Absinthe thujone is the chemical present in Absinthe’s vital ingredient, the plant known as Common Wormwood, or Artemisia Absinthium to give it its botanical name. The substance thujone was partly the cause of Absinthe being banned during the early 1900s in many countries around the globe and thujone remains tightly regulated today www.absinthesupreme.com, specifically in the United States (or states united).
Thujone was regarded as much like THC present in cannabis and Absinthe was alleged to be psychoactive and have psychedelic effects causing hallucinations and insanity. Absinthe was favored by the Bohemian set in Montmartre in Paris and many artists and writers believed that Absinthe, the Green Fairy, gave them inspiration as well as their genius. Renowned Absinthe drinkers include Oscar Wilde, Ernest Hemingway, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Degas, Baudelaire and Verlaine. Some say that Van Gogh’s madness was brought on by Absinthe and that he cut off his ear under its effect . Absinthe was even held accountable for a man murdering his family, although he had used many other strong alcoholic drinks following the Absinthe.
Prohibition campaigners used news of the murder to campaign for the banning of Absinthe and blamed France’s growing problems of alcoholism on the emerald liquor.
Is Absinthe Thujone Unsafe?
Today’s studies suggest that it was in fact the alcohol (ethanol) content of Absinthe that was dangerous rather than the thujone. Absinthe is doubly strong as spirits like whisky and vodka and can be 75% alcohol. Care should therefore be utilized when taking in Absinthe. Thujone is merely present in minute quantities and ought to therefore cause no major unwanted effects or health issues. The EU stipulates that alcoholic beverages with an ABV (alcohol by volume) level over 25% may possibly consist of a maximum of 10mg/kg of thujone, beverages classed as “bitters” can contain approximately 35mg/kg, it is not totally clear which class Absinthe matches but a majority of brands of Absinthe have much less than 35mg with many being under 10mg/kg. In the US it is only legal to buy or sell Absinthes with trace quantities of thujone.
High doses of thujone could be dangerous causing convulsions however you would need to drink a great deal of Absinthe to consume that amount of thujone and it might be impossible to drink that amount, you would be comatosed from alcohol until then!
It is said that Henri-Louis Pernod, who owned the initial 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 comes about when water is added to Absinthe. These herbs specially the aniseed and anise are responsible for the distinctive aniseed or licorice taste of Absinthe and wormwood is mainly responsible for the bitter flavor. Absinthe is usually used as bitters in cocktails.
There are several brands of Absinthe or Absinthe substitutes which were developed in the ban and so contain no Absinthe thujone or wormwood, but some would say that Absinthe is not Absinthe without Absinthe thujone and the bitter taste of wormwood. If you want real Absinthe search for brands that contain wormwood or Absinthe thujone.