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Arch Hellen Med, 30(6), November-December 2013, 730-733


"Mad honey" in medicine from antiquity to the present day

H.V. Harissis, G. Mavrofridis
Department of Surgery, School of Medicine, University of Ioannina, Ioannina, Greece

Since antiquity, toxic honey has been deliberately used by man for various purposes, varying from warfare applications to medicinal uses. These uses applied mainly to the "mad" honey of the Pontus region on the southern coast of the Black Sea, in present-day Turkey, which is derived from the nectar of Rhododendron ponticum and Rhododendron luteum. This is a review of available data concerning its toxicity and its medicinal properties collected from ancient Greek and Latin literature, travelers' log books, ethnographic archives and researches. A medical literature search was also performed in PubMed using the keywords "mad honey" and "Rhododendron honey". "Mad" honey poisoning, although potentially lethal, is usually not severe. A plethora of "mad" honey medicinal uses have been recorded, some of which are preserved unaltered since antiquity. Consumed in small quantities "mad" honey could be beneficial and its possible medicinal qualities are worthy of further investigation. However, it is generally agreed that at present its medicinal properties are not well understood and its use should be avoided.

Key words: Mad honey, Poisoning, Rhododendron honey.

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