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Absinthe (WormWood) Making a comeback in US and Europe - linked to convulsions, madness, and death.
California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs ^

Posted on 08/01/2002 11:50:58 PM PDT by chance33_98

After a long absence, the liqueur absinthe is making a comeback. A recent news report noted that the
wormwood-based liqueur, long declared illegal in most countries, has become popular in underground
circles in Europe and the United States. The drink was popular among artists and writers at the end of
the 19th century and has been linked to convulsions, madness, and death.
Absinthe is an anise-flavored liqueur distilled with oil of wormwood, a leafy herb. Absinthe also
contains flavorful herbs such as hyssop, lemon balm, and angelica. Wormwood is
. The active ingredient is thujone, a neurotoxin. The drink is distinguished by its blue-
green clarity, due to its chlorophyll content. It was traditionally served with water and a cube of
sugar; the sugar cube was placed on an "absinthe spoon" and the liquor was drizzled over the
sugar into the glass of water. The sugar helped take the bitter edge from the absinthe; when
poured into the water, the liquor turned milky white.
Wormwood had been used medicinally since the Middle Ages, to exterminate tapeworms in
the abdomen while leaving the human host uninjured and even rejuvenated by the experience.
At the end of the 18th century, the herb became recreational as people discovered they could
get high from it. However, it was unacceptably bitter.
An undocumented distiller found a solution by inventing absinthe, which delivered both the
herb and alcohol in a beverage with a flavor resembling licorice. The most well-known maker of
absinthe was distiller Henri-Louis Pernod. Absinthe became popular among the cultural
community in 1890s Paris, with Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Verlaine, and Oscar Wilde among its
most ardent imbibers.
Side effects from consumption of wormwood include renal failure, convulsions, involuntary
evacuations, abnormal respiration, and foaming at the mouth. Patients hospitalized in Paris for
absinthe intoxication were noted to suffer from seizures, chest effusion, reddish urine, and
kidney congestion.
Around the turn of the century, it was noted that heavy absinthe users had a propensity toward
madness and suicide. By the 1910s absinthe became banned in the Western world, along with
opiates, cocaine, and cannabis. In the United States, it became banned in 1912. Interestingly,
however, the current U.S. Customs restrictions on the importation of absinthe only date to
1958. Absinthe is still available in Spain, Portugal, and the Czech Republic, where it is quite
trendy among patrons of bars and coffeehouses. It is also legal in Britain and reportedly is
available in Andorra and Denmark.
After absinthe was banned, imitations containing anise and other legal herbs in place of
wormwood, appeared. The most well known is Pernod, which is very much like absinthe but
without the wormwood. The similarity is only in color and taste; Pernod is without the mind-
numbing characteristics of absinthe. The practice of adding aromatic bitters to cocktails also
derives from a nostalgia for contraband wormwood.
WHAT IS ABSINTHE? And what does it have to do with New Orleans?
by Vicki Richman
and Chuck Taggart

Page 3
Facts About Absinthe
The word absinthe is derived from the Greek absinthion, meaning "undrinkable."
Wormwood is mentioned in the bible a dozen times, including the Revelation of St. John:
"And the third part of the waters became wormwood, and many men died of the waters
because they became bitter."
The Russian word for absinthe is chernobyl.
Leaves of the absinthe plant are an effective deterrent to vermin. Thomas Tusser, in his
1577 book
July's Husbandry
, notes "Where chamber is sweeped, and wormwood is strown,
no flea for his life dare abide to be known."
Pliny the Elder reported that the champions of Roman chariot races were given a cup of
absinthe soaked in wine as a reminder that even victory has its bitter side.
The "Purl" of Tudor England was a drink composed of hot ale and wormwood. Samuel
Pepys mentions drinking it in his diaries.
At the turn of the century, the Pernod Fils distillery in Pontarlier, France produced 30,000
liters of absinthe a day and shipped it around the world.
The Pernod plant was struck by lightning in 1901, causing an alcohol fire that raged out of
control for four days. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of burning absinthe were discharged
into the Doubs River, flavoring it with anise for miles downstream.
Celebrated absinthe drinkers included the painters Lautrec, Gauguin, Manet, Van Gogh and
Picasso, along with the writers Rimbaud, Verlaine, Oscar Wilde, Edgar Allen Poe and Jack
Thujone, the principal active ingredient in absinthe, is chemically similar to THC, and is
thought to attach to the same receptors in the brain.
Absinthe, History in a Bottle
, by Barnaby Conrad III (1988, Chronicle Books)

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Miscellaneous
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The Russian word for absinthe is chernobyl.

