It’s hallucinogen, protected by ferocious insects; people climb perilous rock walls to collect it without any protection and safety measures, and it’s very very expensive.
This is the precious and unusual honey from Nepal, produced by the Himalayan giant honeybees. Its colour is red, from the toxins contained on the flowers of massive rhododendron trees the bees “visit”, and people who eat it can experience the same effects of marijuana.
Its properties are so requested that you can pay up to 80 dollars per pounds (0,453 Kg) on Asian black markets. That’s why local people (the few left), risk their lives to collect it.
They climb over 100 metres of rocky walls, just using long and thick bamboo rope ladders, without any climbing safety harness and protections against bees. For sure, this is an eco-friendly method, but how many people would be willing to do that now? In fact, as the local population is moving to cities, the number of these brave collectors is reducing day after day. But the few left keep going and seem to do a good (and safe) job – until they are too old.
So how can they collect this red honey with no protection? Thanks to a lot of courage and experience, and the use of smoke that can calm the bees down.
Is this neurotoxic honey really like cannabis? Well, why do you think it’s so expensive? But even if it can give similar effects that can last a whole day or more if eaten in big quantity – two to three teaspoons are usually the correct dose – it doesn’t mean local people are drug addicted. On the contrary, the Kulung people of eastern Nepal have used it for centuries as an antiseptic, cough syrup and even to cast bronze statues of gods and goddesses. We can’t know and judge how the buyers on black markets use it now (hopefully they keep wise and responsible -Ed.).
Are you wondering what exactly the effects are? Well, a local harvester, interviewed by National Geographic, told that “after about an hour you are overcome with an urgent need to defecate, urinate, and vomit. After the purge, you alternate between light and dark. You can see, and then you can’t see. You can’t move, but you’re still completely lucid. The paralysis lasts for a day or so.”
This traditional honey harvest was documented in a film scheduled to be on theatre in 2018: “The Last Honey Hunter” by Renan Ozturk and Mark Synnott who travelled to Nepal with National Geographic. Waiting for it, enjoy the behind the scenes video.
Have you ever heard about this psychotropic honey? Would you have breakfast with a spoon of it? And what about climbing these rocky walls for a lifetime? Would you risk your life for money?
Credits: National Geographic