The Baneful Effects of Absinthe

Sepulchritude Forum: The Absinthe Forum Archives Thru July 2001: Topics Archived Thru Feb 2001:The Baneful Effects of Absinthe
By Heiko on Thursday, February 08, 2001 - 06:56 am: Edit

To add something: I would of course like to have Absinthe which is real Absinthe, tastes good (well, let's say: a lot better) and has great secondary effects - but this is hard to get (I'll probably go to Switzerland some time and see what I can get). And of course, if I had all the possibilities and knowledge to make Absinthe after the original recipe like Don, I would probably not drink any other stuff anymore (as this would not only be superior quality, but also including the fun of being "homemade").
And: there must be something in wormwood that gives "secondary" effects which is soluble even in wine or beer (as it was used in either). Some people even say wormwood-tea gives you a relaxing effect - I guess there's hundreds of substances in it that might be effectful.

By Heiko on Thursday, February 08, 2001 - 06:33 am: Edit

Hmm, so it might be right that thujone has nothing to do with the effects at all, because as Don says it's not soluble in alcohol/water mixture under 90% of alcohol.
I admit I have done that ouzo/wormwood thing (I like things the real hard and gothic way ;-) ). It just seemed the easiest possibility (before Deva et al became available here) to give it a try (and if it tastes bad: I'm a man, right? So I don't care;-) ).

As I had read some articles on Absinthe and Wormwood before, I was prepared to taste something real horrible that was just a waste of time (mostly because you can't get potable alcohol over 50% in stores in Ger. and if you do, it is in the form of some real expensive liquor - taxes are enormous for alcohol levels over 50%). So I only had this 38% Ouzo and, as said above, I expected having ruined my ouzo and nothing more.
But: it had a side effect - it was uplifting and just giving me a great time (after 2 shots of it, so long before drunk). This was really a lot more than I had expected (I had expected virtually nothing than bad taste).

And the taste...well, if you put sugar in it, as much as possible - it tastes, well bitter, but acceptable. If you drink it out of a nice bottle and a nice glass, you can really enjoy it. Like you get used to the taste of alcohol, you get used to the bitterness and start to like it.
When I first tried Deva, I was disappointed that it was in no way bitter.

BTW the secondary effects of Deva are a little less (but not much) than of this homemade stuff, but also a little different: Deva seems to spin your mind a little more, while the brew is more kind of a relaxing (but still uplifting) feeling.

I don't care if you're laughing about me now: I still have a bottle of this, and I sometimes mix some of it into my Deva (after louching) - this is great in secondary effects, takes the sweetness of the Deva and adds a bitter taste. Only the color is dreadful (some kind of brownish green), but you can't have it all...

I have alway been a fan of do-it-yourself solutions, while most people I know are only really happy if they bought something expensive.
Doesn't mean I wouldn't buy some real good Absinthe and I would of course enjoy it - but saying sth. like "I would only drink 200$ per glass this and that" seems a little to me like "if I can't have a Mercedes S500 I'd rather walk before driving another car."
I'm mostly interested in the effect of the drink, and if it tastes acceptable in the beginning, it doesn't have to be the Ferrari of liquors if it "drives me" where I want to go ;-)

And still: Anything tastes better than a cigarette (at least you should think so - how could smoke "taste good"), but I'm smoking anyways. I have no problem admitting that I do this also because and only because of the nicotine (like everyone else who says he smokes because of the taste - I wouldn't do such an unhealthy thing just because of the taste!)

By Don_Walsh on Thursday, February 08, 2001 - 04:22 am: Edit

Thanks, Jack. I was going by memory, and could've looked it up but was too lazy to. Anyway the overall conclusion was right (speed precursor). Where I live ephedrine is the ingredient of choice as we are really proximate to the Yunnanese ma huang. The Burmese 'drug warlords' (really, Taiwanese (Nationalist Chinese) governmetn backed armed subnational gangs intermarried with Burmese minorities as a cover story) are even closer, and there is the basis for the traffic. The business started shifting out of heroin for trans-shipment, into amphetamines for local consumption a decade ago. The army and police, at least some elements of them, are up to their necks in the racket, this is NOTHING new. Amphetamines were a trememndous pre-war drug abuse problem in Japan -- now the 'greater asian coprosperity sphere' is reliving that nightmare. "Plus le change, plus la meme choses."

By _Blackjack on Wednesday, February 07, 2001 - 11:07 pm: Edit

Don! Bad chemist! PPA is not pseudoephedrine, its norpseudoephedrine. It's a carbon and 2 hydrogens short of psuedoephadrine (or ephedrine, depending on which way they're pointed). I hadn't even thought about it, but, you're right, it probably can be used in methamphetamine synthesis too. Sudafed is still legal in the US, for now, but there is movement afoot to require it not be in single-ingredient preperations for this very reason.

Jack
(who knows way too much about stimulants...)

By Don_Walsh on Wednesday, February 07, 2001 - 10:28 pm: Edit

By the way the ban on PPA (which has now been promulgated in Thailand as well) like the ban on ephedrine, is in my opinion mostly motivated not by the scientific evidence of the supposed deleterious effects but because by removing commercial usages for the substances, it was much asier to monitor or eliminate their use as amphetamine precursors, PPA's other name (besides phenylpropanolamine) is pseudo-ephedrine. The popular paliative for colds Sudafed mostly contained, and was named for, pseudo-ephedrine. It worked by drying up mucuous membranes.

