For today's article I am going to be doing something a bit different than my usual articles. A lesson in the culture history and science surrounding a taboo & miraculous substance. Some people may have already heard of this culinary compound by its modern name mad honey. However the original Turkish name for mad honey is deli bal‘s. So what’s the story behind this potent produce.
Mad honey contains am ingredient from rhododendron nectar called grayanotoxin a natural neurotoxin that can cause light-headedness and sometimes, hallucinations even in small quantities. The historical records show that it was used recreationaly medicinally & even as a wepon.
The first major historical event occurred in 67 B.C. Roman soldiers invaded the Black Sea region commanded by General Pompey. Little did the Roman know a clever trap was waiting. Those loyal to the reigning King Mithridates secretly lined the Romans path with enticing chunks of mad honeycomb. The unwitting army ate these causing them to slip into an intoxicated stupor. Once intoxicated the soldiers became easy prey and were slain.
Later In the 1700s the Black Sea region traded alcoholic beverages with honey that contained small amounts of grayanotoxin added. Primarily trading with European markets honey was infused with drinks to give boozers a greater high than alcohol could deliver.
Although the product makes up only a tiny percentage of the Black Sea’s honey production it’s long held a strong Turkish following many locals view it as medicinal. This rich history along with Turkey’s 18th Century trading tradition seems to account for mad honey’s persistence in the present day.
Süleyman Türedi a doctor at the Karadeniz Technical University School of Medicine in Trabzon, Turkey, who studies mad honeys effects and has witnessed more than 200 cases of mad honey poisoning. To quote Süleyman Türedi "more than 700 different species [of rhododendron] in the world, but according to our knowledge just two or three include grayanotoxin in their nectars."
In Turkey not only are the poisonous rhododendrons abound, but the humid mountainous slopes around the Black Sea provide a perfect habitat for these flowers to grow in monocrop. When bees make honey in these fields no other nectars get mixed in resulting in a potent and pure honey.
Vaughn Bryant, a pollen expert at the Texas A&M University who studies pollen traces in honey confirms that mad honey is easy enough to purchase from abroad via the Internet. Infact a cursory internet search can corroborate this statement just to reaserch the quotes for this article i found a few different sources on eBay Etsy.
Now feels like a good time for a disclaimer I am not condoning the use of mad honey nor promoting it. I wrote this for educational purposes only remember that there are cases of poisoning connected with mad honey. Just because you can obtain it doesn't mean you should use it for recreational purposes. Nor am I judging anyone who uses mad honey for cultural reasons.
Nero chemical interactions WIKI
The toxicity of grayanotoxin is derived from its ability to interfere with voltage-gated sodium located in the cell membranes of nerons.
The Na 1.x channels consist of four homologous domains each containing six transmembrane alpha-helical segments. Other toxins that bind to this region include the alkaloids such as veratridine, batrachotoxin and aconitine. At the peak of the action potential, voltage-gated sodium channels are quickly inactivated and are only reset once the cell has repolarized to resting potential. When grayanotoxin is present, binding induces further conformational changes that prevent sodium channel inactivation and lead to a prolonged depolarization.
This so-called "mad honey" is the most common cause of grayanotoxin poisoning in humans. Small-scale producers of mad honey typically harvest honey from a small area or single hive in order to produce a final product containing a significant concentration of grayanotoxin.
I am an open minded individual with a rather permissive view on experiences that many people likely don't consider acceptable. If I can I would like to try mad honey (deli bal‘s) at least once in my life. From what I've learned from researching this article the mad honey on the internet is usually either fake or diluted. Maybe it's just a retirement sorta thing to travel to Nepal or Turkey and experience this culinary custom. If you're offended by this article I'm sorry it is not my intention to promote drug use nor offend a region or it's people. This is just a fascination of mine learning about historical examples of remedies that have made it to the modern world.