December 17, 2009

Libido-Boosting “˜Mad Honey’ Can Send Men To ER

Men using so-called "mad honey" to improve their sex lives may end up making a trip to the emergency room instead, according to a new report by Turkish researchers published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

The honey has long been linked to food poisoning, with most of the documented cases having occurred in Turkey.  However, the honey is used as a sexual stimulant and as an alternative medicine for stomach problems in the nation's Black Sea region.

The Turkish researchers document 21 cases of mad-honey poisoning that passed through their ER over a five year time period. Nearly all cases involved middle-aged and older men, who local beekeepers say typically purchase the product as a way to boost their sexual performance.

"Mad" honey, made from the nectar of a particular rhododendron species, contains concentrations of substances known as grayanotoxins, some of which can cause low blood pressure, dizziness, slowed heart rate, vomiting and fainting. Common processed honey is unlikely to contain such grayanotoxins.

Most consumers of mad-honey in Turkey are aware they are getting a "special honey," and discuss the possible side effects with the beekeepers, said the study's lead researcher Dr. Ahmet Demircan of Gazi University.

Poisoning usually occurs because when people consume more mad honey than is recommended, said Demircan in an interview with Reuters.

In the current study, Demircan and his colleagues examined records of more than 200,000 patients who had visited their ER between December 2002 and January 2008.

The records indicated 21 cases of mad-honey poisoning, 18 of which were men ranging in age from 41 to 86.  The patients typically presented with symptoms like dizziness, nausea and vomiting after consuming the honey.  All were treated and released from the hospital within 18 to 48 hours, the researchers said.

Demircan and his team also queried local beekeepers specializing in mad honey to ascertain the reasons customers typically purchased the product. The beekeepers reported that men in their 40s and 50s usually buy the honey to improve their sexual function.

The findings suggest that ER doctors should consider mad-honey poisoning in cases where low blood pressure and slowed heart rate cannot be attributed to more common causes, Demirican said.  This is particularly true with middle-aged men, he added.

Although most cases of mad honey poisoning have been seen in Turkey, ERs elsewhere should be aware of the condition, Demirican said, citing case reports from Europe where men of Turkish descent had visited the ER with apparent mad-honey poisoning.

Other scientists have said that with the growing global consumption of imported and unprocessed "natural" honey, the possibility of honey intoxication should be not be ruled out whenever a healthy person has an unexplained drop in blood pressure and heart rate.


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