The Delphic bee: Bees and toxic honeys as pointers to psychoactive and other medicinal plants

La abeja délfica: Abejas y Mieles tóxicas como indicadores de plantas psicoactivas y otras plantas medicinales

Abstract

Herein a brief review, with 49 references, of the history and phytochemistry of toxic honeys, in which bees have sequestered plant secondary compounds naturally occurring in plant nectars (floral and extrafloral). It is hypothesized that such toxic honeys could have served as pointers to psychoactive and other medicinal plants for human beings exploring novel ecosystems, causing such plants to stand out, even against a background of extreme biodiversity. After reviewing various ethnomedicinal uses of toxic honeys, the author suggests that pre-Columbian Yucatecan Mayans intentionally produced a psychoactive honey from the shamanic inebriant Turbina corymbosa as a visionary substrate for manufacture of their ritual metheglin, balché.

Resumen

Se presenta una breve reseña, con 49 citas bibliográficas, de la historia y fitoquímica de mieles tóxicas, en las cuales las abejas han secuestrado compuestos secundarios de plantas, de ocurrencia natural en sus néctares (florales y extraflorales). Se hipotiza que semejantes mieles tóxicas podrían haber funcionado como indicadores hacia plantas psicoactivas y otras plantas medicinales, para seres humanos explorando ecosistemas novedosos, haciendo destacar semejantes plantas, aún contra un trasfondo de biodiversidad extrema. Después de reseñar varios usos etnomedicinales de mieles tóxicas, el autor sugiere que los mayas yucatecos precolombinos produjeron a propósito una miel psicoactiva del embriagante chamánico Turbina corymbosa como substrato visionario de su aloja ritual balché.

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Correspondence to Jonathan Ott.

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Ott, J. The Delphic bee: Bees and toxic honeys as pointers to psychoactive and other medicinal plants. Econ Bot 52, 260–266 (1998). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02862143

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Key Words

  • balché
  • meads
  • Turbina corymbosa
  • entheogens
  • Mayan Indians
  • Lonchocarpus violaceus