Alpha and Beta

Sepulchritude Forum: The Absinthe Forum Archives Thru July 2001: Topics Archived Thru Oct 2000:Alpha and Beta
By Tabreaux on Friday, October 20, 2000 - 08:29 am: Edit

FWIW according to Sacco and Cialva (1988), oil of Artemisia absinthium typically is comprised (w/w) of 59.9% alpha and 2.3% beta, which equals 62.2% total. If I recall, only the alpha form is biologically 'active'. This contrasts sharply with what is listed in the table below, but then again, what is listed in the table below is "wormwood", which could be just about anything.

You cannot take the data below at face value. Herbsaint is definitely thujone-free, and I've checked it and double checked it against spiked samples. Therefore, you should assume the data below to contain false positive readings. Nevertheless, a false negative is highly unlikely. Naturally, this may suggest some things. As for your point that there are 'absinthe' products which contain no A. absinthium, I am suspicious as well. These suspicions will either be confirmed or laid to rest soon.

By Don_walsh on Friday, October 20, 2000 - 04:06 am: Edit

That's 9.5% not 95%. And obviously, not terpeneless as thujone is a monoterpene. You'll have to ask the authors, if they are still alive as the reference is 33 years old.

I think you are barking up the wrong shrub...

By Bob_chong on Thursday, October 19, 2000 - 11:57 pm: Edit

Damn--and I was just figuring out what plants have limonene and thujone together...and was about to accuse Lasala of having frankincense instead of wormwood. ;-) j/k

Thanks for the info, Don. No offense taken.

But what if there is no beta in absinthe? If (and that's a huge if) Wormwood was right and none of the Spanish absinthe had any beta at all, what are the implications? I mean, were all of the beta tests false negatives?

Also, what does "terpeneless" mean [e.g., cedarleaf oil terpeneless (90-95% THUJONE) (THUJA OCCIDENTALIS)] in terms of human consumption?



By Don_walsh on Thursday, October 19, 2000 - 11:32 pm: Edit

Bob, alpha and beta (thujones) just refer to conformational stereo-isomers of thujone, that are thermodynamically interconvertible, i.e., no bonds need be broken/reformed to convert.

In short it matters little.

Furthermore, essential oil compositions will vary widely depending on location, harvesting, method of extraction etc. So the literature refs are far from definitive; oils from same herb from one place may be very different than from herb from a different locale or harvested differently, different time of year, whole plant versus only flowering tops etc etc. You can't generalize.

Assaying is also very tricky.

In short this is something for the chemists to chew on and isn't going to be resolved by pure reason by a layman. No offense intended. What I am saying is not that this is gnostic, just very highly technical.

By Bob_chong on Thursday, October 19, 2000 - 10:56 pm: Edit

Ok, sorry for the huge tables (nice for the visually impaired, tho'), and I apologize for not crediting Mr. Wormwood for the absinthe test table. It was his test and his post that I took the data from.

But my point of posting these is to speculate about some things. In order to do so, we need to take Mr. Wormwood's test at face value (I know, there are other tests coming, and I know that maybe people have already talked this to death--sorry if I am rehashing), or at least forget the exact numbers and assume that alpha showing up means a positive and beta not showing up means a negative. If we do this, then would it stand to reason that some absinthe distilleries are not using wormwood at all but one of the alpha-laden cousins? Why is beta absent? Maybe it's a chemical thing and Don can set me straight (e.g., beta disappears under distillation?). But I'm speculating, based on these tables and the direction of the wind, that maybe the only product that uses actual wormwood is vermouth (and herb pharm extract, of course). Why else would beta be missing? Why is it so hard for Ted to detect absinthium in Spanish absinthe? This isn't a knock on Ted in any way; rather, it is a rhetorical attempt to make my point: maybe they aren't using wormwood at all (or very little, as Ted has written). Wormwood, for all it's bitterness, should be easier to taste, no?

I dunno. Just thought I'd post about absinthe for a change, and I'd like to hear what other folks think.



By Bob_chong on Thursday, October 19, 2000 - 10:39 pm: Edit

Deva Absenta26.51 mg/Lnd
Hills Absinthndnd
Lasala Absenta33.29 mg/Lnd
Mari Mayans (70%)ndnd
Montana Absenta30.02 mg/Lnd
Sebor (#1) Absinth13.35 mg/Lnd
Sebor (#2) Absinth12.35 mg/Lnd
Serpis Absentandnd
Herbsaint pastis38.48 mg/Lnd
La Muse Verte pastisndnd
Angostura bitters8.88 mg/Lnd
Red Cinzano Vermouthnd14.38 mg/L
Herb Pharm extract10.72 mg/L136.15 mg/L

By Bob_chong on Thursday, October 19, 2000 - 10:34 pm: Edit

Table 1. Thujone content in essential oils
Essential Oilalpha-Thujone %beta-Thujone %Total alpha & betaReference
Cedar leaf55.09.564.5Pinto-Scognamiglio 1967
Sage28.314.542.5Pinto-Scognamiglio 1967
Tansy19.458.077.4Pinto-Scognamiglio 1967
Wormwood0.53-1.2217.50-42.30--Lawrence 1995
Thyme----0.2Farag et al. 1986
Rosemary----4.17Farag et al. 1986

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