Absinthe addiction

Sepulchritude Forum: The Absinthe Forum Thru December 2001: Absinthe addiction
By Tabreaux on Monday, November 05, 2001 - 03:26 pm: Edit

You can expect to see some interesting things happen around the time of the Jade launch with respect to this subject and all-things-absinthe.

By Geoffk on Monday, November 05, 2001 - 03:11 pm: Edit

Well, since Ted addressed every point I raised and even performed the experiment which I proposed to disprove thujone as the active element, I have no logical choice but to join the "it's not thujone" crowd. That means I have no idea which compound DOES cause effects, but apparently Ted says there are some candidates, so that's good enough for me at the moment.

I withdraw my previous objections.

-- Geoff K.

By Timk on Monday, November 05, 2001 - 11:23 am: Edit

Ted, are we looking at a likely pre Christmas release?

Tim

By Heiko on Monday, November 05, 2001 - 10:53 am: Edit

Ted,
are you going to publish the results of your experiments (especially the mentioned thujone experiment) as soon as Jade will be on sale?

I have to admit I'm awaiting these results even more than I wait for Jade...

By Tabreaux on Monday, November 05, 2001 - 10:03 am: Edit

> Oil of wormwood is about 80%+ thujone. That means that thujone is by far the prevalent essential compound in wormwood, with other compounds occurring at very much smaller levels.

Oil of wormwood is not used in absinthe-making and is not representative of the distilled fractions of A. absinthium present in absinthe. The two are incomparable. This is a most common, yet critical error.


> If any of them were responsible for effects, they would have to be effective at extremely low dosages.

It seems that acute intake of even low triple digit thujone concentrations does not cause any psychotropic effects. We know virtually nothing of the other essences of absinthium.


> Thujone is also expressly regulated by the FDA and EU, who don't seem to feel that anything else in wormwood is really objectionable--except the thujone.

Thujone is regulated (to very minute concentrations) for the same reason that absinthe was banned some 86 years ago......due more so to ambiguity and suspicion than anything objectively scientific.


> As you and others have observed, an ideal test would be to get pure, chemical thujone (preferably in alpha, beta and mixed orientations), mix it in pure ethanol, dilute with distilled water and see if the resulting cocktail has absinthe-like effects. This test removes almost all of the other wormwood compounds and variables from the test. To my knowledge, this exact experiment has never been done.

I've done it, and my results were negative.


> Using oil of wormwood or adding extra thujone to regular absinthe induce multiple variables and are NOT equivalent to this test.

Hence my clarification in the first paragraph of my post.


> This compound would have to occur in wormwood, not be present in anise or most other plants and be present in wormwood, in quantities sufficient to have a noticable physiological effect after distillation has occurred. Besides thujone, what is a likely candidate?

There are several, and that 'rabbit hole' goes deeper.

By Mr_Carfax on Sunday, November 04, 2001 - 03:49 pm: Edit

Hi Geoff

you are highlighting an issue which is ongoing in the herbal medicinal industry....

I am of the opinion that any secondary effect is probably not just one compound acting alone, that the pharmacology may be somewhat more complex- maybe thujone does play some role but I don't believe it is the compound on which to hang ones hat.

There are many herbs for which we have reliable biomarkers and compounds which are at such a significant and consistent level that they are used to determine the consistency in quality and set standardisation for raw herb batches used medicinally (and I'm talking in pharmceutical based preparations)...these standardised biomarkers however do not necessarily serve any proven or definitive role in the efficacy of the herb- they are just convenient to measure for consistency or because they need to be monitored for toxicity reasons.

An example is Valeriana officinalis, the most common compounds used for measuring the consistency and quality of products containing this herb are the total "valerenic acids" (mainly cyclopentane sesquiterpenes)- however the majority of actual research of the efficacy of valerian (ie against chlorpromazine) has focussed on the valepotriates which are only at levels of 0.5-2% within the herb.

The valepotriates are not the only sedative compounds however, as earlier research on the essential oil components of valerian also revealed a (albiet much weaker) potential for sedative effects.