By Tabreaux on Wednesday, February 07, 2001 - 09:30 pm: Edit

Several worthy notes:

Thujone concentration numbers as reported by absinthe makers/sellers are frequently erroneous.

The presence of thujone in no way implies that a product is of good quality (or even absinthe for that matter).

One who judges products by thujone content is on a 'wild goose chase'.

Not one shred of evidence exists that proves thujone to be the source of any reported secondary effects.

Aside from being frequently incorrect, the reported content of thujone of modern products is many, many times too small to cause an acute 'effect'.

And finally, most absinthe sellers (and many makers) know virtually nothing about absinthe (except for nonsense they hear and repeat). Their motivation is money, nothing more, nothing less.

By Grimbergen on Wednesday, February 07, 2001 - 07:52 pm: Edit

"The biggest part of absinthe to my family is the social aspect. At all or most family fuctions, the men (and some women) retire to a smoking room with carafes, sugar maybe a fountain. We sit , we drink and talk as all families do. "

Jesus that sounds good. Much better than the sober, smoke-free brawls when my family gets together. Will you adopt me?

Grim

By Domingo on Wednesday, February 07, 2001 - 07:37 pm: Edit

Sorry, not done yet. As to "secondary effects":
They are real. I have consumed alot of substances. No need to go into that. I was a bartender for many years and have drunk alot of liquor. Some legal some not.
Absinthe gives you this buzz/glow that nothing else can. Sometimes it is a hyper high that makes you want to dance all night.
I have tested and tried blind test with the uninitiated. They all came back the same. Give me more, that was great.
Way before I found this forum and Barnaby's book we were drinking it straight out of the bottle. Why? because it packed a whallop.
In ending, the stuff is fantastic. I am a true believer/consumer/collecter.
Finding out about its history and the rituals were just a bonus.

Sincerely,
Domingo

By Domingo on Wednesday, February 07, 2001 - 07:20 pm: Edit

Here's what I think. Keep in mind I have already had a couple this evening. If you have any questions about the safety of any substance you are about to consume...DON'T.

Simple as that, don't drink it. If you need someone to tell you absinthe is safe in order for you to drink...DON'T.

I like my shit hard, strong and dangerous. I don't care what the effects, chemical content, this level, that level, what he said a hundred years ago. I want my absinthe and I want it strong. Like all those artist/bohemians had a hundred years ago.
If our grandfathers told us they made this kick ass narcotic Moxie a hundred years ago, most of us would be trying to replicate that.

Don't get me wrong here though. I am not just chasing some endless trail of highs. The biggest part of absinthe to my family is the social aspect. At all or most family fuctions, the men (and some women) retire to a smoking room with carafes, sugar maybe a fountain. We sit , we drink and talk as all families do.

But the endless feelers people are sending out to test the safety of absinthe is ridiculous. You didn't do this much research when you first lit up.

My Humble Opinion,
Domingo

By Don_Walsh on Wednesday, February 07, 2001 - 06:54 pm: Edit

Dear Heiko

Taking ouzo and soaking artemisia absinthium in it does not extract thujone from the herb because the alcohol content is too low. Thujone is not soluble in water, or in an alcohol/water mixture much below 90% vol.

The awfully bitter tannins in absinthium are soluble in water and are insoluble in high degree alcohol. So, what you proposed (or did) is not in any way similar to preparing absinthe, in fact preparing absinthe selectivelky favors components in the opposite way that your method does.

So I am afraid your assumptions about the rationale for using absinthium at all, are based on faulty premises.

Cheers

By Black_Rabbit on Wednesday, February 07, 2001 - 06:44 pm: Edit

Heiko is way right about the taste thing.

Really- booze tastes like crap. You knew it the first time you tasted it. Your cat knows it. Your kid knows it. Your dog might be too dumb...
But after you have a bit, have a bit more... it tastes mighty fine.

Just like people can get to like the taste of aspirin. They get addicted to chewing it, the horrible, bitter stuff that it is.

So it is possible, certainly, that people used to drinking ick-bitter 'absinthe', like the steeped ouzo stuff, get to like it after a bit.

Anyone out there done that? Had the wormwood-in-pernod or whatnot start to taste good? I didn't but it makes an interesting question...

By Heiko on Wednesday, February 07, 2001 - 04:23 pm: Edit

Sorry, I got you wrong about the 70%, I was reading a little fast and thought you said the effect comes only from the 70% (alcohol)

By Chrysippvs on Wednesday, February 07, 2001 - 04:20 pm: Edit

I never said it didn't have a secondary effect. I just said it is not nearly as much as some people make it out to be:

"why would any human being ever had had the idea to put ap-sintheon ("the undrinkable") in a drink if it wasn't for effect?"

It was for the effect...but not a psychotropic effect. Absinthe was originally used as a cure-all. It wasn't until after the Soldiers in Algeria drank it to ward off stomach parasites and brought back that taste for anise that absinthe got popular. Absinthe was a medicine at first plain and simple.

I have never felt anything from Deva or any Spanish absinthe for that matter that I don't feel from any other quality pastis. I honestly would drink Ponsec, Oxygenee, or Versinthe over all Spanish absinthe anyway. A few PPM of absinthium isn't enough to make me force myself to drink that stuff.

I definitely would not attribute all of absinthe's "effect" to wormwood. Look at it like an amalgamation of all the herbs. Pick up a quality bottle of Ponsec and drink it like absinthe and let me know what you think. The "effect" is the same.

