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 compound thujone was partly the cause of Absinthe being banned during the early 1900s in several countries across the world and thujone is still tightly regulated today absinthe supreme, particularly in the United States (or states united).
Thujone was regarded as much like THC seen in cannabis and Absinthe was speculated to be psychoactive and possess psychedelic effects producing hallucinations and insanity. Absinthe was well-liked by the Bohemian set in Montmartre in Paris and several artists and writers claimed 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 claim that Van Gogh’s madness was caused by Absinthe and that he cut off his ear under its control . Absinthe was even blamed for a man murdering his family, although he had taken a number of 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 alcohol addiction on the emerald liquor.
Is Absinthe Thujone Harmful?
Today’s research suggests that it was actually the alcohol (ethanol) content of Absinthe which was dangerous rather than the thujone. Absinthe is twice as strong as spirits like whisky and vodka and can be 75% alcohol. Care should therefore be used when taking in Absinthe. Thujone is only present in minute quantities and must therefore cause no major side effects or health conditions. The EU stipulates that alcohol based drinks with an ABV (alcohol by volume) level over 25% may possibly consist of a maximum of 10mg/kg of thujone, beverages classed as “bitters” can contain up to 35mg/kg, it isn’t totally clear which class Absinthe fits into but a majority of 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 can be dangerous triggering convulsions however you will have to drink a substantial amount of Absinthe to consume that volume of thujone and it will be impossible to drink that amount, you would be comatosed from alcohol until then!
It is known 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 make his famous Pernod Absinthe. The essential oil from all of these herbs is responsible for La Louche, the clouding which comes about when water is added to Absinthe. These herbs particularly 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 which were developed over the ban and thus contain no Absinthe thujone or wormwood, but some would state that Absinthe just isn’t Absinthe without Absinthe thujone and the bitter taste of wormwood. If you’d like real Absinthe search for brands that contains wormwood or Absinthe thujone.