There are over 70 identified compounds in A.absinthium according to Dr Dukes online compendium of chemical constituents:

http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/duke/farmacy2.pl

However, it is of limited use to speculate on the effects of Absinthe "the drink" based purely on on the chemical breakdown of the herb (or essential oil) alone. If we approach this from a "pharmceutical development" point of view, we know that the pharmacological potential of whatever actives we put into a preparation are going to be signficantly effected by the dose form, the carriers, the manufacturing process itself, and finally, there is the human gi tract and hepatic metabolism to contend with.

I can't even begin to speculate what sort of chemical reactions and changes could occur during the process of extraction and distillation, but I'm sure those with the appropriate analytical equipments have a good idea...

By Geoffk on Sunday, November 04, 2001 - 04:08 am: Edit

Ok Ted, but...

Oil of wormwood is about 80%+ thujone. That means that thujone is by far the prevalent essential compound in wormwood, with other compounds occurring at very much smaller levels. If any of them were responsible for effects, they would have to be effective at extremely low dosages. Thujone is also expressly regulated by the FDA and EU, who don't seem to feel that anything else in wormwood is really objectionable--except the thujone.

As you and others have observed, an ideal test would be to get pure, chemical thujone (preferably in alpha, beta and mixed orientations), mix it in pure ethanol, dilute with distilled water and see if the resulting cocktail has absinthe-like effects. This test removes almost all of the other wormwood compounds and variables from the test. To my knowledge, this exact experiment has never been done. Using oil of wormwood or adding extra thujone to regular absinthe induce multiple variables and are NOT equivalent to this test. By the way, if increasing the thujone in absinthe doesn't seemingly increase the perceived effects, that proves very little. Many drugs have a threshold dosage, and increasing the dosage after that results in minimal additional observed effect. And I REALLY hope that the brain damage dose (and the LD50) for thujone are far above what anybody would normally drink. That's not what's at issue.

Pending somebody doing something like the above, my feeling is that thujone is still the likely cause of perceived absinthe effects, simply because no other likely compound has been identified (to my knowledge--important caveat). This compound would have to occur in wormwood, not be present in anise or most other plants and be present in wormwood, in quantities sufficient to have a noticable physiological effect after distillation has occurred. Besides thujone, what is a likely candidate?

-- Geoff K.

PS. I have absolutely no political or other committment to this issue. I'm simply approachoing it from a logical and scientific standpoint. I would LOVE to see proof that thujone is not important in the absinthe world. As of yet, I haven't seen much scientific proof in either direction.

By Tabreaux on Saturday, November 03, 2001 - 08:02 am: Edit

> Well, it has been proven that it causes brain damage in an amount of 30mg per kg bodyweight in rats.

And even if one could equate the absorption efficiency of oral administration as being equal to i.p., that would require an acute comsumption of 2100mg on my behalf.


> btw. adding oil of wormwood to Pernod proves nothing about thujone - oil of wormwood also contains hundreds of other maybe active substances.

Oil, essence, extract, etc. are not the equivalent of pure thujone, nor are they representative of the distilled fractions of this herb that are present in absinthe.

By Tabreaux on Saturday, November 03, 2001 - 07:56 am: Edit

> Taking all this into account, what compound, other than thujone, seems to reasonably be the cause of effects? And don't say it's an "push-pull" with different herbs, becuase Segarra doesn't have them.


This logic sounds simple and neat, but it falls apart completely if *any* of the following are true:

(1) Segarra contains a negligible concentration of thujone.
(2) One of the many poorly studied other compounds in A. absinthium is either directly responsible, or is a catalyst for perceived effects.
(3) The oberservations that I (and now others) have posted indicate that increasing thuone concentration does not proportionally increase perceived effects.


If you are willing to accept the posted observations that support #3 as legitimate, than the logic falls apart, and the answers to #1 and #2 become largely academic.

By Heiko on Saturday, November 03, 2001 - 07:41 am: Edit

"The only active element that people have identified in wormwood--to my knowledge--is thujone."

Active for what? And which "people" do you mean?
Someone brought up the "thujone is bad and it's in wormwood" thing at the turn of the century - since then, nobody has ever tried to find other maybe active substances in wormwood. Not even thujone has been proven to be active (in a psychotropic way).

