Honey intoxication - and its use as a weapon- has been well documented. Pliny wrote of how the honey was used against the armies of Xenophon (one of Socrates' students) in 401 BCE. There is also an account of how Roman troops (the army of Pompey the Great) were poisoned by toxic honey - from honeycombs deliberately placed along their route- on their way to fight at Heptakometes in Turkey. I guess the Romans didn't think it suspicious that honeycombs just showed up on their route? Does "too good to be true" come to mind? In the end they were delirious, nauseous and thoroughly sick, and didn't put up much of a fight. If you want to see what a mild intoxication looks like, here is a brief documentary by Raphael Treza "Hallucinogen Honey Hunters" involving a group of men harvesting wild rhododendron honey in Nepal: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_b2i_FvYPw
Be aware that the toxicity of rhododendron honey varies depending on the amount and type of rhododendron nectar in the final honey; rhododendron varieties differ (significantly) in the quantity of grayanotoxins in their leaves, pollen and nectar. In fact some rhododendrons don't produce any grayanotoxins at all. You may be relieved to know that commonly gardened rhododendrons in North America generally have only small amounts of toxin- not enough to render honey super toxic, but if you eat enough of their leaves you may still be quite sick. In fact, one account I read went so far as to caution against using rhododendron twigs to roast marshmallows. So beware!
|Rhododendron forest in Ireland|
While I looked for Black Sea rhododendron honey online, I didn't find any. Mine comes from Italy, from the Cazzola Apiary. Given its origins, I suspect it may not be as toxic as Black Sea rhododendron honey, but even so, there are no warning labels or even information about potential toxicity. This brings to mind a report I read that stated that most European cases of honey toxicity are in tourists who bring back honey souvenirs (unlabeled with regard to toxicity) from Turkey.
|Altedo, Italy- near Bologna|