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 substance thujone was partly accountable for Absinthe being banned in early 1900s in many countries around the globe and thujone is still tightly regulated today absinthe supreme, particularly in the United States (or states united).
Thujone was considered to be just like THC present in cannabis and Absinthe was alleged to be psychoactive and have psychedelic effects triggering hallucinations and insanity. Absinthe was well-liked by the Bohemian set in Montmartre in Paris and several artists and writers believed that Absinthe, the Green Fairy, gave them inspiration as well as 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 held responsible for a man murdering his family, despite the fact that he had ingested 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 actually the alcohol (ethanol) content of Absinthe which 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 ingesting Absinthe. Thujone is only found in minute quantities and should therefore cause no major unwanted effects or health issues. The EU stipulates that booze with an ABV (alcohol by volume) level over 25% may only consist of 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 most brands of Absinthe have much less than 35mg with many being under 10mg/kg. In the US it is just legal to get or sell Absinthes with trace amounts of thujone.
High doses of thujone could be dangerous leading to convulsions nevertheless you would need to drink a substantial amount of Absinthe to consume that amount of thujone and it might be impossible to drink that amount, you would be comatosed from alcohol before then!
It is known that Henri-Louis Pernod, who owned the initial Absinthe distillery, utilized 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 comes about when water is included with Absinthe. These herbs particularly the aniseed and anise are accountable for the distinctive aniseed or licorice taste of Absinthe and wormwood is liable for the bitter flavor. Absinthe is oftentimes used as bitters in cocktails.
There are several brands of Absinthe or Absinthe substitutes which were developed during 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 wish real Absinthe try to find brands that contain wormwood or Absinthe thujone.