Foods That Make You Hallucinate

Words: Robyn Samuels

Food has the ability to boost one’s mood, bring joy or even affect one’s libido (aphrodisiacs); but have you heard about psychoactive foods that make you hallucinate? We’re not talking about space brownies or magic mushrooms, but rather, everyday ingredients like grains, spices and even fish that can alter your mental state.

What is a psychoactive substance? 

Psychoactive substances are either a drug or substance that affects the neurological functioning of the brain – they have the potential to alter your mood, state of awareness, emotions, thoughts or behaviour.

Types of Psychoactive Foods

Everyday foods that we consume can have hallucinogenic effects. The active ingredients found in many of these foods act as natural insecticides to deter pests or animals from eating them. While most of the foods listed below are safe to consume in regular amounts, excessive consumption could lead to hallucinogenic effects – you have been warned!

Mad Honey

Honey is nature’s nectar, and some would climb the highest mountains to get their hands on it. Mad Honey is native to Nepal; the practice of harvesting this honey has been a tradition of the Gurung villagers of Nepal for centuries. It’s produced by Himalayan giant bees (the largest bees in the world!) and is harvested from rhododendron plants – a flowering species that grows in mountainous and inaccessible regions. Gurung mountaineers often risk their lives to source this honey without wearing protective gear. As a result, many of them sustain severe bee stings and swollen hands, but this doesn’t deter them.

The chemical responsible for Mad Honey’s psychoactive effects can be attributed to the active ingredient, grayanotoxin, which is found within the rhododendron flower’s pollen.

Some people use Mad Honey recreationally, it apparently takes only one teaspoon to experience the psychotropic effects; some say that small amounts might give you a buzz similar to the THC in cannabis. Larger amounts consumed could lead to more serious side effects, such as vomiting, seizures, temporary paralysis and hallucinations.

While Mad Honey is notorious for its psychotropic effects, it also contains medicinal properties, which explains why Gurung villagers go to such extreme lengths to source it. This rare honey has many health benefits, such as strengthening the immune system; it’s also reportedly used as a cell regeneration stimulant. People with co-morbidities like hypertension, diabetes and arthritis also use Mad Honey for its healing properties.


Nutmeg might be a cheap way to get blitzed – this was especially true in the 1960s when people resorted to it as a cost-effective drug. That being said, it’s probably one of the most unpleasant substances to eat… mouthfuls of pure nutmeg? Thanks but no thanks.

Myristicin is a natural insecticide found in most herbs and spices, including nutmeg; it’s also a precursor for amphetamine derivative compounds that are chemically similar to MDMA/MMDA. Nutmeg is obviously safe to consume in regular amounts, but eating excessive amounts of this psychoactive food can get you high… 

Approximately 5-30 grams (one teaspoon to two tablespoons) of ground nutmeg can result in ‘the giggles’, a tingling sensation and euphoria. More unpleasant side effects include nausea, vomiting, chest pain, dizziness, tremors, as well as delirium. Hallucinogenic effects are usually expected approximately three hours after ingestion.

Human rights activist, Malcolm X, used nutmeg recreationally while serving time at Charlestown prison; he apparently acquired it from kitchen worker inmates and mixed it with water to make it more palatable. An excerpt from his autobiography cites, “a penny matchbox full of nutmeg had the kick of three to four reefers” – how about that!

Rye Bread

While certain types of cereal grains are less prone to bacterial infections, rye is susceptible to ergot, a psychoactive fungi. You may be familiar with the Salem Witch Trials, which took place in the Puritan village of Massachusetts, in 1692. Inhabitants started showing side effects like severe convulsions and delusions. Upon examination, Dr. William Griggs was convinced that the patients were ‘bewitched’, but it was actually a case of ergotism.

Ergot poisoning or ergotism, occurs as a result of consuming contaminated rye or rye bread. Ergotism is commonly known as ‘hell fire’ due to the burning sensation on the skin. Other symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea, as well as gangrene and seizures in severe cases – explaining the convulsions said ‘witches’ experienced.

The unfortunate misdiagnosis led to the persecution of innocent people, this was later researched and linked to the hallucinogenic effects of consuming rotten rye/ergot. The chemical structure of ergot is similar to that of lysergic acid diethylamide, more commonly known as ‘acid’ or LSD – an equally potent hallucinogen. Thankfully, most commercial food products and alcoholic beverages containing rye are assessed for quality control, today.

A fan of rye bread? Try making this Beef Brisket on Rye Sandwich  

Sea Bream

In ancient times, the Romans ate Sarpa salpa, a type of sea bream, for its supposed hallucinogenic qualities – they would apparently sit at sea and ‘get high off the bream’. Polynesians also used it during spiritual ceremonies. In Arabic, it’s called ‘the fish that makes you dream’, but not the good kind.

Sarpa salpa belongs to the sea bream family, but differs significantly from the sea bream commonly ordered at restaurants. Sarpa salpa is also known as ‘Salema porgy’ or ‘goldline’ – thanks to its distinct golden stripes that run horizontally across its body. They are mostly caught on the French Riviera and on the western and southern coasts of Africa.

Sarpa salpa reportedly has the same psychotropic effects as LSD, as well as DMT, which explains reports of auditory and visual hallucinations – this apparently lasts a few days after consumption, which sounds scary. Ingesting it could result in mild symptoms like nausea and vomiting to more intense symptoms like hallucinations, delirium and nightmarish dreams.

It’s not precisely known what causes humans to have a ‘bad trip’ after eating Sarpa salpa, but research points to their diet. Sea bream typically consume macroalgae and phytoplankton; high concentrations of this could be toxic to humans. Eating organs belonging to this fish – particularly the head and the liver – could result in hallucinations. While not all Sarpa salpa causes hallucinations, their neon stripes are fair warning enough that eating it could lead to the trip of a lifetime.

Prefer other fish in the sea? Try this Whole-baked Thai-style Fish.

Curious about whether aphrodisiacs actually work?

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