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 http://absinthekit.com. The chemical thujone was partly accountable for Absinthe being banned in the early 1900s in several countries across the globe and thujone continues to be tightly regulated today, specifically in the United States (or states united).
Thujone was considered to be much like THC present in cannabis and Absinthe was speculated to be psychoactive and possess 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 effect. Absinthe was even held accountable for a man murdering his family, even though he had used a great many other strong alcoholic drinks following the Absinthe.
Prohibition campaigners used news of the murder to campaign for the outlawing of Absinthe and charged France’s growing problems of alcohol addiction on the emerald liquor.
Is Absinthe Thujone Unsafe?
Today’s studies suggest that it was actually the alcohol (ethanol) content of Absinthe that’s dangerous rather than 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 simply found in minute quantities and ought to therefore cause no major side effects or health problems. The EU stipulates that alcoholic beverages with an ABV (alcohol by volume) level over 25% might only 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 matches but a majority of brands of Absinthe have much less than 35mg with many being under 10mg/kg. In the US it is simply legal to get or sell Absinthes with trace amounts of thujone.
High doses of thujone can be dangerous causing convulsions but you will have to drink a large amount of Absinthe to consume that amount of thujone and it will be impossible to drink that amount, you would be comatosed from alcohol before then!
It is known that Henri-Louis Pernod, who owned the initial Absinthe distillery, used 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 put into Absinthe. These herbs especially the aniseed and anise are accountable for the distinctive aniseed or licorice taste of Absinthe and wormwood is liable for the bitter flavor. Absinthe is sometimes used as bitters in cocktails.
There are several brands of Absinthe or Absinthe substitutes that have been developed during the ban and thus 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 try to find brands that contains wormwood or Absinthe thujone.