The Mad Honey Experiment: Nepalese mad honey is as trippy as it is tasty, but very unlike other psychedelics
This ain't your grandma's honey
I had no idea what to expect, as I mixed the mad honey into my green tea at Hapa sushi. I’d been told this stuff was medicinal, psychedelic even, but to what extent? I was curious.
Soon enough I’d know.
A few weeks earlier I’d arrived at the Rooster’s office to find a strange surprise on my desk: A package from Australia, addressed to me — which was unusual. Aside from the occasional album or book to review, I don’t get much in the way of mail at this place.
So, I sat down and opened the box, to discover two jars with purple and white labels that read: Mad Honey Nepal.
“This is pure MAD HONEY,” the label continues on the other side. “Known as Cliff Honey by the locals from high in the mountains of Lamjung, Nepal. It is harvested from the Rhododendron ponticum flower and contains grayanotoxin. We only sell the most potent mad honey.”
I had reached out to this company, Mad Honey Nepal, after reading about this strange “psychedelic” honey that had once gotten an entire Roman army fucked up and subsequently slaughtered by their foes (seriously). According to anecdotes like these, mad honey can cause hallucinations and has a profound effect on one’s state of consciousness.
I was intrigued. A natural psychedelic drug produced by honey bees? It sounded right up my alley. So, I called Andrew Bastow, the founder and owner of Mad Honey Nepal to learn more about his honey, what it does, and of course, to request a sample.
“Probably about five or ten years ago now, I read an article online about honey that could get you high,” Bastow says. “I saw that there was no one selling it and I thought to myself it might be a good opportunity, if it was real, to go out and try and find it.”
Which was exactly what he did. Bastow packed his bags, got a translator and bought a plane ticket to Turkey — one of only two places on the planet where mad honey is produced.
“I journeyed down there, and had to go into the villages and speak to the villagers about the honey. And I got to try it from the actual hives,” he says. “And sure enough, it turned out to be real.”
That was when he decided to make a business out of this stuff. He felt the euphoric effects of the Turkish mad honey and recognized that there was a lot of potential to bring it to market.
Enter: Mad Honey Nepal. Bastow started the business after discovering that the Nepalese mad honey is between 10 and 15 times stronger than the Turkish analog. In Nepal, locals have been using mad honey for thousands of years, for its medicinal and mystical properties.
It’s not easy to collect, though. The honey bees that make mad honey are the largest in the world and they only build their hives high on cliff faces. So, to harvest the honey comb honey hunters must climb rope ladders, while huge bees swarm all around, stinging them as they use bamboo lances to dislocate the mad honey comb from the rock. Then it has to be processed and Bastow’s is lab-tested for purity, safety and efficacy.
But the reward is worth the effort.
Photos courtesy of Andrew Bastow.
I dipped my chopsticks in the jar of honey, which I had brought with me on my valentine’s day date with my girlfriend. She watched, intrigued, as I mixed the honey into my green tea one dip at a time. When I thought I’d mixed in about a teaspoon, I put the chopsticks down and lifted my glass.
We clinked tea to sake, and I drank the concoction down.
The honey itself tastes pretty much as you would expect: sweet. It’s got a reddish hue that comes from the pollen of the rhododendron flowers that the bees pollinate and it has the consistency of cough syrup. Bastow says that it burns the back of your throat if you eat it straight — but I didn’t experience that in the tea.
Within 40ish minutes I could feel the honey creeping up on me. The back of my head started to tingle, like I was getting a scalp massage. Then, from within, I felt a warmth around my heart, in my chest and abdomen. Things slowed down a little, and my state of mind became tranquil. By the time we left the restaurant I was feeling good and strange.
There are no visuals, though. The high is very much a bodily one and a mental one; a warm and relaxed sensation more like a sedative than your conventional psychedelic. Which makes sense, grayanotixin, the psychoactive ingredient in mad honey is actually a delieriant, instead of a hallucinogen.
So don’t try and get too crazy with this stuff — the recommended dose is just one teaspoon and you should not take any more than that. On this point, Bastow was adamant. Because this stuff is technically a neurotoxin, too much of it can actually poison you. Some anecdotes describe mad honey poisoning as being extremely uncomfortable: your vision blurs and closes off, you get confused and disoriented, you vomit, get dhiarrea and are very, very high. It sounds like dark trip and not one I want any part of.
However, in small doses, the mad honey high is a pleasant one. It’s not overpowering, it doesn’t muddle your mind too badly and gives you warm and fuzzy feelings all over. You can buy your own jar on Bastow’s website for Mad Honey Nepal.
It’s legal and he ships anywhere in the US.