Well, it has been proven that it causes brain damage in an amount of 30mg per kg bodyweight in rats. That means, if it was the same amount in humans, you'd have to drink around 3000 glasses of a 60mg/kg absinthe in a row to cause you brain damage. Well...

btw. adding oil of wormwood to Pernod proves nothing about thujone - oil of wormwood also contains hundreds of other maybe active substances. Only adding chemically pure thujone to Pernod could prove something.

By Geoffk on Saturday, November 03, 2001 - 06:06 am: Edit

I think it's interesting that Segarra, which definitely contains only anise and wormwood, produces the usual effects for most people. Since anise alone (i.e. pastis) doesn't seem to do anything, it seems the only relevant active herb (in some absinthes anyway) is wormwood. The only active element that people have identified in wormwood--to my knowledge--is thujone. There's even a scientifically reasonable explanation for what thujone does to the brain (i.e. GABA).

Taking all this into account, what compound, other than thujone, seems to reasonably be the cause of effects? And don't say it's an "push-pull" with different herbs, becuase Segarra doesn't have them.

Having said that, I don't think spiking Pernod with essential oils "for external use only" and drinking the resulting swill is a practice to be encouraged here, even experimentally. After all, someone who's too lazy to obtain any kind of real absinthe might decide "it's the same thing". And who knows how much such a person might put in?

-- Geoff K.

By Tlautrec on Friday, November 02, 2001 - 02:36 pm: Edit

The essential oil of wormwood that one can readily and legally purchase for $15 or so an ounce from various herb purveyors here in the US can be used to spike Pernod (notwithstanding that the label states "Not for Internal Use"). I didn't do a chemical analysis of it, so I won't assert that it contains 80% thujone, or any other identifiable chemical compound in any particular amount, but it sure contains something that causes absinthe effects.

By Etienne on Thursday, November 01, 2001 - 06:54 pm: Edit

The monkeys are more expensive than the scientists.

By _Blackjack on Thursday, November 01, 2001 - 03:16 pm: Edit

This makes me wonder how active pure thujone is, taken orally. The only studies I've seen showing any effects at all were either in-vitro or involved IV or IP administration in animals, and even then in quite high doses. I wonder how well it is absorbed in the GI tract at all, and if it is deactivated by any of the enzymes in the gut...

Ah, for my own army of mad scientists...

And monkeys...

By Tabreaux on Thursday, November 01, 2001 - 07:36 am: Edit

"I "spiked" absinthe with pure thujone (within safe limits, I'm experimental, not stupid) and I didn't notice any particularly wild secondary effects."


I posted the same first-hand observations awhile back and recall being met with quite a bit of resistance, undeserved criticism, and challenges to my credibility.

In a study I conducted over a year ago, neither I nor any of the other test subjects experienced anything out of the ordinairy, not even after repeated high doses of thujone. I stand by my recent prediction that as time goes by and educated minds consider the subject, more and more will come realize that reports of hallucinogenic and/or psychotropic effects attributable to thujone are horrendously exaggerated.

By Dr_Ordinaire on Wednesday, October 31, 2001 - 01:47 pm: Edit

Tav, as an amateur I can tell you that there is at least one problem regarding your "thujone-turbo" absinthe: in a certain amount of alcohol you can only macerate a certain amount of herbs.

In the recipe I'm familiar with, that would be about 80 g of wormwood (this being 2 1/2 times what is called for in traditional recipes - 30g/L).

You can also go the easy way: pure thujone is sold by chemical companies like Fluka Chemical. Not a good idea.

Thujone is only one of the molecules in a complex dance. Just increasing it won't work. I know, I've tried it. I "spiked" absinthe with pure thujone (within safe limits, I'm experimental, not stupid) and I didn't notice any particularly wild secondary effects.

If anything, what I experienced (a tremendous warmth all over my body) was actually detracting from the absinthe effects I've grown to love.

Dr. Pierre Ordinaire got it incredibly right. It may not be impossible to improve on his work, but it won't be easy...

