Concerning Thujone

Sepulchritude Forum: The Absinthe Forum Archive Thru March 2002: Archive thru January 2002:Concerning Thujone
By Don_Walsh on Wednesday, January 16, 2002 - 01:02 am: Edit

If I cared about being compared to a cartoon character by Verawench I'd be in a sorry psychological state indeed.

However, it phases me about as much as a BB gun to Godzilla. No notice, and pardon my while I step on Tokyo.

BTW Vera, my FATHER was too young (just barely) to fight in WWII. born 1927.

By Verawench on Tuesday, January 15, 2002 - 07:27 pm: Edit


By Artemis on Tuesday, January 15, 2002 - 06:44 pm: Edit

He's a thoroughly ugly little character with no redeeming qualities, a WWII vet who had his legs shot off at the knees by "the Japs" and loves to remind people about it. He does have a woman about 1/3 his age, though, and he got her pregnant, too. Sorry, it wasn't me who made the comparison, but I have watched King of the Hill.

By Don_Walsh on Tuesday, January 15, 2002 - 04:54 pm: Edit

Should I be pleased?

Never saw the program.

By Verawench on Tuesday, January 15, 2002 - 04:20 pm: Edit

Don reminds me of Hank Hill's father on "King of the Hill"

By Chevalier on Tuesday, January 15, 2002 - 02:32 pm: Edit

You've had an interesting life, no doubt about it.

By Don_Walsh on Tuesday, January 15, 2002 - 02:12 pm: Edit

There was a time in my life when I dreamed of CNC mills, and and CNC lathes and surface grinders and punch presses...

Then a day came when I realized I couldn't tell the Good Guys from the Bad Guys anymore, so I quit the arms business before graduating from being a little manufacturer to a Big manufacturer.

My sole relapse and swan song was the Stoner 93 project in 1993-95. Took on the top contenders from 15 nations, in assault rifle and SAW categories, with a 30 year old weapons system, updated just a little, and whipped a lot of their asses.

Didn't get the contract, it was wired for Colt, but scared the shit out of a lot of the Big Boys, proved my point (which basically was that military small arms design has been stagnant for 40-50 years) and had a lot of fun. Spend about $200,000 but it was Other People's Money. Got to work with my old friends Eugene M. Stoner (he died just a few years later) and Reed Knight.

Colt ended up holding an empty bag as the Thai military budged took it in the neck in 97 when the Asian Tigers turned into castrated pussy cats.

By _Blackjack on Tuesday, January 15, 2002 - 01:47 pm: Edit

When I win the lottery, it'll be gas chromatographs for all my little pals!

(I first typed that as "ass chromatographs", which is another thing entirely.)

And CNC mills. I want CNC mills...

By Don_Walsh on Tuesday, January 15, 2002 - 11:07 am: Edit

The elegant (and costly) way to resolve a complex section of a chromatogram is the so called 'heart cut' where the relevant section of anylate is diverted to a second column and oven, using valves and special plumbing, the column and conditions being selected to fully resolve the peaks of interest. This would be a good solution on a 'dedicated' GC for thujone quant analysis. Of course only a wild and c*r*a*z*y guy would tie up a GC for just one purpose...

Main reason for preferring H2 for carrier is it gives better seperations than anything else, as I recall. H2>He>N2, as I remember.

By Wormwood on Tuesday, January 15, 2002 - 05:30 am: Edit

Don you don't need to use Hydrogen as a carrier gas for an FID detector. The gas from the column is mixed with air and Hydrogen in the detector, so it will will work fine with Helium also.

I agree Don, good software tools or even manual integration could have solved the Sebor UK testing problem. The peak on the chromatograph looked just like two fingers held up together. One big fat peak with a "M" shape top.

GCs with hydrogern do blow up, but almost all of the worlds Helium is made in the USA so cost of shipping vs. safety still cause many people to use Hydrogen.

What almost always happens is the column breaks or develops a leak. The oven fills with a hydrogen & air mixture, the operator opens the door and static electricity or the FID detector's flame touches it off. Fortunatly the explosions are rarely fatal, singed hair or a door slammed into the chest are usually the worst injurys.

By Wolfgang on Monday, January 14, 2002 - 05:14 pm: Edit

Don't worry, I'm tamed ;-)

By Don_Walsh on Monday, January 14, 2002 - 01:18 pm: Edit

Don't ask. Or if you must, pls ask Ted.

