Absinthe thujone is the chemical present in Absinthe’s vital ingredient, the plant known as Common Wormwood, or Artemisia Absinthium to give it its botanical name http://absinthekit.com/articles. The compound thujone was partly the cause of Absinthe being banned during the early 1900s in lots of countries around the globe and thujone remains tightly regulated today, particularly in the United States (or states united).
Thujone was considered to be just like THC found in cannabis and Absinthe was alleged to be psychoactive and possess psychedelic effects producing hallucinations and insanity. Absinthe was well-liked by the Bohemian set in Montmartre in Paris and lots of 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 point out that Van Gogh’s madness was brought on by Absinthe and that he cut off his ear under its effect. Absinthe was even blamed for a man murdering his family, even though he had taken a number of other strong alcoholic drinks following the Absinthe.
Prohibition campaigners used news of the murder to campaign for the outlawing of Absinthe and blamed France’s growing problems of alcohol dependency to the emerald liquor.
Is Absinthe Thujone Hazardous?
Today’s research suggests that it was in fact the alcohol (ethanol) content of Absinthe which was dangerous instead of the thujone. Absinthe is twice as strong as spirits like whisky and vodka and can be 75% alcohol. Care should therefore be utilized when consuming Absinthe. Thujone is only found in minute quantities and should therefore cause no major unwanted effects or health issues. The EU stipulates that alcohol based drinks with an ABV (alcohol by volume) level over 25% might only contain a maximum of 10mg/kg of thujone, beverages classed as “bitters” can contain as much as 35mg/kg, it isn’t completely clear which class Absinthe fits into 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 get or sell Absinthes with trace amounts of thujone.
High doses of thujone could be dangerous triggering convulsions but you would need to drink a large amount of Absinthe to consume that volume of thujone and it would be impossible to drink that amount, you would be comatosed from alcohol before then!
It is known that Henri-Louis Pernod, who owned the very first Absinthe distillery, utilized 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 these herbs is 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 liable 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 isn’t Absinthe without Absinthe thujone and the bitter taste of wormwood. If you’d like real Absinthe search for brands that contain wormwood or Absinthe thujone.