By Timk on Thursday, October 25, 2001 - 02:31 pm: Edit

whoops

By Timk on Thursday, October 25, 2001 - 02:30 pm: Edit

Thujone is insoluable in water, so to all intents and purposes, none would dissolve 3-4% ethanol solutions.

I dont know what the saturation point for Thujone in Ethanol is, but you will probably find its at such a level, that even presuming a saturated solution is produced, the amount of thujone consumed in a serving is quite small.

When you dilute absinthe, you basically have a glass of 10% alcohol with the oils precipitated out of solution, so you might compare the effects of a glass of absinthe with the effects of a glass of wine - siimilar alcohol content.

By Timk on Thursday, October 25, 2001 - 02:28 pm: Edit

Thujone is insoluable in water, so to all intents and purposes, none would dissolve 3-4% ethanol solutions.

When you dilute absinthe, you basically have a glass of 10% alcohol with the oils precipitated out of solution, so you might compare the effects of a glass of absinthe with the effects of a glass of wine - siimilar alcohol content.

By Tavarua on Thursday, October 25, 2001 - 12:47 pm: Edit

“Bud-Absinthe”

I stay away from Budweiser, the bud mud is more than I can handle and worse than the hangover.

I would be interesting in knowing so that maybe we could put the thujone affect to the test. Since it is believed that the high level of alcohol would render the drinker inebriated before they would feel any significant effect of the thujone, especially with the low level of thujone content in today’s absinthes, maybe there is another option. Have a very high level of thujone and a very low level of alcohol. Larger quantities may be drunk without getting plastered on the alcohol. It would probably taste putrid, but it might be worth a shot. Of course, I am no home brewer, so this idea could already be shot through of holes and I wouldn’t even know it. I can also imagine no home brewer wanting to try this, as it would screw up a batch of perfectly good juice. That is why I asked Don, he might be able to produce a small sample and try just for the hell of it.

By Timk on Thursday, October 25, 2001 - 12:04 pm: Edit

"(by competitively interfering with oxygen uptake by the hemoglobin)"

As far as i know, this is innacurate, the CN- molecule interferes with metal containing enzymes, the lethal effect is a result of it inhibiting cytochromoxidases, and therefore a large part of cellular respiration.

Sodium nitrate, or dimethylaminophenol will cause the formation of methaemoglobin which binds the CN- ions.

Sodium thiosulphate acts wihth rhodanese present in the body, to transforms cyanide into thiocyanate.

Also, vitamin B12, and other metalic complexes can be introduced into the bloodstream to 'mop up' the CN- ions.

Maybe you are thinking of CO ?

By Wolfgang on Thursday, October 25, 2001 - 11:57 am: Edit

About to make some ''bud-absinthe'' Tav ? ;-)

By Tavarua on Thursday, October 25, 2001 - 10:46 am: Edit

Don,

Will wormwood produce thujone when distilled with a very low alcohal content? Say at 3-4%.

By Petermarc on Thursday, October 25, 2001 - 10:44 am: Edit

i don't think absinthe was that popular in the usa because of 'bitters'...it was considered a medicine, but had high alcohol and was consumed by those who didn't want to look like they were drinking...there is no doubt a correlation between the two, bitters was the absinthe of puritans...

By Heiko on Thursday, October 25, 2001 - 10:23 am: Edit

Not to forget the article also mentioned that bitters in Germany (and other countries?) are allowed to contain up to 35 mg of Thujone (and some actually do contain such amounts), but nobody ever felt "absinthe effects" from those bitters. They have effects other than only alcohol, right - some even stronger than any absinthe . It's just absinthe has got the nicest secondary effects. Must be the mixture or something, I don't know, but I like it!

By Don_Walsh on Thursday, October 25, 2001 - 08:35 am: Edit

25 mg of KCN will do...nothing.

25 md of LSD will put you in orbit, as the typical minimum dose is about 1/200 that amount or 125 ug. That is micrograms. On the other hand 25 ug is too little.

A number of 19 century liqueurs contained hydrogen cyanide (prussic acid) which is released when the pits of various fruits and nuts are distilled. This is why for example kirsch tastes like almonds rather than cherries. But the quantities were very small. HCN is one of those all or nothing poisons, it either knocks you out and asphyxiates you (by competitively interfering with oxygen uptake by the hemoglobin) or, if there isn't enough around, it leaves you alone. The antidote is Methylene Blue and sodium thiosulfate, standard stuff for this purpose in emergency rooms.

