Absinthe thujone is the chemical found 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 responsible for Absinthe being banned in the early 1900s in many countries around the globe and thujone continues to be tightly regulated today absinthesupreme, especially in the United States (or states united).
Thujone was considered to be much like THC seen 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 several artists and writers claimed that Absinthe, the Green Fairy, gave them inspiration in addition to their genius. Well-known 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 control . Absinthe was even blamed for a man murdering his family, even though he had ingested many other strong alcoholic drinks after the Absinthe.
Prohibition campaigners used news of the murder to campaign for the suspending of Absinthe and charged France’s growing problems of alcohol addiction to the emerald liquor.
Is Absinthe Thujone Unsafe?
Today’s research suggests that it was in fact the alcohol (ethanol) content of Absinthe that’s dangerous rather than the thujone. Absinthe is doubly strong as spirits like whisky and vodka and can be 75% alcohol. Care should therefore be used when consuming 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% may possibly have a maximum of 10mg/kg of thujone, beverages classed as “bitters” can contain as much as 35mg/kg, it’s not totally clear which class Absinthe matches but most brands of Absinthe have much less than 35mg with many being under 10mg/kg. In the US it is just legal to purchase or sell Absinthes with trace amounts of thujone.
High doses of thujone can be dangerous leading to convulsions nevertheless you will have to drink a great deal 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 these herbs is mainly responsible for La Louche, the clouding which occurs when water is included with Absinthe. These herbs especially 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 many brands of Absinthe or Absinthe substitutes which were developed during the ban and thus contain no Absinthe thujone or wormwood, but many would say that Absinthe isn’t Absinthe without Absinthe thujone and the bitter taste of wormwood. If you’d like real Absinthe try to find brands that contain wormwood or Absinthe thujone.