"Maybe that's the reason why so many artists liked absinth"

Poets and artists drank absinthe for one reason. It was 68%-72% and it was as cheap (then cheaper) than wine. No more no less. Cheap drink.

By Heiko on Wednesday, February 07, 2001 - 03:58 pm: Edit

I didn't say it is a "mystical experience". Actually the Deva I prefer is the 50% - and you're right, I think that f.e. Mary Mayans is far from being a "fine spirit" - tastes like industrial alcohol a little too much...
And yes, actually the herb content in the Deva gives a slightly different effect than a wormwood extract - must be other ingredients or the slightly higher alcohol level, whatever.
But, if I take Ouzo (the greek anisette), taste it, then put in wormwood for two days, taste it again: It is not a pleasant taste anymore, I absolutely agree, but it feels different (perhaps I feel these slight little differences in effect as you get every slight little difference in taste?) - then I know exactly what I added to it, no dubious unknown secret herbs (would such unknown dubious substances be better than if it was just the thujone?). I would say it is slightly uplifting and euphorizing - long before getting drunk! Might be that some people don't feel that, it only seems to suppress fear - and as my brain gives me a little too much fear for talking to people without always reconsidering, some absinth makes this a lot easier and I feel free to be just myself when I'm with people that I don't know. Maybe that's the reason why so many artists liked absinth, they are often people who are introverted and need this little release of social fears to communicate easier and have a good time at parties.

Nothing can make you a poet or an artist! If you are one, you might get a better thought here and there from it (or not) - but I guess it's all about being more sociable.

I can understand if you don't want to support any hype but I can't really believe you don't feel anything special from it - why would any human being ever had had the idea to put ap-sintheon ("the undrinkable") in a drink if it wasn't for effect? Of course everything you must learn to appreciate in taste, namely wine, beer, coffee, tea, cigarettes is only fooling your brain when you think it "tastes" good. It does - after your brain has learned to appreciate the effect it gets from it. Then f.e. good wine is actually the one tasting 'not as bad' as others.

So, you will trade in a little effect for a better taste, I would rather do it the other way round (if it's not too bad). If I want to drink something that only tastes good, I'll have a glass of cola (but what about their secret ingredient? ;-) )

By Chrysippvs on Wednesday, February 07, 2001 - 02:54 pm: Edit

I would be the proponet of the notion that 70% of the absinthe effect is psychosomatic. The rest is just a result of taking in a rather large distilled herbal content. Bear in mind absinthe was never created to be drunk by the glass. It was developed as a cure-all to be taken by the dose. Heve us dosing it even to today. So technically when we are drinking absinthe by the glass (3-6) we are effectivly over-drinking absinthe by a long shot. With vintage and modern quality absinthe (if such a thing exists) absinthes the herbal cotent is very high, so of course there will be some secondary effect. I am sure the same is true for most heavily herbal 72% spirits.

Will you see devils? Will you float above tables? Will it make you a better poet?

The answer is No.

Absinthe is a plesant aperitif with a bad rap. I hate to burst the "absinthe as a mystical experience" bubble, but that is a very ultra-modern idea. Does the fact that it isn't so special make it any less good a drink. Certainly not. It is, however, a shame that people that hate anise will drink absinthe just to be drinking absinthe, the "the stuff that makes you crazy".

I personally won't drink most of the "absinthe" out there. Spanish Absinthe (excepting Segarra is there is nothing better around), all Czech Stuff, and some French and Swiss absinthe is horrible to me. It is cheap in every respect, and it only slightly resembles vintage absinthe. Hence I don't drink it. I would rather go out of my way to get a bottle of Oxygenee, a good full bodied Absinthe Verte, etc...than buy a bottle of Deva. I just can't see paying for a bottle of Deva when modern Pernod is a spitting image for way less hassle.

I suppose I am a purist, just drink what you like. But I think most will understand why the people in this forum who have tasted vintage absinthe don't look kindly upon the Spanish pastis with an absinthe label when they sample the new JL products. If they continue on the path they are the product will be nothing short of outstanding.

Just a thought...

- J

By Heiko on Wednesday, February 07, 2001 - 02:31 pm: Edit

I think it's the wrong way to say "it is not in any case dangerous at all" - because this leads some people to drinking it by the liter because "someone said it's totally healthy".

This then does more harm to us considerable moderate Absinthe drinkers, because these guys will then raise media-interest on the "bad side effects"
(I only remember of this guy drinking a whole bottle of concentrated wormwood-oil and almost died of it - what's in the papers then: "Wormwood is dangerous").

And: If nothing in Absinthe has a special effect except the alcohol - then where does this effect I feel come from? You don't want me list up all the stuff I've taken in my life, but believe me: I have learned to feel any little difference in effect on me (I can almost feel the caffeine from a sip of coffee now). When I first tried Absinthe (it was actually wormwood steeped in ouzo...) there was, from the first glass on, absolutely no doubt that this was not only "a little more than alcohol" it felt totally different from a normal drink - and I loved it a lot more.

So once more, I think the people most in danger of abusing something heavily and therefore leading to bans from the government are those who never even considered it might be harmful.
Another example with ephedrene comes to my mind: a guy who was totally stunned when his doctor told him that ephedrine is a drug and might harm him - his reaction on a newsgroup was something like "but this can't be a drug, I just feel so good an full of power when I take it!" - These are the ones overdosing and afterwards running to the courts to permit the sale!