By Wolfgang on Monday, January 14, 2002 - 12:57 pm: Edit

Ho! that sweet word : "launch"


By Don_Walsh on Monday, January 14, 2002 - 11:24 am: Edit

GC software usually comes with a suite of tools to help accurately determine baselines for peaks that overlap. Depending on which tool used, which are really just different statistical methods, you'll get a different peak area out. This may or may not have anything to do with reality.

Ideally, one is always better off being able to draw on a large number of columns, and have the time to tweak conditions till for any compound of interest, nice clean seperation is achieved. Obviously this is a fairy tale in Real Life as columns are expensive and time costs money, so people make do with what they have, unless they are working on a Ph D in analytical chem and their boss prof. has a big grant to draw against.

Or they are crazed aging eccentrics like me. Some people like Porsches, others like Hasselblads. I like an Agilent 5890 dual FID with a SPME setup. Talk to me, Chemstation!

It's on my wish list after launch anyway.

By Don_Walsh on Monday, January 14, 2002 - 11:14 am: Edit

Oh, the old safety bugaboo with H2 for carrier. Well, the thing is, for a FID you need H2 anyway, nicht wahr? So if you don't want a big cylinder of H2 sitting round the lab, the solution is to get a H2 generator, they are readily available from lots of places these days, and can output enough H2 from tap water to feed the FID and also act as carrier. Something up to like 50 ml/min as I recall. And there is never more than 250 ml of H2 in the system, so there's no safety issue.

Luggable GCs that are increasingly used for forensic and environmental work often use this approach along with a small air compressor and thereby avoid having to have any cylinders at all.

But N2 and He are not much hassle to keep around.

By Wormwood on Monday, January 14, 2002 - 09:17 am: Edit

"The problem is, the 'standard' UK (to assay for thujone) method is known to be not so reliable."

Tell me about it Don

"When Sebors was tested first for UK importation it was rejected as being higher than 10 mg/Kg. Sebors asked for a retest and was then passed. No explanation was ever given, as far as I know, for the discrepency."

I know who asked for the retest and I am very familliar with the situation, what happened was their GC (in the UK) was not totally seperating a-Thujone from some other compounds. The added together areas of the two peaks were then being reported as inflated a-Thujone levels.

I was never able to see the problem they had, but I also get slightly differant retention times and peak shapes because almost every GC in the USA uses Helium as a carrier gas, while the entire rest of the world uses Hydrogen.

By Don_Walsh on Monday, January 14, 2002 - 07:36 am: Edit

The problem is, the 'standard' UK (to assay for thujone) method is know to be not so reliable.

When Sebors was tested first for UK importation it was rejected as being higher than 10 mg/Kg. Sebors asked for a retest and was then passed. No explanation was ever given, as far as I know, for the discrepency.

By the way mg/Kg is not same as mg/L except for the specific case where the s.g. happens to be 1.0 g/ml.

GC is a complex tool, variables include column type, length, ID, detector type, injector type, carrier gas, makeup gas, temperature of oven, temperature of sample ay injector, and that's just for starters. Sample preparation is a big part of all this, and is often slow and costly.

Wormwood, I assume you were using a FID detector with a split/splitless injector. But as you know, the choice of column type is critical when assaying for terpenes, I can't blame you for doing the best you could with the column you had on hand, because I know what a 30 or 60 meter capillary column costs, and why should you have tossed $800-$1200 away on one for this purpose? Nevertheless, that does take you well out of the UK test standard -- maybe for better, maybe for worse, as that test is not necessarily ideal! The answer is simply indeterminate at this point.

By Wormwood on Monday, January 14, 2002 - 05:42 am: Edit

Several years ago thujone content was all anyone ever talked about on this forum, but nobody had any real data. So I tested some absinthes and other products that people asked me to. I used the same method as the UK does for thujone testing with a differant GC column. I did not vary the conditions and rerun the samples (to eliminate any false positives) due to lack of free time. So, some false positives were possible, but I stand by any negitive results. I agree with everything Ted has posted about thujones and agree this data is worthless for evaluating absinthe quality. Here it is:

