Absinthe thujone is the chemical present in Absinthe’s vital ingredient, the plant referred to as Common Wormwood, or Artemisia Absinthium to give it its botanical name. The chemical thujone was partly the cause of Absinthe being banned in the early 1900s in lots of countries around the globe and thujone remains tightly regulated today, specifically in the United States (or states united).
Thujone was considered to be much like THC seen in cannabis and Absinthe was purported to be psychoactive and possess psychedelic effects causing hallucinations and insanity. Absinthe was popular with the Bohemian set in Montmartre in Paris and several artists and writers claimed that Absinthe, the Green Fairy, gave them inspiration as well as their genius. Well-known Absinthe drinkers include Oscar Wilde, Ernest Hemingway, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Degas, Baudelaire and Verlaine. Some point out that Van Gogh’s madness was brought on by Absinthe and that he cut off his ear under its effect http://alcoholplant.com. Absinthe was even blamed for a man murdering his family, although he had used a number of other strong alcoholic drinks right after the Absinthe.
Prohibition campaigners used news of the murder to campaign for the banning of Absinthe and blamed France’s growing problems of alcohol dependency to the emerald liquor.
Is Absinthe Thujone Dangerous?
Today’s studies suggest that it was in fact the alcohol (ethanol) content of Absinthe that was dangerous instead of the thujone. Absinthe is twice as strong as spirits like whisky and vodka and can be 75% alcohol. Care should therefore be taken when taking in Absinthe. Thujone is just present in minute quantities and ought to therefore cause no major negative effects or health problems. The EU stipulates that booze with an ABV (alcohol by volume) level over 25% might only have a maximum of 10mg/kg of thujone, beverages classed as “bitters” can contain up to 35mg/kg, it is not completely clear which class Absinthe fits into but many brands of Absinthe have much less than 35mg with many being under 10mg/kg. In the US it is simply legal to purchase or sell Absinthes with trace amounts of thujone.
High doses of thujone could be dangerous triggering convulsions but you will have to drink a substantial amount of Absinthe to consume that amount of thujone and it would be impossible to drink that amount, you would be comatosed from alcohol before then!
It is said that Henri-Louis Pernod, who owned the first Absinthe distillery, employed the herbs wormwood, aniseed, fennel, lemon balm, hyssop, angelica root, dittany, star anise, nutmeg, juniper and veronica to produce his famous Pernod Absinthe. The essential oil from all of these herbs is responsible for La Louche, the clouding which happens when water is included with Absinthe. These herbs specially the aniseed and anise are accountable for the distinctive aniseed or licorice taste of Absinthe and wormwood is responsible for the bitter flavor. Absinthe is sometimes used as bitters in cocktails.
There are lots of brands of Absinthe or Absinthe substitutes that were developed in the ban and therefore contain no Absinthe thujone or wormwood, but many would state that Absinthe is not Absinthe without Absinthe thujone and the bitter taste of wormwood. If you’d like real Absinthe try to find brands that contains wormwood or Absinthe thujone.