Absinth: Abschätzung des Thujongehaltes von Absinthgetränken nach historischen Rezepten

~ By M. Gimpel, Y. Hönersch, H.-J. Altmann, R. Wittkowski and C. Fauhl-Hassekohn ~

Published in Deutsche Lebensmittel-Rundschau Vol 10, Nov 2006

Summary

Absinthe, an alcoholic beverage counted among the so called “Bitter Spirits”, was banned in many parts of Europe and the United States in the early 20th century owing to manifestations of hallucinations, spasms, convulsions and psychotic diseases symptoms coming along with excessive consumption (abuse).

Thujone, a monoterpene and component of natural oil of wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) used for absinthe fabrication, evokes controversy as to the cause of those symptoms. Little is known however about the effective thujone concentration of absinthe at that time. So far supposed contents of up to 260 mg/l could not be confirmed though.

In order to evaluate if, or rather to which extent thujone can still be considered to be the cause of the symptoms described, a range of basic materials and a number of vintage absinthe recipes were tested for their thujone content in the present study. The three absinthe spirits prepared according to the scale model of historical recipes based on distillation -one way of production -contained thujone in the range of 61 and 101 mg/kg.

Calculation from the reproduced samples reveals that absinthe made in another way of production, with essential oil of wormwood, is likely to have contained thujone concentrations of between 2 and 3842 mg/kg in the past.

Given those large thujone concentrations exceeding by up to a hundred-fold the statutory maximum limit of 35 mg/l determined for bitter spirits (in Germany), it does not seem far-fetched to consider thujone as being a non-negligible cause of absinthism before the ban on absinthe.

Gimpel-2006-Thujongehalt

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