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 absinthekit. The substance thujone was partly accountable for Absinthe being banned during the early 1900s in many countries around the globe and thujone continues to be tightly regulated today, specifically 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 have psychedelic effects creating 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. 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 ingested a great many other strong alcoholic drinks after the Absinthe.
Prohibition campaigners used news of the murder to campaign for the outlawing of Absinthe and charged France’s growing problems of alcohol dependency on the emerald liquor.
Is Absinthe Thujone Dangerous?
Today’s studies suggest that it was in fact the alcohol (ethanol) content of Absinthe which 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 ingesting Absinthe. Thujone is merely found in minute quantities and should therefore cause no major side effects or health conditions. The EU stipulates that alcoholic beverages 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 up to 35mg/kg, it’s not completely clear which class Absinthe fits into but a majority of brands of Absinthe have much less than 35mg with a lot of 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 may be dangerous causing convulsions nevertheless you will have to drink a substantial amount of Absinthe to consume that volume of thujone and it might be impossible to drink that amount, you would be comatosed from alcohol until then!
It is said 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 make his famous Pernod Absinthe. The essential oil from these herbs is mainly responsible for La Louche, the clouding which happens 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 responsible for the bitter flavor. Absinthe is sometimes 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, however, many would claim that Absinthe isn’t Absinthe without Absinthe thujone and the bitter taste of wormwood. If you’d like real Absinthe search for brands containing wormwood or Absinthe thujone.