How Fitting....

Sorry about the formatting - is a PDF through google/unclesam

1 posted on 08/01/2002 11:50:58 PM PDT by chance33_98
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To: absinthe; jwalsh07; Inkie; rdb3; JavaTheHutt; packrat35; cake_crumb; Mad Dawgg; mafree; 11B3; ...
Late night and bored ping
2 posted on 08/01/2002 11:55:39 PM PDT by chance33_98
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To: chance33_98
I read an article recently that said the harmful effects of absinthe may have actually been overstated -- not that it was good for you or anything, but that it may not have been as harmful as people thought at the time; basically, it centered around confounding variables -- those who drank absinthe tended to do other drugs as well, etc. Remember, the stuff's heyday was back when you could buy opium over the counter. But I can't find the link at the moment.
3 posted on 08/01/2002 11:57:02 PM PDT by Anotherpundit
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To: Thornwell Simons
You take the fun out of everything :)
4 posted on 08/02/2002 12:06:35 AM PDT by chance33_98
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To: Bella_Bru; one_particular_harbour
5 posted on 08/02/2002 12:06:45 AM PDT by A.J.Armitage
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To: chance33_98
Aha! Now I know what was kept in those rinsed out 2-liter soda bottles I saw in several places in Europe, mainly 'after hours'. I think I may have had it once, but I usually drank beer or wine or ouzo or a shot of Jack Daniels every now and then.

A German girl I was seeing for a while turned me on to a cool whiskey drink that she called 'honey whiskey'. You get a small jar of honey, a pint or so bottle of whiskey (depending on how strong you want it) and some dried (not powdered) anise (maybe an ounce or two, I don't remember).

Slowly heat the honey in a saucepan over low heat. Keep the heat very low to avoid evaporating the alcohol out as you add the whiskey to the honey. Mix until even consistency and pour in a suitable sized bottle with the anise 'sprigs' in the bottom. The longer you leave it before you drink it the more the 'sprigs' of anise release their flavor into the honey and whiskey. I kept it in the fridge and don't know how it would behave at room tempurature. It's good warm right off of the stove or cold.

6 posted on 08/02/2002 12:56:14 AM PDT by Looking4Truth
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To: Looking4Truth
Interesting Truth...thanks.
7 posted on 08/02/2002 1:03:54 AM PDT by brat
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To: chance33_98
There is a fascinating book about Ansinthe : " ABSINTHE History In A Bottle ", by Barnaby Conrad III; if anyone is interested.

I knew that Absinthe was agin being manufactured; however, without the wormwood. I really wonder just how correct this info is... that some Absinthe, now has wormwood in it. There have been cahches of ORIGINAL Absinthe, which some people have bought, at late as the 1980's; but, it was an "underground" sort of thing.

8 posted on 08/02/2002 1:05:20 AM PDT by nopardons
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To: Thornwell Simons
Whatever you read, was NOT true. Absinthe was every bit as dangerous, to the over induldger , as was purported.
9 posted on 08/02/2002 1:07:03 AM PDT by nopardons
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To: chance33_98
Side effects from consumption of wormwood include renal failure, convulsions, involuntary evacuations, abnormal respiration, and foaming at the mouth.

Involuntary evacuations, as in a bogus fire drill? This sounds like fun!
10 posted on 08/02/2002 1:46:03 AM PDT by Djarum
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To: nopardons
Here we go, I did a google search and found an "absinthe FAQ." I don't think it's what I read before, but it seems to have a lot of the same info.


