Absinthe thujone is the chemical found 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 in early 1900s in lots of countries around the world and thujone continues to be tightly regulated today, especially in the United States (or states united).
Thujone was considered to be just like THC seen in cannabis and Absinthe was purported to be psychoactive and have psychedelic effects creating hallucinations and insanity. Absinthe was popular with the Bohemian set in Montmartre in Paris and many artists and writers claimed 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 claim that Van Gogh’s madness was caused by Absinthe and that he cut off his ear under its influence http://alcoholplant.com. Absinthe was even blamed for a man murdering his family, despite the fact that he had consumed many other strong alcoholic drinks 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 on the emerald liquor.
Is Absinthe Thujone Unsafe?
Today’s studies suggest that it was actually 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 taken when taking in Absinthe. Thujone is just present in minute quantities and must therefore cause no major unwanted effects or health problems. The EU stipulates that alcoholic beverages with an ABV (alcohol by volume) level over 25% might only contain a maximum of 10mg/kg of thujone, beverages classed as “bitters” can contain approximately 35mg/kg, it isn’t completely clear which class Absinthe fits into 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 can be dangerous leading to convulsions nevertheless you would need to drink a substantial amount of Absinthe to consume that volume of thujone and it will be impossible to drink that amount, you would be comatosed from alcohol until then!
It is known 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 create his famous Pernod Absinthe. The essential oil from these herbs is mainly responsible for La Louche, the clouding which happens when water is put into Absinthe. These herbs specially the aniseed and anise are responsible for the distinctive aniseed or licorice taste of Absinthe and wormwood is liable for the bitter flavor. Absinthe is usually used as bitters in cocktails.
There are several brands of Absinthe or Absinthe substitutes that have been developed in the ban and so contain no Absinthe thujone or wormwood, however, many would state that Absinthe isn’t Absinthe without Absinthe thujone and the bitter taste of wormwood. If you wish real Absinthe look for brands that contains wormwood or Absinthe thujone.