A Mystery Journey Into The World Of Nepal’s Hallucinogen Honey Hunters

mAD honey hunters nepal
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The Hallucinogen Honey Hunters of The Himalayan Mountains

Few have captured, if not witnessed, the centuries-old traditions of the Gurung, the Hallucinogen Honey Hunting Tribe from the Himalayan mountains.

The Gurungs, also known as Tamu, are a Tibetan-Burmese Himalayan ethnic group living in small villages located in the foothills of the Himalayas in central Nepal.

They are the last humans before a thousand-meter mountain peak. Their isolation and lifestyle make them more than unique and can only leave you speechless.

The Gurung Tribe Carry Out An Ancient Tradition

Twice a year, teams of men gather around the cliffs of the Himalayas to extract this precious wild nectar from the hives of the Apis Laboriosa, located hundreds of meters above the ground.

The Apis Laboriosa is one of the largest species in the world, where their larger bodies have adapted to the colder climate of these areas.

The Gurungs have forged a genuine bond with these gigantic Himalayan bees, a special bond of recognition, trust, and, above all, gratitude towards them. It is impossible not to be amazed by this ancient practice that leaves us speechless.

The Hallucinogen Honey Hunters of The Himalayan Mountains, Image Source: www.zmescience.com
mAD honey hunters nepal
mAD honey hunters nepal
Images source:: Éric Tourneret,  Eric Valli

The Ritual Harvest Of Nepal's Red Honey

Nepalese culture is born from ancient “know-how”, centuries of tradition, and rituals that are handed down from generation to generation.

The morning of the harvest begins with a ceremony in honor of the gods of the region who ask for protection during the harvest. Incense is burned and an animal sacrifice is offered as a sign of respect. The first cooked meat and rice will be offered to the princely hunter, that is the one who goes down the ladder to collect the honey, risking his life. This work involves significant risks; over the years several people have lost their lives on these cliffs, where their names are engraved as a sign of honor and respect.

A Meticulous Collection Process:

The Gurungs use smoke to stun the bees, without preventing them from being stung. There is to consider that everything happens in hard conditions without protection, suspended from bamboo stairs 200 feet above the ground, in t-shirts, and with bare hands. Painful stings, rope burns, and blisters are all part of the experience of this centuries-old practice.

Once the bees have been smoked, the hives are removed with the use of sharp sticks known as “tango”. This stage is known as the “cutter” and ends once the members of the tribe have collected enough wild honey (a hive can hold over 50 liters!) to return to the village.

This collection is not a matter of a few minutes, it can last from two to three hours just for a single wall!

The Hallucinogen Honey Hunters of The Himalayan Mountains, Image Source: myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com
The Hallucinogen Honey Hunters of The Himalayan Mountains, Image Source: coolsandfools.com
The Hallucinogen Honey Hunters of The Himalayan Mountains, Image Source: coolsandfools.com
The Hallucinogen Honey Hunters of The Himalayan Mountains, Image Source: myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com
mAD honey hunters nepal
Images source:: Éric Tourneret,  Eric Valli

Why Does Mad Honey Cause Hallucinations?

Despite what one might think, the hallucinogenic effects derived from this nectar are not produced by bees but well by the red “ponticum” rhododendron, poisonous flowers giving honey medicinal, aphrodisiac, and hallucinogen properties.

The high-altitude flower, one month a year, develops a toxin called “grayanotoxin”. This toxin is a natural chemical produced by the plant because of the excessive altitude at which the flowers are perched.

Therefore, depending on the seasons in which it is harvested, the honey produced can vary in toxicity. You may then run into a strong, weak, or even non-existent crop in terms of effects.

Scientists have identified over 25 types of grayanotoxins in rhododendrons that make their way into the honey of bees that feed on plants during the flowering season. These chemicals interfere with the body’s sodium ion channels, preventing them from closing quickly.

The result is a state of depolarization in which sodium ions flow freely into the cells and the influx of calcium is increased, stimulating the release of acetylcholine.

Like other traditional medicines, mad honey has a mythical origin and is not fully understood by modern science.

According to an ancient story, the Persian army defeated its Roman enemies by leaving behind honeycombs on the road. The invading troops ate these combs, and falling under their effect, they were easily defeated by their enemies.

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Himalayan Red Rhododendron
Himalayan Red Rhododendron

What Are The Medicinal Benefits Of Taking Hallucinogen Honey?

Hallucinogen Honey has been used in Nepal for centuries. The mountain tribes who work in the foothills of the Himalayas consume a spoonful of this honey before starting the day. It is known for its aphrodisiac properties and is best known for its great medicinal properties comparable to morphine.