This issue is not entirely resolved. Alcohol is definitely one main component. However, another candidate is the monoterpene, thujone, which which is considered a convulsant. Thujone's mechanism of action is not known, although structural similarities between thujone and tetrahydrocannabinol (the active component in marijuana) have led some to hypothesize that both substances have the same site of action in the brain. Thujone makes up 40 to 90% (by weight) of the essence of wormwood, from which absinthe is made (2). Thus, thujone would appear to be a good candidate for a second active component in absinthe. Indeed, thujone has long been considered to be the neurotoxic cause of absinthism.

However, the direct evidence to support this idea is scant. Absinthe is 75% alcohol. Therefore, alcohol's effects will limit the amount of thujone one can ingest. Quite simply, you can only drink a moderate amount of absinthe before you become very drunk from the alcohol. Thujone would have to be active at a very low dose or be present in high quantities in order to have any appreciable effect. In the "This and That" column in Trends in the Pharmacological Sciences, "B. Max" made the following dose calculations:

How much thujone was present in absinthe? Steam distillation of wormwood yields 0.27-0.40% of a bitter, dark-green oil (3) In a typical recipe for absinthe, 2.5 kg of wormwood were used in preparing 100 liters of absinthe (4). Typically, 1.5 oz was consumed (diluted with water) per tipple (5). This is equivalent to 4.4 mg wormwood oil per drink, or 2-4 mg thujone. This is far below the level at which acute pharmacological effects are observed. Even chronic administration of 10 mg/kg thujone to rats does not alter spontaneous activity of conditioned behavior (6). The literature on the pharmacology of thujone is, to put it bluntly, second rate, and conclusions as to its effects have been extrapolated far beyond the experimental base (7).

Furthermore, the symptoms of absinthism do not appear to be that unlike those of alcoholism. Hallucinations, sleeplessness, tremors, paralysis, and convulsions can also be noted in cases of alcoholism. This suggests that the syndrome "absinthism" mayy well have been caused by alcohol. Because absinthe is no longer popular, little research has been done into its effects on health. Reports on thujone's/absinthe's toxicity seem to rely mostly on case reports from the beginning of the century or earlier. Lacking more recent research, it seems most reasonable to take reports of absinthe's toxicity with skepticism. Essentially, there is little good data to suggest that absinthe's active components were anything other than alcohol.

(In fairness, I should mention that several individuals who have taken home-made absinthe or who have drunk it where it is legal have claimed to me that it produced an intoxication unlike that of alcohol.)

In addition to alcohol and thujone, absinthe sometimes contained methanol (wood alcohol), which could have contributed to the symptoms of absinthism. Calamus (acorus calamus) and nutmeg (myristica fragrans) were also sometimes used in making absinthe. Both plants have reputations for being psychedelics, although to my best of knowledge only nutmeg's psychedelic properties have been well established. However, it seems unlikely that either plant would have been added in the quanitities necessary to produce psychoactive effects.


The basic problem seems to be that Absinthe was prohibited worldwide so early on that no real scientific work was ever done to actually establish precisely how harmful it actually was. I'm not saying it isn't -- for all I know, one drop a day for two weeks will melt your brain -- but it does seem at least possible that absinthe isn't as harmful as it has been made out to be in the past. I'd like to see some actual evidence either way, beyond "everybody knows."
11 posted on 08/02/2002 1:48:25 AM PDT by Anotherpundit
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To: Thornwell Simons
You are totally uninformed, dear. There were, in fact, several studies done in the early part of the 20th. century ; some propaganda, others , quite serious and sound. The USA's Deptarment of Argriculture stared one, in the summer of 1907. That exhaustivce study lasted five years, and was instrumental in getting the stuff banned here.The most important study, in Europe, was conducted by Dr. Valentine Magnan .He was a highly respected authority on alcolhic insanity, who began his study in 1864. " Magnan's studies led him to conclude that absinthe produced reactions in human beings distinct from delirium tremens. In 1874, Magnan studied 250 acute cases of alcholism and concluded that while normal alcoholics suffered from delirium tremens,absinthists were prone to epileptic convulsions called " absinthe epilepsy ".

In 1872, the British medical journal, THE LANCET , stated that the principle effects of wormwood oil, was epileptiform attacks.

