Absinthe thujone is the chemical seen in Absinthe’s vital ingredient, the plant known 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 globe and thujone is still tightly regulated today absinthesupreme, specifically in the United States (or states united).
Thujone was considered to be similar to THC found in cannabis and Absinthe was speculated to be psychoactive and have psychedelic effects causing hallucinations and insanity. Absinthe was favored by the Bohemian set in Montmartre in Paris and many artists and writers believed that Absinthe, the Green Fairy, gave them inspiration in addition to their genius. Famous Absinthe drinkers include Oscar Wilde, Ernest Hemingway, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Degas, Baudelaire and Verlaine. Some point out that Van Gogh’s madness was due to Absinthe and that he cut off his ear under its control . Absinthe was even blamed for a man murdering his family, although he had ingested many other strong alcoholic drinks right after the Absinthe.
Prohibition campaigners used news of the murder to campaign for the suspending of Absinthe and charged 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 instead of the thujone. Absinthe is two times as strong as spirits like whisky and vodka and can be 75% alcohol. Care should therefore be taken when consuming Absinthe. Thujone is merely found in minute quantities and must therefore cause no major negative effects or health issues. 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 up to 35mg/kg, it’s 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 only legal to buy or sell Absinthes with trace levels of thujone.
High doses of thujone may be dangerous triggering convulsions nevertheless you would have to drink a large amount of Absinthe to consume that quantity 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 very first Absinthe distillery, employed 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 responsible for La Louche, the clouding which happens when water is included with Absinthe. These herbs especially the aniseed and anise are responsible for the distinctive aniseed or licorice taste of Absinthe and wormwood is mainly responsible 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 over the ban and thus contain no Absinthe thujone or wormwood, but some would state that Absinthe isn’t Absinthe without Absinthe thujone and the bitter taste of wormwood. If you’d like real Absinthe try to find brands that contains wormwood or Absinthe thujone.