Absinthe thujone is the chemical seen in Absinthe’s vital ingredient, the plant referred to as Common Wormwood, or Artemisia Absinthium to give it its botanical name. The chemical thujone was partly accountable for Absinthe being banned during the early 1900s in many countries around the world and thujone remains tightly regulated today absinthe supreme, specifically in the United States (or states united).
Thujone was regarded as similar to THC seen in cannabis and Absinthe was alleged to be psychoactive and have psychedelic effects causing hallucinations and insanity. Absinthe was favored by the Bohemian set in Montmartre in Paris and several artists and writers claimed that Absinthe, the Green Fairy, gave them inspiration in addition to their genius. Renowned Absinthe drinkers include Oscar Wilde, Ernest Hemingway, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Degas, Baudelaire and Verlaine. Some say that Van Gogh’s madness was due to Absinthe and that he cut off his ear under its control . Absinthe was even held responsible for a man murdering his family, even though he had used many other strong alcoholic drinks right after the Absinthe.
Prohibition campaigners used news of the murder to campaign for the outlawing 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 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 taking in Absinthe. Thujone is just found in minute quantities and must therefore cause no major negative 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 suits but many 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 could be dangerous triggering convulsions nevertheless you would have to drink a great deal of Absinthe to consume that quantity of thujone and it will be impossible to drink that amount, you’d be comatosed from alcohol until 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 create his famous Pernod Absinthe. The essential oil from these herbs is responsible for La Louche, the clouding which comes about when water is put into Absinthe. These herbs especially the aniseed and anise are accountable for the distinctive aniseed or licorice taste of Absinthe and wormwood is mainly responsible for the bitter flavor. Absinthe is sometimes used as bitters in cocktails.
There are several brands of Absinthe or Absinthe substitutes which were developed over 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 look for brands that contains wormwood or Absinthe thujone.