Some of its medicinal properties include:

  • Antibacterial and antiviral properties
  • Soothes sore throat and cough
  • Antioxidant
  • Immune system booster
  • Blood circulation improvement
  • Metabolism and sexual performance enhancement
  • Helps with dealing with problems related to insomnia, arthritis, rheumatism, diabetes, and hypertension

What Are The Effects Of Psychedelic Honey?

Depending on the season, Himalayan bees produce different types of honey with a power that can vary in intensity. As you may have guessed, Mad honey can offer a fantastic taste experience with no effect or mix mild taste with psychotropic sensations.

The effects experienced can be described as:

  • Body relaxation
  • The feeling of lightness and freedom
  • Slight visual effects depending on the intensity of the honey and the quantity taken
  • Powerful visual effects when taken in large quantities or loaded with toxins

If you consume it in small doses, the effects are mainly physical. You will notice perfect lucidity and deep well-being. When used in higher dosages, the sensation experienced is similar to an absinthe hangover.

mAD honey hunters nepal

Can You Get Overdosed From The Hallucinogenic Honey?

Yes, you can overdose on Mad honey. The main danger of mad honey is that it contains high amounts of methyl alcohol. This chemical, with similar effects to absinthe, can cause liver damage when consumed in large quantities, so it’s important to be careful when using it. It can also cause heart and respiratory irregularities, some of which can be fatal.

Tradition vs Tourism, What Are The Risks?

The Nepalese Gurung tribes have been harvesting honey from the cliffs for centuries, but now this tradition is threatened by commercialization and tourism. Tour companies organize hunts throughout the year for tourists’ viewing pleasure and some even allow tourists to participate. Consequently, constant extraction does not give the bees sufficient time to repopulate and rebuild hives. This disturbs and upsets the local environment, which is already in decline due to other factors. In addition, the government has begun seizing property from locals, starting to hand over collection rights to private contractors.

This creates a problem not only for the continuously decreasing number of bees but also for the decreasing number of young people interested in this ancient practice. Modernization has led to new and more profitable employment opportunities for young people, taking them away from their origins. As the region becomes increasingly industrialized, this ancient traditional symbol of Nepalese cultural identity may soon be lost.

mAD honey hunters nepal

What To Know Before Consuming Mad Honey

Experienced users agree that a small amount of rhododendron honey is all it takes to get high. However, some members of the Erowid boards, who have experimented with the components of rhododendron, strongly advise against consuming them.

However, it should be noted that it is not just the thrill that people look for from it. As stated earlier, many people claim that Mad honey offers therapeutic relief including for arthritis and rheumatism. Behind these claims, there aren’t a lot of clinical studies or experimental data to back them up, but there is some evidence in recent years to suggest they are not entirely far-fetched.

Researchers have shown that preparations containing grayanotoxins could help with hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, and even cold sores. As these studies are preliminary, they shouldn’t be taken as proof that crazy honey is safe or effective.

Researchers have shown that preparations containing grayanotoxins could help with hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, and even cold sores. As these studies are preliminary, they shouldn’t be taken as proof the potent Mad honey is safe or effective.

Medical research aside, if you’re looking for your next big high, this probably isn’t the right product for you. Perhaps we can advise you to try something a little more reliable.


For medicinal use:

1 teaspoon per day (for a duration of 30 days), Himalayan red honey strengthens the immune system by stimulating cell regeneration of the organism.

For a more mystical effect:

It is recommended to use 2 or 3 tablespoons maximum on an empty stomach. The effects occur within 20 minutes to 1 hour and may last from 3 to 5 hours on average.

The feelings experienced may vary from individual to individual, with effects that can be described as body relaxation, euphoria, alteration of colors and brightness, a surge of energy, and change in the state of consciousness.

Sensitive people may experience feelings of nausea, dizziness, blurred vision, increased blood pressure, and sweating.

To avoid:

  • Avoid any alcohol consumption before or immediately after taking The Mad Honey.
  • Avoid increasing the dosage beyond 3 – 4 tablespoons. You may face a grayanotoxin intoxication.
  • Avoid consuming alcohol before or immediately after taking honey.

Nepalese rhododendron honey is legal in Europe, the United States, and most other countries, with the exception of South Korea, Mexico, Brazil, Canada, Russia, New Zealand, Bahrain, and Australia.

In countries where it is legal, the sale and consumption of Mad honey are only allowed for adult users. Pregnant women are prohibited from consuming it because it can harm the developing fetus.

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