By _Blackjack on Wednesday, February 07, 2001 - 02:18 pm: Edit


Quote:

You can buy (at least in the US) pills containing heavy amounts of ephedrene that are labelled "dietary supplement" - and this although people reportedly died of liver-failure from ephedrine.



They have laready effectively banned single-ingredient preperations of ephedrine to keep it from being used in methamphetamine synthesis. All you can usually get now are herbal pills with Ma Huang, and there are hysterical parents trying to stop that. I doubt it will be more than a couple of years before the FDA takes authority over dietary supplements.

And, to my knowlege, all the (very few) ephedrine/ephedra-related deaths were things like strokes and arhythmias. It would take a lot more ma-huang than most people could stomach to result in hepatoxicity.

Keep in mind, they just banned phenylproanolamine, which kills less people per year than peanuts. The US government does not shy away from "protecting" its citizens from anything.

By Heiko on Wednesday, February 07, 2001 - 01:52 pm: Edit

Oh come on, it is a common fact (at least I always thought so) that everything that is fun might be a potential danger to your health - the thing is you must learn to keep the warnings in mind while enjoying anyways and -very important- listen to your body, then you'll know how much is good for you!

Every person here should be responsible enough to know that when they are drinking Absinthe, they are not drinking something healthy that will make you live longer. You also know this when you're drinking alcohol, when you're smoking cigarettes or doing whatever else.
You can buy (at least in the US) pills containing heavy amounts of ephedrene that are labelled "dietary supplement" - and this although people reportedly died of liver-failure from ephedrine. Caffeine also is a very unhealthy substance and many people have a daily caffeine intake that is beyond any reason.

I have consumed many different substances that weren't healthy at all, but I always started carefully and learned to listen to my body. This is why I never had any serious problems with any substance (I admit with some I knew when I had to quit forever).

I guess the point is: If you read scientific articles about the toxidity or potential dangers of all the different substances you consume on a daily basis and took everything that serious you wouldn't even touch a cup of tea anymore. I read articles about usual milk from the supermarket contained heavy traces of up to 80 antibiotics and other drugs and must therefore be labelled "harmful".

As my old chemistry teacher in school put it: "With todays scientific methods about anything can be proven to be harmful. But if scientists say there are unhealthy amounts of lead in beer, I say you die of alcohol 10 times before you're harmed by these amounts of lead - and to die 10 times from the alcohol in beer, you have to drink so much beer that you will burst before from all the water!" --He was a really cool guy btw, and I guess he would comment on absinthe in about the same way (sth. like "I bet before you're harmed by thujone you lost your job and your wife anyways cos you would have to be drunk 24/7 for years"). ;-)

By Chrysippvs on Wednesday, February 07, 2001 - 01:27 pm: Edit

In reality the fact is that over 22 million liters of absinthe were floating around in France in 1913..around 17 million before that. As you can tell enough for every man to have quote a bit of absinthe...and how many of them had problems?

Now when I say 22 million I am also counting even the urine colored green stuff. How many people went crazy that weren't that way to begin with? None I would imagine. So if every absinthe contained thujone (or even if only a few brands did) then literally thousands of people would have been in fits for more than 50 years! (from c. 1860 - ban.)

This simply doesn't ring true. Leading me to beleive that absinthe is no more dangerous than any other spirit in that range. Thujone doesn't work into this picture and I honestly and willing to say it plays no part in absinthe, especially quality absinthe.

So in effect we shoot ourselves in the foot everytime we ask "how much thujone is in this absinthe?" We are effectivly letting the same baseless propoganda that got absinthe banned to judge what is quality among absinthe brands. This notion to me is counter-productive at best, and at worst we are working to get absinthe totally banned and effectivly loose it's quasi-legal status with which I am perfectly happy.

Just a humble thought to throw around.

- J

By _Blackjack on Wednesday, February 07, 2001 - 01:26 pm: Edit


Quote:

"I'm glad my son's only doing cocaine and not marihuana".



America seems to have the same sentiment about our president...

By Fluid on Wednesday, February 07, 2001 - 12:57 pm: Edit

Glad that's all cleared up (dare I add yet another smiley face to this thread?).   Meanwhile, I came accross a reference to the Berkeley researchers' work, "Toxin in absinthe makes neurons run wild" but as usual it is sorely lacking...

I've finally chosen to not care anymore; the fear and anxiety caused by the unneccessary worry of "what-ifs" has got to be more damaging than thujone / absinthe itself.

If it were anywhere near as dangerous as the research / propaganda implies, the entire continent of Europe would have been a completely disfunctional madhouse.   While some may argue that that was the case, I'd say it's quite a stretch of the imagination.       burp

Fluid

By Chrysippvs on Wednesday, February 07, 2001 - 12:55 pm: Edit

From all the things that I have read, thuojone may play little or no part in anything to do with absinthe...

By Artemis on Wednesday, February 07, 2001 - 12:54 pm: Edit

"I can't believe I have to say this ..."

You don't have to say anything on my account. I considered long and hard before I made that response to your post, just as I've considered long and hard for the past several days whether to make ANY post here, ever again. I decided to pass on your first post. When you gave voice to the same erroneous assumption a second time, I felt obliged to jump in, in the interest of promoting a truer picture of the state of things.

" ... but my intention was not to insult anybody, not even mildly."

Relax. "Insult" wasn't the best word. You did not insult me. I take that back.

"I thought it might be interesting to disseminate an interesting historical article"

I agree, and I thank you.

"Artemis, for me to have even inadvertently insulted you or your friends/acquaintances, one of my assumptions above must be wrong. Which is it?"

