Absinthe thujone is the chemical found in Absinthe’s vital ingredient, the plant called Common Wormwood, or Artemisia Absinthium to give it its botanical name www.absinthekit.com/articles. The chemical thujone was partly responsible for Absinthe being banned in the early 1900s in lots of countries around the world and thujone continues to be tightly regulated today, particularly in the United States (or states united).
Thujone was thought to be just like THC present in cannabis and Absinthe was purported to be psychoactive and have psychedelic effects producing hallucinations and insanity. Absinthe was well-liked by the Bohemian set in Montmartre in Paris and several 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 held responsible for a man murdering his family, despite the fact that he had taken many other strong alcoholic drinks right after the Absinthe.
Prohibition campaigners used news of the murder to campaign for the suspending of Absinthe and blamed France’s growing problems of alcoholism on the emerald liquor.
Is Absinthe Thujone Harmful?
Today’s studies suggest that it was in fact the alcohol (ethanol) content of Absinthe that’s dangerous instead of the thujone. Absinthe is doubly strong as spirits like whisky and vodka and can be 75% alcohol. Care should therefore be taken when taking in Absinthe. Thujone is just contained 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 is not entirely clear which class Absinthe matches 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 simply legal to get or sell Absinthes with trace quantities of thujone.
High doses of thujone could be dangerous causing convulsions but you would have to drink a large amount of Absinthe to consume that amount 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 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 mainly responsible for La Louche, the clouding which happens when water is included with Absinthe. These herbs particularly 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 oftentimes used as bitters in cocktails.
There are lots of brands of Absinthe or Absinthe substitutes which were developed in the ban and so contain no Absinthe thujone or wormwood, but some would say that Absinthe is not Absinthe without Absinthe thujone and the bitter taste of wormwood. If you’d like real Absinthe look for brands that contains wormwood or Absinthe thujone.