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Is absinthe dangerous?

Will wormwood make me blind?

It has been said that absinthe makes people go mad, blind, epileptic, and apparently it could even infect you with tuberculosis or turn you into a criminal.

This is all nonsense, of course, but there has to be a reason why that many people believe in those myths. Absinthe was very popular in the 1800s. There was a broad range of different absinthes available – some where sincere, honest products, some were cheap, badly made products that shouldn’t even have entered the market. They were made with methanol and were seriously dangerous for the human body. A similar problem was caused in the United States during Prohibition. Unregulated and untested alcohol can lead to serious problems when people take advantage of the situation for profit.

Determining between toxic, cheap and often dangerous copies of absinthe and true absinthe must have been extremely difficult for both the society and the government of the 19th Century. However, real absinthe, consumed moderately of course, is only as harmful as any other alcoholic spirit.

Did absinthe kill Edgar Allen Poe?

Nowhere in Edgar Allen Poe’s Wikipedia page does it mention absinthe. Absinthia is not sure how popular or readily available it would have been for him, a starving writer in Maryland in the early 1800s.

“He died in Baltimore on October 7, 1849, at age 40. The cause of his death is unknown and has been variously attributed to disease, alcoholism, substance abuse, suicide, and other causes.”

Did absinthe ever contain opium?

There are no historical references to absinthe ever containing opium. Some have said that many of the artists of the late 1800s, during France’s exciting L’Heure Verte, or the Green Hour, were also smoking opium. Absinthia think this is the perfect recipe for an urban legend. 

Everything you wanted to know about thujone!

One of Absinthia’s favorite hashtags is #thujoneisfakenews. Read on to find out why!

Though it is best known as a chemical compound in absinthe, thujone is unlikely to be responsible for absinthe’s alleged stimulant and psychoactive effects due to the small quantities present in both vintage and modern absinthes. Modern absinthe made strictly according to pre-ban recipes, such as Absinthia Organic Absinthe, has been analyzed and found to be more or less identical to actual pre-ban absinthe. Modern analysis has demonstrated that the compounds blamed for absinthe’s alleged harmful effects were not present in pre-ban absinthe in the large amounts previously assumed. 

While alcohol is classified as a drug itself, absinthe contains no other components that would differentiate it from any other form of alcohol in that sense.

Thujone, the primary volatile oil in wormwood, is present in only in trace amounts in absinthe due to its resistance to distillation and is safe at these levels. The “100mg thujone” and “extra strong” hype on many absinthe retail sites is a marketing gimmick. The role of thujone in the so-called “secondary effect” is greatly exaggerated, as is the effect itself. The similarity in effect to THC was an untested conjecture in the mid-1970s and is unsupported by later studies. Thujone is a dangerous neurotoxin at large concentrations and is NOT a hallucinogen or a psychedelic and has no reasonable recreational potential.

In order to determine thujone content, an official method for thujone analysis was prescribed.  Although the information has been published and accessible since the 1960s, prior to 2007 it was not widely known that the threshold of tolerance—the fudge factor—for this method was ten parts per million, about 10 mg/L.

This effectively legalizes most absinthes, since authentic absinthe contains only minute traces of thujone in the first place. The highest thujone levels so far detected in pre-ban samples is 48.3 mg/L, the lowest was “none detected.” 1

Many pre-ban era absinthes would be legal in the US today by modern government standards.  Discovering this was a major breakthrough for absinthe in the US. Many absintheures, then, understand that asking the quantity of thujones in a true absinthe, one properly made with artemisia absinthium and distilled, is not an important question. Absinthia Organic Absinthe, despite using a large amount of fresh, organic absinthe, passed federal formula tests at less then 10 ppm. This is because the wormwood is distilled, and these are the same results as vintage absinthes.

Many thanks to Wikipedia and Absinthia’s friends at the Wormwood Society for their excellent research!

Will absinthe make me hallucinate?

Many stories have been told about “tripping” on absinthe. Sorry to say, not only is absinthe not an hallucinogen, the chemical thujone, that is barely present in both vintage and modern absinthes, is more of a convulsant. That is not Absinthia’s idea of a fun evening!

The terrifying hallucinations reported in early, hospitalized absinthe abusers were most likely due to the withdrawal symptoms of acute alcoholism: alcoholic hallucinosis, or, the DTs.  While some of the botanicals used have a mild stimulant effect (aniseed and fennel), there are no psychedelic or hallucinogenic ingredients in authentic absinthe, now or in the past.

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