honey is Himalayan honey valued for its traditional healing properties. It is harvested from a cliff amidst red rhododendron forest. Hilly and mountain region of Nepal harbours medicinal plants like Acacia catechu, Bacopa monnieri, Bombax ceiba, Drymaria diandra, Rauvolfia serpentina,Tribulus etc. giant Himalayan honey bee collects nectar from the flowering medicinal plants and stores it in the form of most potent form, the honey.
Mad honey is psychedelic due to the presence of grayanotoxin. Giant honey bee accumulates grayanotoxin along with nectar from the rhododendron flower which contains grayanotoxin
Mad honey in Nepal is harvested by the locals, usually gurungs of foothills of mountain. It is especially found in Lamjung, Dolpa, Mugu and Mygdhi. It is harvested 2-times a year. Hunters hang with locally made ropes with stairs without other protection. One of the hunters burns green leaves to distract bees, another lowers the basket and another hunter strikes the bee comb with a wooden stick. After the honey drops in the basket, the basket is pulled to the top of the cliff.
This Honey is separated from the comb using a local bamboo basket. Honey drips from the small pores in a basket like a fine golden thread. Hunters know how strong the honey is i.e it’s Grayanotoxin levels just by dropping a drop of honey in their hand. A hunter said “ if honey is strong it produces burning sensations if with a drop in hand. This same honey may not produce the same burning sensation to you. It is because we have our senses to it. ”
Mad honey is valuable in the international market due to its medicinal properties. The price of mad also may vary with time of harvest. Mad honey is classified into Rhodium, platinum, and gold versions on the basis of grayanotoxin level and price may vary in among these versions.
Rhodium version is the exotic one. Out of the total harvest, hardly 20KG is obtained depending on the type of weather, rainfall and flowers on the forest. It has hallucinogenic effect due to presence of “Grayanotoxin” that bee collects from the Rhododendron flowers. Dose shouldnt exceed more than 1 tablespoon i.e., 21 grams in 24 hours span.
Platinum version is the semi-hallucinogenic with other nutritional properties remaining the same. The hunters from the rugged cliff in 2000 MASL to 2500 MASL hunt honey, filter it through traditional process and transfer for packaging. This contains moderate amount of Grayanotoxin chemical usually harvested in the month of Baishak and Jestha (April to June) in Nepal.
Gold version is non-hallucinogenic and nutritional type of mad honey. This honey is harvested in between 1500 MASL to 2000 MASL. The hunting takes place in the month of Ashwin to Kartik (September to November) in Nepal.
Wild honey bees collect very little percentage of honey that is hallucinogenic depending upon the type of weather and type of forage. For instance, heavy pre-monsoon rain will lead to dilution of chemicals in the nectar leading to the collection of non-hallucinogenic honey by bees. Likewise, only selective forage plant have hallucinogenic chemical.