What’s Turkish Mad Honey

The dark, reddish, “Turkish mad honey,” known as deli bal in Turkey Black sea , contains an ingredient from rhododendron nectar called grayanotoxin — a natural neurotoxin that, even in small quantities, brings on light-headedness and sometimes, hallucinations. In the 1700s, the Black Sea region traded this potent produce with Europe, where the honey was infused with drinks to give boozers a greater high than alcohol could deliver..

When over-imbibed, however, the honey can cause low blood pressure and irregularities in the heartbeat that bring on nausea, numbness, blurred vision, fainting, potent hallucinations, seizures, and even death, in rare cases. Nowadays, cases of mad honey poisoning crop up every few years – oftentimes in travelers who have visited Turkey.

Rhododendron flowers occur all over the world, and yet mad honey is most common in the

region fringing the Black Sea — the biggest honey-producing region in Turkey.

 

“There are 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 do the poisonous rhododendrons abound, but the humid, mountainous slopes around the Black Sea provide the perfect habitat for these flowers to grow in monocrop-like swaths. When bees make honey in these fields, no other nectars get mixed in — and the result is Turkish Mad honey or deli bal, potent and pure.

 

Although the product makes up only a tiny percentage of the Black Sea’s honey production, it’s long held a strong Turkish following. “People believe that Turkish mad honey (Deli Bal ) is a kind of medicine,” Black sea peoples are  use it to treat hypertension, diabetes mellitus and some different stomach diseases. And also, some people use mad honey-deli bal to improve their sexual performance.”

Turkish Mad honey ( Deli bal ) is taken in small amounts, sometimes boiled in milk, and consumed typically just before breakfast, he adds — not slathered on toast or stirred generously into tea the way normal honey would be.