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WIU Alumnus Continuing Research on 'Mad Honey'

February 16, 2021

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MACOMB, IL -- A Western Illinois University alumnus is being recognized for his published research on the phenomenon known in Nepal as "mad honey."

Bishnu Neupane, a 2020 graduate with a master's degree in chemistry, and current Ph.D. candidate at the University of Iowa, is being recognized by University staff and students as an outstanding example of what WIU strives for its students to achieve.

In December 2020, Neupane had an article regarding "mad honey" published after working and studying this phenomenon since 2012. Being a native of Nepal, Neupane was quite familiar with the practice of locals collecting "mad honey" for its known medicinal properties.

"In Nepal, we have a very diverse number of medicinal plants that grow in high altitude, which are sometimes used by bees to turn into honey," he said. "However, these substances can also be harmful and hallucinogenic in large doses due to the potential presence of neurotoxins contained within the flowers that these bees pollinate throughout the spring and summer months in Nepal."

With this in mind, Neupane is continuing his academic career at the University of Iowa's Ph.D. program in chemistry, where he explains he would "like to look into finding a way to separate these harmful, hallucinogenic components within the honey so that we are left with only the helpful and medicinal substances."

"My focus is on the honey that is produced by the more high-altitude part of Nepal," said Neupane. "This special honey bee produces honey from these medicinal plants. This honey is used traditionally for different medical purposes and can alleviate different diseases. Despite this medicinal value, the honey contains some toxic compounds that cause intoxication for the ingestion of the honey. My focus is to ascertain whether the honey contains the toxin or not, and if the honey contains the toxin, we can detoxify that toxin to make the honey available for everybody."

According to Neupane's advisor, Professor Thottumkara "T.K." Vinod, Neupane is highly respected as an outstanding member of the chemistry department at WIU.

"Bishnu is an exceptional student who completed his research and coursework towards his MS in less than two years, a feat not many have done before," said Vinod. "Bishnu carried out his research under my supervision in the area of synthetic methodology, developing user and eco-friendly protocols for oxidative cleavage of ethers. While at WIU, Bishnu presented his research at the annual Illinois State Academy of Sciences meeting, as well as at the Graduate Research Conference here on campus. Bishnu was also a recipient a Departmental Special Recognition Award in the spring of 2020 for his research, and was also awarded the Graduate Student Research and Professional Development Award. Bishnu and I are currently preparing a manuscript describing his research, as well as a review article for dissemination in peer-reviewed journals."

Neupane began this research while he still worked as faculty in chemistry at Pokhara University in Nepal, and later completed his research paper regarding the subject of "mad honey" during his last semester at Western.

"Western Illinois is a very, very wonderful place for research and study," he said. "I really appreciate the department I was in at Western Illinois. My supervisor and all the faculty members were very encouraging and they were inspiring me to do the research and make the publication. I didn't have to worry financially, so I could focus full-time in the writing of my manuscript. I am very much appreciative of Western Illinois University for this wonderful opportunity."

For more information about the WIU Department of Chemistry, visit

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