Absinthe thujone is the chemical present in Absinthe’s vital ingredient, the plant identified as Common Wormwood, or Artemisia Absinthium to give it its botanical name. The compound thujone was partly responsible for Absinthe being banned during the early 1900s in lots of countries around the globe and thujone is still tightly regulated today, particularly in the United States (or states united).
Thujone was regarded as much like THC present in cannabis and Absinthe was purported to be psychoactive and have psychedelic effects creating hallucinations and insanity. Absinthe was well-liked by the Bohemian set in Montmartre in Paris and lots of 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 claim that Van Gogh’s madness was caused by Absinthe and that he cut off his ear under its control www.alcoholplant.com. Absinthe was even blamed for a man murdering his family, despite the fact that he had taken a great many other strong alcoholic drinks after the Absinthe.
Prohibition campaigners used news of the murder to campaign for the banning of Absinthe and charged France’s growing problems of alcoholism to the emerald liquor.
Is Absinthe Thujone Hazardous?
Today’s research suggests that it was in fact the alcohol (ethanol) content of Absinthe that was dangerous rather than 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 simply contained in minute quantities and ought to therefore cause no major negative effects or health issues. 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 up to 35mg/kg, it isn’t completely clear which class Absinthe matches but most brands of Absinthe have much less than 35mg with a lot of 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 but you will have to drink a large amount of Absinthe to consume that amount of thujone and it will be impossible to drink that amount, you would be comatosed from alcohol before then!
It is known that Henri-Louis Pernod, who owned the first Absinthe distillery, used the herbs wormwood, aniseed, fennel, lemon balm, hyssop, angelica root, dittany, star anise, nutmeg, juniper and veronica to make his famous Pernod Absinthe. The essential oil from these herbs is mainly responsible for La Louche, the clouding which occurs 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 liable for the bitter flavor. Absinthe is usually used as bitters in cocktails.
There are lots of brands of Absinthe or Absinthe substitutes that have been developed during the ban and thus contain no Absinthe thujone or wormwood, but many would claim that Absinthe isn’t Absinthe without Absinthe thujone and the bitter taste of wormwood. If you want real Absinthe try to find brands containing wormwood or Absinthe thujone.