In 1889,two French scientists, M. Cadeac and A. Mueunier studied ALL the components of Absinthe, and found that the other herbs used, besides wormwood, also had powerful, damaging qualities </B., as well.

As to the thujone, there's lots of info on that, which completely contridicts the article you found and posted.

Since I am typing from the above mentioned book, and not just CCPing some random Goggle search, I shan't post any more. Just know, that what you are taking as gospel, on some random website, found in Goggle, is NOT , by a long shot, the deffinative authority, on this topic.

12 posted on 08/02/2002 2:10:49 AM PDT by nopardons
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To: wardaddy
Here we go again. The topic, that we thought we had thoroughly covered, long ago, has reared its head again. Help me . once again, post the FACTS ; as opposed to the drivel, that we thought had been put to rest. LOL
13 posted on 08/02/2002 2:13:22 AM PDT by nopardons
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To: chance33_98
The article doesn't describe what sort of high you can get from it. I like to know these things ;-)
14 posted on 08/02/2002 4:22:25 AM PDT by Prodigal Son
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To: chance33_98
The stuff tastes like turpentine; this is not a coincidence, because the compounds are chemically related.

There are better things to drink... in my opinion, absinthe was the 19th century equivilent of huffing gasoline fumes.

15 posted on 08/02/2002 5:12:47 AM PDT by MikeJ
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To: Prodigal Son
It's a hallucinogen. One of the writers for Maxim got drunk on it with two of his buddies as an assignment. The resulting article was pretty hilarious.

Some people have conjectured that Napoleon's armies were half-nuts on this stuff. Pernod shows up in many Hemingway novels, notably the first two. Johnny Depp's opium-addicted character in "From Hell" spikes his glass of absinthe with laudanum (opium derivative).

Just do a search for it on the internet. It's pretty available outside the U.S. (no, never had it, never will).

16 posted on 08/02/2002 8:14:30 AM PDT by HumanaeVitae
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To: HumanaeVitae
Yeah, I remember Depp's character doing that. What about Pernod nowadays? Does it still have the stuff in it? God knows I drank my fair share when I lived in France- it's pretty good on ice. I never had hallucinations though.

So, would it be as strong as LSD or mescaline or mushrooms for example- or would it be less potent? I'm not particularly interested in running out and trying the stuff (foaming at the mouth doesn't sound like too much fun) but I'm interested in it and what it does for general trivial value.

17 posted on 08/02/2002 8:34:01 AM PDT by Prodigal Son
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To: Prodigal Son
I seem to recall a Hemmingway description of an Absinthe high that went along the lines of, "With regular alcohol, the room goes around sideways. With absinthe, it goes around top to bottom."
18 posted on 08/02/2002 8:45:46 AM PDT by Gumlegs
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To: nopardons
Folks will always find a way to rationalize the safety factor in getting high from whatever source. I'm at work now and my Absinthe coffee table book is at home so I'm sort of writing blind. I'm sure Google will have the sites of a plethora of absinthe enthusiasts who claim to have seen God...or There is a veritable mountain of evidence out there that could lead a reasonable person to believe that authentic Absinthe overindulgence will most likely lead to even worse consequences than conventional liquor...which is bad enough on it's own. Since I hardly drink at all sans an occasional half glass of a nice Bordeaux or perhaps a taste of a fine Pilsner or a warm Bitter, I am no longer much of an authority on the "virtues" of imbibing to effect.

Oh last thing. Absinthe is historically consumed for considerable effect. No one sits around sipping it for taste since the taste is considered by most rather vile.

Best Regards.

19 posted on 08/02/2002 8:52:30 AM PDT by wardaddy
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To: nopardons
Oh come now. You can't even come up with anything from the 20th century, and you're claiming authority? I'm sorry, but if the best medical science you can come up with to support your position is over a century out of date, I'm not exactly inclined to consider your position well-supported. Don't you have anything from an era when "bleeding" wasn't the height of medical science?

And one tip, dearie; anyone who calls someone else "dear" in a thread like this, makes themselves look like an arrogant know-nothing.
20 posted on 08/02/2002 8:57:02 AM PDT by Anotherpundit
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