Modern liqueur distillers who have a problem with a cyanide-generating component use a cyanide trap in their still path. Modern government regulators place stringent limits on cyanides in liqueurs.

By Tabreaux on Thursday, October 25, 2001 - 06:15 am: Edit

"Well, it depends on what you're taking 2 mg of. I wouldn't want to drink 2 mg of Potassium Cyanide or 2 mg of LSD."

It is common knowledge what 2mg of tetrodotoxin or botulin toxin, or for that matter, what 25ug of LSD-25 can do. Thujone is not in this league (by at least two orders of magnitude or more). Any researcher capable of doing the math will likely come to the same conclusion as the author of the article, hence my prediction.


"Many people feel that absinthe has "effects" besides alcohol (lucidity, etc.). If it's not thujone doing it, than it must be some other detectable substance(s). Which one(s) do you think is/are responsible?"

The thujone theory was a WAG that originated over a century ago. There are many other compounds present in absinthe that are scarcely mentioned.

By Geoffk on Thursday, October 25, 2001 - 04:05 am: Edit

Well, it depends on what you're taking 2 mg of. I wouldn't want to drink 2 mg of Potassium Cyanide or 2 mg of LSD. On the other hand, it's clear from the LD50 work that's been done that thujone doesn't have that level of toxicity (or potency). Still, it is at least a *potentially* significant amount of chemical. You can't simply say "This much could never matter".

Many people feel that absinthe has "effects" besides alcohol (lucidity, etc.). If it's not thujone doing it, than it must be some other detectable substance(s). Which one(s) do you think is/are responsible?

-- Geoff K.

By Tabreaux on Wednesday, October 24, 2001 - 02:30 pm: Edit

"He clearly stated that scientific research done on absinthe at the turn of the century could be trusted as much as any common fairytale. He states that, given all the thujone from wormwood goes into the final drink, one could not achieve more than 2mg of thujone per drink. He says that this amount of thujone could have not have any effects."


As time passes and more scientific minds are invited to explore the question, it is inevitable that the logical conclusion will be realized. 2mg of anything is barely enough to wet the head of a pin.

By Absinthedrinker on Wednesday, October 24, 2001 - 02:32 am: Edit

One of the presentations at the absinthe forum in Pontarlier was by a French doctor (not a GP I think) who reiterated all the signs and symptoms usually attributed to absinthism. I spoke to her afterwards in English and asked if there had been any new research done in humans. She said no, because absinthe had been illegal until recently and there was no way that research could have been done. So I asked if she though that there was such as thing as 'absinthism' ie a syndrome associated purely with absinthe consumption rather than the alcohol. She said that she thought that there was, but that you would have to drink several glasses a day for at least a year to see any effect. I asked if she was saying that it had a cumulative effect and she said yes. When I asked her if she thought it should remain illegal she said that in her opinion it would not represent a danger. I was left rather confused by this exchange.

By Heiko on Wednesday, October 24, 2001 - 12:02 am: Edit

by the way: look what this guy (Dr. Huckenbeck) usually writes...

----------------------------
Jakob B, Huckenbeck W, Daldrup T, Haarhoff K, Bonte W: Suicides by starter's pistols and air guns. Am. J. Forens. Med. Path. 11: 285-290 (1990)

Jakob B, Huckenbeck W, Barz J, Bonte W: Death, after swallowing and aspiration of a high number of foreign bodies, in a chizophrenic woman. Am. J. Forens. Med. Path. 11: 331-335 (1990)

Huckenbeck W, Bonte W: DNA-Fingerprinting of Freeze-Dried Tissues. J. Leg. Med. 105: 39-41 (1992)

Huckenbeck W, Bonte W, Lesch O M: Distribution of GC-subtypes in a series of chronic alcoholics. J. Stud. Alcohol 54: 630-632 (1993)

