Mad honey is ordinary honey that contains a neurotoxin that is found in certain varieties of rhododendron. This neurotoxin is called grayanotoxin and has an intoxicant effect resulting in light-headedness and sometimes hallucinations.
Although only three varieties of rhododendron contain the neurotoxin in their nectar, the mountainous terrain around the Black Sea is the perfect environment for these varieties and they grow there in abundance. When bees make honey from their nectar the result is this type of honey.
The honey has a dark, reddish colour and originated from Turkey where it is known as ‘deli bal’. It was first introduced to Europe in the 1700s by traders from the Black Sea region and was added to alcoholic drinks to improve their potency.
The honey, even in small doses, can cause low blood pressure and heartbeat irregularities that can cause the user to experience nausea, blurred vision, fainting, hallucinations and, in rare cases, death.