None of those. It was the assumptions you obviously made but didn't include in your list:

1. That all absinthe being consumed in the world today is "commercially available".
2. That it bears no resemblance to turn-of-the-century products.
3. That people are not drinking a lot of it, and/or have not been drinking it for extended periods of time.

"after all for decades no one on earth has drunk authentic "full-strength" absinthe in large daily quantities for a prolonged period of say 5 or 10 years."

You don't know that. I don't personally know anyone who's been drinking it that long, but that doesn't mean it hasn't happened.

"If anyone wants to start, they'll have to wait until Jade's new Pernod recreation is available."

That's completely incorrect, for reasons I've already pointed out.

This post in no way, shape or form is intended to be a commentary on Jade products. It's just that Oxygenee failed to take into account that there is Ted, there is Don, there are a whole lot of customers of Spirits Corner, Justin, and Betty, and then there is yet another class of absinthe afficionado, for the most part unrepresented in this forum, who silently go their own way. I occasionally speak up for them, although I increasingly wonder why I bother.

"Therefore, unlikely as it may seem to us, we should not NECESSARILY reject out of hand the overwhelming 19th century scientific consensus that it WAS indeed harmful. "

I haven't rejected it out of hand. I have rejected it after careful consideration of it, along with all other facts and evidence available to me. I expressed my opinion of the matter. Everybody here is free to do as he pleases.

By Heiko on Wednesday, February 07, 2001 - 12:37 pm: Edit

Ever heard of the Reefer Madness? That was the absolute systematic demonization of marihuana in the USA only like 50 years ago. Although I wouldn't say that it is "totally healthy" - it's a drug, yes, but one of the least dangerous. At that time it was advertized as "the evil" and "the worst killer drug ever sold". The reasons were mostly political, because most immigrants from Mexico smoked it...
And still today you can hear from people (even here in Germany, where the campaign wasn't led) things like "I'm glad my son's only doing cocaine and not marihuana". This is totally insane, but the campaign left it's traces in the minds of people.

Might be the same with Absinthe, f.e. in Germany the expression "Wermutbruder" - "wormwood-brother" is still kind of an insult and means sth. like "(homeless) down and out alcohol-addict"

By Grimbergen on Wednesday, February 07, 2001 - 12:17 pm: Edit

Oxygenee,

I think there is some evidence to suggest that prolonged thujone consumption isn't harmful. If I recall correctly, the Berkeley article said that thujone is quickly metabolized by the liver. So as long as you don't overdose in one sitting, it doesn't seem likely that there will be lasting effects. Maybe it will put a bit of a strain on the liver, but I foresee needing a new one anyway :)

Grim

By Wormwood on Wednesday, February 07, 2001 - 12:09 pm: Edit

This has got to be the only forum on the net where 1890s era "science", and prohibitionist propaganda still gets quoted as fact. It must be because thats the last time any reasearch was done (or anyone cared about it). Kind of like like trying to figure out if the criminal is innocent after he has been executed.

We are always debating lies and half truths someone invented almost 100 years ago.

Nobody goes on physics forums and says "I just read an article from 1860 that states: the heat given off when things burn is from phlogisten, is that true?"

By Oxygenee on Wednesday, February 07, 2001 - 12:04 pm: Edit

Jeez..
I can't believe I have to say this, but my intention was not to insult anybody, not even mildly.
I thought it might be interesting to disseminate an interesting historical article, while passing a lighthearted comment IN JEST FOR CHRISSAKES on Ted and Don's eagerly awaited new elixir.

But on a (little bit) serious note:
I made the following assumptions:

No commercially available absinthe approximates original Pernod.
Neither do any of the Le Bleues or Haut Doubs #9's.
No one has sufficient stock of original 19th century Pernod to drink it on a regular basis.
Jade Liquors new brew WILL approximate old Pernod.
Ted and Don have given samples to several people, but not in quantities sufficient to drink on a daily basis for years on end.
Ted has never spoken of personally drinking absinthe in quantity on a daily basis. Don has. As the distiller busy perfecting the product, he's virtually obliged to.

Artemis, for me to have even inadvertently insulted you or your friends/acquaintances, one of my assumptions above must be wrong. Which is it?

On a further (also a little bit) serious note:

Its clear that thujone is not ACUTELY dangerous - I don't think even the most virulently anti-absinthe old authorities really allege this. They all allege that extensive, sustained use of absinthe is CHRONICALLY dangerous.
Its not, from a scientific point of view, clear that this is NECESSARILY untrue - after all for decades no one on earth has drunk authentic "full-strength" absinthe in large daily quantities for a prolonged period of say 5 or 10 years. If anyone wants to start, they'll have to wait until Jade's new Pernod recreation is available.

A simple thought experiment:
Imagine that alchohol was banned at the same time as absinthe, and had been completely unavailable anywhere, even in bootleg quantities, for 70 or 80 years. Imagine it then became available in a limited way and only in highly dilute concentrations.

When reading 19th century reports on cirrhosis of the liver as a result of chronic alchohol abuse, mightn't we then ascribe this to prohibitionist hysteria and/or the poisonous effects of adulterants. After all, we would say, no one even remotely has any of these symptoms now. So we would say categorically that alchohol had nothing to do with cirrhosis. And yet we'd be wrong, wouldn't we?

