Absinthe thujone is the chemical found in Absinthe’s vital ingredient, the plant identified as Common Wormwood, or Artemisia Absinthium to give it its botanical name. The chemical thujone was partly accountable for Absinthe being banned in early 1900s in many countries around the globe and thujone is still tightly regulated today, especially in the United States (or states united).
Thujone was thought to be much like THC found 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 believed that Absinthe, the Green Fairy, gave them inspiration and 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 influence www.alcoholplant.com. Absinthe was even held accountable for a man murdering his family, even though he had ingested many other strong alcoholic drinks right 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 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 two times as strong as spirits like whisky and vodka and can be 75% alcohol. Care should therefore be used when consuming Absinthe. Thujone is only found in minute quantities and ought to therefore cause no major side effects or health conditions. The EU stipulates that alcoholic beverages with an ABV (alcohol by volume) level over 25% may only have a maximum of 10mg/kg of thujone, beverages classed as “bitters” can contain approximately 35mg/kg, it is not totally clear which class Absinthe suits but most 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 quantities of thujone.
High doses of thujone can be dangerous leading to convulsions but you would have to drink a great deal of Absinthe to consume that quantity of thujone and it might be impossible to drink that amount, you’d be comatosed from alcohol before then!
It is said that Henri-Louis Pernod, who owned the very first 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 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 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 say that Absinthe is not Absinthe without Absinthe thujone and the bitter taste of wormwood. If you’d like real Absinthe look for brands that contain wormwood or Absinthe thujone.