Absinthe: a harmless drink with pleasant effects

Is absinthe unhealthy?

According to many different texts and beliefs, absinthe makes people go mad, blind, epileptic, and apparently it could even infect you with tuberculosis, or simply 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? We can find the answer in the 19th Century. At that time, absinthe was particularly popular. 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. To draw the line between those toxic cheap copies of absinthe, and the real drink must have been extremely difficult for both the society and the government of the 19th Century. However, real absinthe, consumed moderately of course, is absolutely harmless.

What is thujone?

From a scientific viewpoint, thujone is an active substance contained in the oils of the wormwood plant. It accounts for 50 to 60 percent of the essential oils of wormwood, and belongs to the category of neurotoxic substances, an overdose of which can induce convulsions and dementia. But as previously mentioned, absinthe can be consumed legally everywhere and there are good reasons for this. There are still laws in place that govern the amount of thujone contained in absinthe, as well as governing other factors of absinthe production. There is no need to think that drinking absinthe could be harmful:
• Today's scientists say that the quantities of thujone in absinthe are way too small for it to cause any harm. • Once wormwood is distilled, it contains very little thujone. The stem of the plant contains most of the thujone, but only the buds and leaves are used for distillation. • At the end of the XIX century, fake analyses circulated, claiming the level of thujone in absinthe was as high as 260 mg per litre. However, more recent, unbiased studies that were conducted on pre-ban absinthe, proved that they actually only contained 20 mg per litre.

It wasn't until after the ban of absinthe (the second half of the XX century) that scientists were really able to give a precise rate of the level of thujone in absinthe. The experiments and analyses made before that period are not coherent. So don't worry, and enjoy your absinthe. For all those seeking hallucinogenic effects of absinthe, sorry to disappoint you!

Does absinthe have side effects?

When thinking about side effects caused by absinthe, you should differentiate between effects caused by herbs and plants included in absinthe to those cause by alcohol. These effects vary from person to person. But a lot of people recall very pleasant effects of well-being and a clear mind. Although we hear a lot of talk about thujone, and even though many producers target their marketing at the hallucinogenic effects of thujone, this doesn't mean that it's the only substance causing any side effects when drinking absinthe. Some scientists even suggest that other substances, such as Fenchone (from fennel), Pino camphone (from hyssop), and Anethole (mainly from anise), can cause effects that every person experiences in a different way. Those effects however are harmless, and are rather noticed in a positive way.

Will absinthe make me hallucinate?

Sorry to disappoint you, but not at all! Absinthe isn't a drug and will never cause any such effects. A theory from 1975 claimed that thujone is related to THC in its molecular structure, and that effects are similar. However, a more recent study by Meshler and Howlett from 1999 called "Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior" vol 62 N°3, proved that this was a false assumption. Try to be careful about what you believe about absinthe that you read on the internet - most so called 'facts' are further from reality than they are to fiction.