To put it another way:
Theres no credible modern scientific evidence that thujone consumption is harmful.
There is also no credible modern scientific evidence that sustained large-scale consumption of thujone over very prolonged periods is NOT harmful.
Therefore, unlikely as it may seem to us, we should not NECESSARILY reject out of hand the overwhelming 19th century scientific consensus that it WAS indeed harmful.

May I take this opportunity to aplogize in advance to any and all readers who have been DEEPLY, DEEPLY OFFENDED by any part of this posting.

By Artemis on Wednesday, February 07, 2001 - 09:20 am: Edit

"As the only person on the Forum who has been drinking authentic Pernod-style absinthe for any length of time"

Although I didn't think Oxygenee's original post had any malicious intent toward Jade Liqueurs, I found THAT assumption, implicit in the original post and expressed baldly in a later post, to be mildy offensive. Oxygenee, Don is NOT the only such person. I know of at least five others. If any of them are shivering wrecks, they've hidden it quite well.

My own opinion is that the debunking found in the old Pernod catalog and other sources is essentially accurate. Low quality alcohol, nasty additives, etc. can cause plenty of harm. Good quality alcohol and herbs chosen with common sense, used in moderation, cause no problems.

By Tabreaux on Wednesday, February 07, 2001 - 08:05 am: Edit

The FDA has a long list of herbs which are not allowed in certain products. The uses of many herbs are restricted.

By Black_Rabbit on Wednesday, February 07, 2001 - 07:13 am: Edit

Why does the FDA have it's panties in a bind over Calamus?

By Don_Walsh on Tuesday, February 06, 2001 - 11:27 pm: Edit

Obviously I can't comment one way or the other on alleged, possible, hypothetical herbal constituents.

Except for licorice. Which we don't use. :)

By Tabreaux on Tuesday, February 06, 2001 - 10:39 pm: Edit

The list of herbal constituents used in our upcoming products is 'embargoed'.

By Oxygenee on Tuesday, February 06, 2001 - 10:27 pm: Edit

Glad to hear you are on the road to recovery, Don.

A question:
Do you use sweet-flag (or calamus) as mentioned in the Scientific American article in any of your new absinthe recipes?

If this information is embargoed at the moment I understand, but it would be interesting to know at some stage, particularly because according to the article Fluid posted it has, allegedly, interesting medicinal properties and has also attracted the baneful attention iof the FDA.

By Don_Walsh on Tuesday, February 06, 2001 - 09:31 pm: Edit

Sorry, the symptom is accurately described but the cause is not some super-thujone. The cause is a couple of flames I have been subjected to on other forums (nothing to do with absinthe) and those have frazzled my normally humor sensitive antennae, leaving me grumpier than usual. I did prevail though...

By Oxygenee on Tuesday, February 06, 2001 - 08:18 pm: Edit

Don:

"Bad joke, if it was a joke at all."
"Ancient anti-absinthe propaganda is boring."

As the only person on the Forum who has been drinking authentic Pernod-style absinthe for any length of time, you seem to be exibiting troubling symptoms of a hitherto unrecorded symptom of excessive thujone consumption - viz COMPLETE DESTRUCTION OF THE SENSE OF HUMOUR NERVE (with ancilliary damage to the sarcasm and irony detectors).

Might a suggest an intensive course of treatment with say "Dr Katz, Professional Therapist".

I speak with confidence when I say that all of us on the Forum (except of course Martin) send you our thoughts and prayers for a speedy and complete recovery.

By Grimbergen on Tuesday, February 06, 2001 - 05:14 pm: Edit

haha. good point Don.

By Don_Walsh on Tuesday, February 06, 2001 - 04:27 pm: Edit

I thought we were already debauched, shivering wrecks.

By Tabreaux on Tuesday, February 06, 2001 - 04:23 pm: Edit

I cannot believe I forgot to include bad quality alcohol in my hasty post earlier. Nevertheless, the higher alcohols and associated impurities are the really nasty things you'd like to avoid. As far as methanol, it is acutely toxic, but even a few hundred ppm is far too small to cause any health worries.

Of course, quality alcohol is highly preferred. Back then however, you could really get some nasty stuff.

By Fluid on Tuesday, February 06, 2001 - 04:08 pm: Edit

Damn, and I had high aspirations... d'oh

Don, you shouldn't take any of the ribbings too seriously. Aren't we all in awe and (relatively) quiet anticipation of your ambrosia?

Hope my post didn't further offend, it's meant just to show another take on Oxygenee's original post here. I giggled at it, and certainly not at your's (or Ted's) expense.

Perhaps it's jealousy or simply a sophomoric intellect, but whatever it is, it is not a slight on Jade.

By Grimbergen on Tuesday, February 06, 2001 - 04:04 pm: Edit

"Ancient anti-absinthe propaganda is boring."

huh? This accounts for so much of the interesting absinthe lore. It is hard to see how absinthe would have its current intrigue if it hadn't been vilified so badly


"Will we Forumites all become debauched shivering wrecks…"

Yeah can't see how that could be intended as a joke. Sure sounds like he is voicing a serious concern.

By Don_Walsh on Tuesday, February 06, 2001 - 03:59 pm: Edit

Fluid, you just blew any chance of being hired as our joke writer. Sorry.

By Don_Walsh on Tuesday, February 06, 2001 - 03:57 pm: Edit

'Real studies from the lawyers'

Isn't that an oxymoron?

(Oxymoron: an internally contradictory phrase, like 'political reform' or 'military intelligence')

By Fluid on Tuesday, February 06, 2001 - 03:56 pm: Edit

hunh.

I got the joke (or at least the way I interpreted the post was humorous)...

