A cautionary tale from Turkey – do not eat poison honey to try to spice up your sex life.
“Mad honey” is honey made by bees from the nectar of toxic Rhododendron flowers. In places where wild Rhododendrons grow, including Turkey, it’s a health hazard. The dangers of mad honey were known to the ancient Greeks and Romans, and it’s reported that leaving tainted honeycombs in the path of invading armies was a popular military tactic.
2000 years later, some people still haven’t quite got the message. According to a case report from cardiologists Yarlioglues et al, a married couple deliberately ate some mad honey “for reasons of sexual performance”.
After eating one teaspoon per day for a week, they decided to crank it up a notch and ate a full tablespoon of the stuff. But their attempt to heighten their Turkish delight quickly turned sour, as they both suffered symptoms of confusion, chest pain, low blood pressure and slowed heartbeat. After presenting themselves to hospital, doctors discovered that they had both suffered an acute inferior myocardial infarction – a mild heart attack.
It’s not clear whether the sex was a contributing factor.
The randy Rhododendron fans were lucky – following treatment, they both recovered. In fact, the authors say “To our knowledge, no fatal cases of mad-honey poisoning have been reported since ancient Roman times.” However, it seems that some people are still willing to try their luck.
The toxin in mad honey is gryanotoxin. It acts by potentiating the opening of sodium channels, which are found both in the heart and the brain. This may be why it produces a combination of cardiovascular and psychoactive effects.