Just when you thought Mother Nature was at her weirdest with a mushroom that makes women orgasm, along comes this story of Himalayan bees and the people who hunt their trippy honey.
It's called mad honey and it fetches a mad price in China and Nepal. This honey is special because it's produced by the Himalayan cliff bee (Apis dorsata laboriosa). It's the largest bee in the world at just over 3 cm long.
Mad honey, also known as red honey, is a powerful hallucinogen and also sold as folk medicine to treat practically anything. The honey owes its unique properties to the Rhododendron flowers.
Rhododendron nectar contains an ingredient called grayanotoxin — a natural neurotoxin that, even in small quantities, brings on light-headedness and sometimes, hallucinations.
Twice a year, groups of Himalayan locals undertake the dangerous task of collecting honey from the huge bee hives along the high cliffs, at altitudes of 2500 meters or higher. Mad honey is up to five times more valuable than regular honey and is sold to wealthy locals and curious tourists.
Weapon of mad destruction
But before you rush to score some honey, there is a downside. In small amounts, the honey gives a feeling of relaxation, pleasant dizziness and a tingling sensation. In larger doses it can cause Rhododendron poisoning, which may lead to heart problems.
The honey has a long history - apparently even as a weapon. It's said that in 67 B.C. King Mithridates protected the Black Sea area from Roman invasion by leaving stashes of mad honey for the Roman soldiers to find. The intoxicated soldiers were easily dispatched, as the story goes.
The documentary shows the remarkable lengths people have gone to to access this rare and unique honey:
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