1. The past myth: wormwood evil & dangerous
2. The truth: cheap additives poisonous
3. The current myth: Ted's recipes will blow our minds
4. The truth: no cheap additives in Ted's
5. Therefore, wormwood is _________________________.

Seems kinda funny to me, but then again my head ain't screwed on so tight... yikes

Fluid

By Chrysippvs on Tuesday, February 06, 2001 - 03:50 pm: Edit

"Ancient anti-absinthe propaganda is boring."

I have to digress...most of it is hillarious. Only a dimwit would honestly look at it and go "I am glad they banned that stuff when they did."

I want to get my hands on some pro-absinthe stuff..I am sure there are tons of old legal documents around about. And I am not talking about "Try our new Thujone-free brew", but real studies from the lawyers etc...

By Don_Walsh on Tuesday, February 06, 2001 - 03:34 pm: Edit

Bad joke, if it was a joke at all.

Ancient anti-absinthe propaganda is boring.

Similar anti-alcohol propaganada also exists in abundance.

By Chrysippvs on Tuesday, February 06, 2001 - 03:28 pm: Edit

I think he was joking, that is one of the shames on internet postings...joking sarcasm is hard to detect..

By Don_Walsh on Tuesday, February 06, 2001 - 03:21 pm: Edit

Oxygenee, I am curious as to why you single out our absinthe products for concern?

We don't use antimony trichloride
We don't use copper salts
We don't use dyes
We distill.
We use no artificial flavor and no additives of any sort.

There are two things that go into JL absinthes:

1. Phytosanitarilly government-certified herbs
2. Unusually pure low cogener ethyl alcohol for human consumption.

Oh, I forgot the distilled water.

NOTHING ELSE. Ever.

I hope that is clear.

By Don_Walsh on Tuesday, February 06, 2001 - 03:12 pm: Edit

The four compounds TimK so thoughtfully mentions are cogeners from fermentation of ethyl alcohol. Methanol, ethyl acetate, n-propanol, 2-propanol, various isomeric butanols, and the infamous isomeric amyl alcohols which are the source of hangovers. Plus aldehydes, acids, and furfural. All possible cogeners and oxidation products. And this list is not exhaustive; read up on the make up of 'fusel oil'.

All potable ethyl alcohol contains traces of most of these. Beer, wine, everything. What was fermented (the feedstock) impacts the mix and amount of cogeners. Proper fractional distillation removes most of these. There are various post-treatments with activated carbon, and more exotic and obscure materials, which 'polish' ethyl alcohol. Usually that takes time. Weeks. Months. Anyway, the important thing is to understand that ALL alcoholic beverages contain cogeners which survived distillation (if any) and/or any polishing/aging. Some alcoholic beverages DEPEND on complex cogeners for their flavor (whiskey, brandy). In all other cases they are just along for the ride. If present in excess they will give you a hangover. If mostly absent, you simply won't get a hangover. Maybe.

(Your body 'burns' ethanol and generates acetaldehyde in far greater quantities than usually exist in the bottle.)

If all this hasn't scared you into teetotalling, good on you. Because it is all a red herring.

For several weeks I have been studying and comparing national and international quality standards for potable ethyl alcohol, along with other standards such as USP and BP. The paper chase has been fascinating and informative. These standards vary widely.

Let's take methanol. (No don't drink it unless you like making brooms. Just consider the case of methanol.) The USP and several national standards simply require that a sample of alcohol pass a color reaction test with a particular standard reagent after being treated in a specific fashion. This is a qualitative test and imparts little quantitative data -- it just says it is clean enough for the US Pharmacopia standard. Other standards use a g.c. method and are quoted in ppm. Some transnational standards such as the EU are truly appalling (500 ppm methanol!) while some company standards are very strict (< 1 ppm). In general <50 ppm methanol is taken to be a good quality potable ethanol. Even in EU alcohol producers informally use this standard despite the 'loose as a goose' official limit.

Standards vary as to which cogeners are monitored, not all monitor every major cogener.

Former Warsaw pact countries and third world countries usually have appalling loose potable alcohol standards. This is not always true. China has rather strict official standards, at least on paper. Chinese liquor on the other hand has a nasty reputation for producing hangovers.

There is a direct relationship between quality of potable alcohol (low cogeners = bettr quality) and cost, and that is because better more precise fractionation is expensive and energy intensive, and post-treatment is also expensive.

Now, just what sort of alcohol do you think we will use? The best that can be bought anywhere in the world. And if it still needs further processing that is exactly what I will do to it. Till it passes MY standards. IN NO CASE IS COST AN ISSUE FOR ME. Anyone who knows what bulk neutral spirits costs (tax free) knows that this is not an issue for high end producers.

So don't worry yourselves.

Thanks for raising the subject, TimK.

By Timk on Tuesday, February 06, 2001 - 02:21 pm: Edit

Presumably, poor quality alcohol containing methanol, propan-2-ol, propanol and possibly 3methyl butan-1-ol if its real shite, obviously combined with such nasties as ethyl acetate and other cogeners. This would undoubtedly contribute to the toxicity of poor quality products.

Tim

By Morriganlefey on Tuesday, February 06, 2001 - 01:01 pm: Edit

I can honestly say this is the most interesting, useful and informative thread I've seen in quite some time. Bravo, Oxygenee!

- M

By Chrysippvs on Tuesday, February 06, 2001 - 09:52 am: Edit

Hey are we talking about absinthe? I thought those days were long gone....

