Hong Kong authorities investigating rare case of 'mad honey' poisoning after man ate honey from Nepal

The man reportedly sought treatment at Sha Tin's Prince of Wales Hospital after being afflicted with "mad honey" poisoning.
The man reportedly sought treatment at Sha Tin's Prince of Wales Hospital after being afflicted with "mad honey" poisoning. PHOTO: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

HONG KONG - A 61-year-old man was reportedly afflicted with "mad honey" poisoning after consuming honey from Nepal.

According to the South China Morning Post (SCMP), Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection is investigating the case.

The man reportedly ate a spoonful of the honey at home on Jan 18. About 45 minutes later, he experienced weakness, numbness, chills and shortness of breath.

He then sought treatment at the emergency unit of Price of Wales Hospital in Sha Tin and was admitted the next morning. He was reportedly in stable condition and discharged on the same day.

"Mad honey" is procured from the hives of bees who get nectar from rhododendron flowers, which contain a toxic substance known as grayanotoxin.

Although it is a hallucinogenic rumoured to be potentially lethal, the locals who harvest "mad honey" in Nepal believe that it has medicinal qualities in small doses.

Symptoms from ingesting the honey include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, dizziness, excessive perspiration and paraesthesia, a sensation commonly referred to as "pins and needles".

Severe cases can cause hypotension, bradycardia (slow heart rate) and shock.

Grayanotoxin was later detected in the man's urine sample and the uneaten honey, which had been purchased by his friend from Nepal, SCMP reported.

While rare, there have been past cases of "mad honey" poisoning in Hong Kong. A 50-year-old man and 49-year-old man suffered from it in September 2016 and May 2014 respectively.