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 www.absinthekit.com/articles. The chemical thujone was partly responsible for Absinthe being banned in the early 1900s in lots of countries across the world and thujone is still tightly regulated today, particularly in the United States (or states united).
Thujone was regarded as similar to THC found in cannabis and Absinthe was alleged to be psychoactive and possess psychedelic effects triggering hallucinations and insanity. Absinthe was favored by 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 brought on by Absinthe and that he cut off his ear under its effect. Absinthe was even held accountable for a man murdering his family, despite the fact that he had used a great many other strong alcoholic drinks following the Absinthe.
Prohibition campaigners used news of the murder to campaign for the suspending of Absinthe and blamed France’s growing problems of alcoholism to the emerald liquor.
Is Absinthe Thujone Unsafe?
Today’s research suggests 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 utilized when taking in Absinthe. Thujone is just found in minute quantities and ought to therefore cause no major unwanted effects or health conditions. The EU stipulates that alcoholic beverages with an ABV (alcohol by volume) level over 25% might only have a maximum of 10mg/kg of thujone, beverages classed as “bitters” can contain approximately 35mg/kg, it is not entirely 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 simply legal to buy or sell Absinthes with trace amounts of thujone.
High doses of thujone can be dangerous leading to convulsions nevertheless you would need 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 until then!
It is said 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 produce his famous Pernod Absinthe. The essential oil from all of these herbs is mainly responsible for La Louche, the clouding which comes about 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 responsible for the bitter flavor. Absinthe is sometimes 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 some would claim that Absinthe is not Absinthe without Absinthe thujone and the bitter taste of wormwood. If you wish real Absinthe search for brands containing wormwood or Absinthe thujone.