By Chrysippvs on Tuesday, February 06, 2001 - 09:49 am: Edit

All in totos or in combination are used for making more than half the absinthe that was floating around in the late absinthe period. How did Rimbaud and Verlaine get drunk constantly with no source of income? Because this stuff cost pennies, and that is per glass retail...now what did this stuff cost to make.

I would be willing to argue that to drink the stuff that Rimbaud and Verlaine were used to just pour a glass of Hills and add a touch of Clorox. Not so mystical huh?

By Tabreaux on Tuesday, February 06, 2001 - 09:42 am: Edit

In my opinion, the 'toxicity' of absinthe is attributable to four possible culprits:

1) Inferior products made from a maceration of oils.
Oil of absinthium is toxic, and is not the same as an essence derived from alcohol distillation.


2) Use of copper salts for coloring
One symptom of copper poisoning is gastronomic disturbances.


3) Use of antimony chloride to create louche effect.
Antimony also causes gastronomic problems. Upon contact with water, antimony trichloride releases HCl(!). Like a little acid with your louche?


4) Use of other adulterants
Various other adulterants were used in making inferior products, and one can only guess as to the toxicity potential.

By Chrysippvs on Tuesday, February 06, 2001 - 09:31 am: Edit

Beware of this and that!

By Chrysippvs on Tuesday, February 06, 2001 - 09:31 am: Edit

From what I have seen absinthe was being negatively portrayed in the media as early as the 1850s for it's very high alcohol content. The toxicity of absinthe was something that began to be developed in the 1860s. Why? That is then absinthe was beginning to see it first boom in sales and the origins of all the major lawsuits filed by Pernod Fils, Junod, etc.. to prevent people from using their names on inferior products.

All in all things like the Vaud commission and men like Calliaux simply wanted to make absinthe more taxed (which it was heavily already, even advertisements for absinthe were taxed twice that of wine) rather than ban it. It was simply making too much money and was the economic backbone of the Jura. They simply made the argument (which I hold as true) that absinthe, made with the proper alcohol, herbs, and free of adulterants was a proper aperitif free from mind/family/social destroying properties.

Poincare, Legrain, Henri Schmidt and the anti-alcohol leauge wanted to ban absinthe outright, or atleast have the alcohol content lowered to a more reasonable 45%. They also launched in the late 1850s a propaganda war that absinthe "perd nos fils (see the pun..cute huh?)" Even published pseudoscientific pamphlets on how absinthe made men crazy and that 90% of all people in prisons or asylums were absinthe addicts. Anti-Absinthe slogans were being taught to children in schools, anit-absinthe movies (would LOVE to see one of those) were being shown in the early 1900's. Of Course this all reached a climax when the wine crop was ravaged and absinthe was the fall back for the population. Throw in some Metternich-style politics in the mesh, some prewar anxiety and absinthe leaps from the common bar on the corner in 1907 to a "mystical experience" for yuppies and the trendy underground.

By Admin on Tuesday, February 06, 2001 - 08:57 am: Edit

Ha! The Epileptic Absinthe Forum.

But seriously, articles about the deleterious effects of absinthe started coming out, I believe, in the 1860's ...? But I would be interested in comments from one of our venerable experts regarding the history of absinthe bashing.

By Absinthedrinker on Tuesday, February 06, 2001 - 08:57 am: Edit

I'm always ready to show my ignorance of maths so here goes:

20 grains = 1 scruple
3 scruples = 1 drachm
8 drachms = 1 ounce

therefore (assuming these are US quarts = 32 fluid ounces and not UK quarts = 40 fluid ounces) 5 drachms to 100 quarts is 5/8 oz to 32,000 fl oz which is 17.5 g in 89.6 kg alcohol which is 190 mg/kg. As the density of absinthe is less than water the actual value will be a little different but I will let someone else have the pleasure of working that out.

OK David, what is the prize?

By Fluid on Tuesday, February 06, 2001 - 08:39 am: Edit

Here yah go, the basics anyway:   Sweet Flag Description and History

By Oxygenee on Tuesday, February 06, 2001 - 08:29 am: Edit

I recently purchased an October 11, 1879 edition of Scientific American, which aside from the expected run of articles ("Mr Joseph R. Winters New Portable Fire Escape Ladder", "Practical Experiments in Magnetism with Special Reference to the Demagnetization of Watches" etc) contains a short piece headed "The Baneful Effects of Absinthe". I've attached a transcript.

application/mswordScientific American 1879
the_baneful_effects_of_absinthe.doc (22 k)

Some comments and questions:

What is "sweet-flag"? - it's listed as a major ingredient of absinthe.

Interesting to have confirmation of adulteration with copper sulphate and also probably antimony chloride.

The proportion of wormwood in absinthe at the time is listed as "5 drachms to 100 quarts of alchohol". Can anyone convert this, even in theory, into a mg/l thujone concentration?

Interestingly, the article makes careful distinctions between the effects of wormwood, and those of alchohol. Also its written at the beginning of the absinthe boom period, not at the end when the politically important wine growers were agitating for its prohibition. The modern view, seems to be that the dangers of wormwood are vastly overstated if they even exist at all, and that all contemporary literature attesting to the dangers was essentially propaganda.

Have we accepted this new orthodoxy as naively as earlier generations accepted the "wormwood is poison" orthodoxy? Will we Forumites all become debauched shivering wrecks as soon as we start to drink Don & Ted's authentic brew in any quantity?

I think we should be told...

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