Huckenbeck W, Rand S: Serological findings and efficiency of DNA profiling in transfused patients and their significance for identity and paternity tests. J. Leg. Med. 106: 178-182 (1994)

Huckenbeck W, Kuntze K, Mann W: Species identification in stains by use of crossover-electrophoresis and antisera. Rom. J. Leg. Med. 2: 130-133 (1994)

Huckenbeck W, Freudenstein P, Dziedzic J: Congeners in beers from the catchment area of the Netherlands and Belgium. Rom. J. Leg. Med. 2: 339-347 (1994)

Huckenbeck W, Stancu V, Goertzen M: Bloodstain examination: artefacts created by contamination with dog blood. Rom. J. Leg. Med. 2: 254-260 (1994)
-----------------------------

and so on... :-)

By Heiko on Tuesday, October 23, 2001 - 11:55 pm: Edit

They have an even better jingle on the main site: http://www.uni-duesseldorf.de/WWW/MedFak/Serology/seronews.html

Recognize it?
I guess it's just that serologists are mad (why would they do such a job if they weren't...)

By Verawench on Tuesday, October 23, 2001 - 09:08 pm: Edit

Why they added a jingle to that website is a true mystery. And annoyance.

Try pasting the entire text into
http://www.dictionary.com/translate

By Mr_Carfax on Tuesday, October 23, 2001 - 08:58 pm: Edit

Unfortunately I can only get Babelfish and the Google variant to translate half the article...is there a better program online?

By _Blackjack on Tuesday, October 23, 2001 - 08:10 pm: Edit

Heh. Babelfish traslates "wermutkraut" as "herbherb herb." It also likes to translate "Schaukampf" (stage combat or reenactment) as "fightfight fight" and "Schaukampf-Schwerter" (reenactment sword) as "combatswordsword combat sword".

By Heiko on Tuesday, October 23, 2001 - 07:25 pm: Edit

I read a rather good article from the German medical journal "SeroNews" recently. Even the writer did not seem to be an absintheur and he had not done any experiments, the conclusion wasn't as "clear" (in a bad sense...) as in all other articles I have read before.

For all who can read German:
http://www.uni-duesseldorf.de/WWW/MedFak/Serology/sero/sero-3-01/absinth.htm


The author had obviously had thoughts on his own and came to the conclusion that the symptoms described as "absinthism" are 99% identical to what would be a perfect example for heavy alcoholism. He clearly stated that scientific research done on absinthe at the turn of the century could be trusted as much as any common fairytale (he chose other words, but that was the essence). He questions why there is a legal limit of 35mg/kg thujone for bitters and of 10mg/kg for absinthe.
He states that, given all the thujone from wormwood goes into the final drink, one could not achieve more than 2mg of thujone per drink (according to the amounts of wormwood used for classic recipes). He says that this amount of thujone could have not have any effects. Then he says something very interesting (relating to this mathematical example that one could not achieve more than 2mg per drink): "finally (...) there always is the possibility to add pure oil of wormwood".

Why does modern absinthe not produce more effects than vintage then? Hmmmmm....

By Verawench on Tuesday, October 23, 2001 - 03:36 pm: Edit

Let's say you were a researcher probing absinthe addiction?

What conclusions would you draw from reading the archives of this forum?

By Wolfgang on Tuesday, October 23, 2001 - 12:15 pm: Edit

Nooooon! It can't be true ! Can you see any hint of mental disorder in this forum ?

;-)

By Cheri on Tuesday, October 23, 2001 - 12:00 pm: Edit

My name is Cheri. I am addicted to absinthe.

By Verawench on Monday, October 22, 2001 - 09:27 pm: Edit

Absinthe *is* addictive - it's booze. I would also give it a notch on that addiction neuroses scale, simply due to personal experience with it.

It certainly does not warrant its own category though. For Chrissakes.

By Mr_Carfax on Monday, October 22, 2001 - 09:09 pm: Edit

How cute......

The International Classification of Diseases actually has a code listing for Absinthe Addiction (304.6) under Mental Disorders (in fact it shares the code with glue sniffing).

http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/public-health/icd/290-319.htm

I can still be hopeful then that a category for Bundaberg Rum Induced Stupidity is possibility...

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