Brand a-Thujone b-Thujone
Deva Absenta 26.51 mg nd
Hills Absinth nd nd
Lasala Absenta 33.29 mg/L nd
Mari Mayans nd nd
Montana Absenta 30.02 mg/L nd
Sebor (#1) 13.35 mg/L nd
Sebor (#2) 12.35 mg/L nd
Serpis Absenta nd nd
Herbsaint 38.48 mg/L* nd
La Muse Verte nd nd
Ouzo nd nd
Angostura Bitters 8.88 mg/L nd
Red Cinzano Vermouth nd 14.38 mg/L
Herb Pharm extract 10.72 mg/L 136.15 mg/L

* Result is probably a false positive
nd = None detected

By Heiko on Monday, January 14, 2002 - 01:54 am: Edit

ad thujone: I just found this in

Deutsches Ärzteblatt 96, Heft 31-32 vom 09.08.99, Seite A-2039

(German medical weekly)

- Die Strathmann AG hat zum 1. Juni das Präparat Sanurtin eingeführt. Sanurtin wird zur Behandlung des vermehrten Schwitzens (Hyperhidrosis) eingesetzt. Sanurtin-Kapseln enthalten ätherisches Salbei-Öl, das reich an Thujon ist. Thujon ist ein Wirkstoff, der die Poren und Schweißkanäle verengt. Gleichzeitig wirkt Sanurtin gegen Bakterien- und Pilzbefall.

Roughly translated: A new drug called "Sanurtin"
is marketed by Strathmann AG, the capsules contain essential oil of sage which is rich in thujone content. Thujone is effective against extreme sweating (Hyperhidrosis), because it narrows the pores. At the same time the stuff is good against germs and funghi of all kinds.

Nobody seems to be worried about any psychotic reactions here - it almost boasts "hey, this contains thujone!"

By Verawench on Sunday, January 13, 2002 - 07:43 pm: Edit

Wow.. ouch. Frightfully true.

By Mr_Rabid on Sunday, January 13, 2002 - 07:41 pm: Edit


By Perruche_Verte on Sunday, January 13, 2002 - 06:44 pm: Edit

1987. I read it sometime in the mid-90s.

On the "vanishing point" in two-dimensional art:

"Early art aimed at inspiring religious feeling in its viewers, the general masses. Later an art arose which was created solely for the aesthetic pleasure of its wealthy patrons. Finally art became purely a technical exercise appreciated by critics and cognoscenti.

"Thus, the point had vanished."

By Mr_Rabid on Sunday, January 13, 2002 - 05:38 pm: Edit

Nope... when did it come out?

By Perruche_Verte on Sunday, January 13, 2002 - 03:13 pm: Edit

"Ah yes, hemlock poisoning- bane of the ancient world."


Did you ever read _History made STVPID_?

Oops. I made that even more stupid.
I meant _CVLTVRE MADE STUPID_ by Tom Weller.

By Wolfgang on Sunday, January 13, 2002 - 02:52 pm: Edit

"Sounds like the use of these as fixatives for fragrances is alive and well. "

Does it really have this property ?


By Mr_Rabid on Sunday, January 13, 2002 - 02:50 pm: Edit

Ah yes, hemlock poisoning- bane of the ancient world.

Research shows that the ancients, aside from being very old as the name implied, were also very, very stupid.

Many great men and commoners were killed in those days through the accidental ingestion of hemlock trees, which these venerable idiots mistook for sheep, cows, cheese, and other edible substances.

Wormwood, along with dirt, dandelion fluff, and the urine of the salamander, was thought to releive the symptoms, which included death, expiration, and early mortality.

Of course it didn't work, but archeologists now beleive that the ancients were no more capable of correctly differentiating between wormwood and other plants than they were at telling hemlock from oak.

Thank god we live in more enlightened times! Science now tells us of course that not only is hemlock poisonous, but it comes from a tree, which we now know are not good to eat.

Tune in for next week's episode, in which we discuss why the Greeks wore togas, entitled "Too Stupid for Pants: Legacy of Socrates"

By Don_Walsh on Sunday, January 13, 2002 - 12:34 pm: Edit

Some Canadians working in Morocco with local essential oil refiners recently found a sagebrush species in one area that is rich in a-thujone. As the more familiar Moroccan sagebrush is chock full of camphor, they now combine these outputs, and state they they have a ready market in the perfume industry for the camphor-thujone mixture.

Sounds like the use of these as fixatives for fragrances is alive and well.

Sorry, no taxonomical names were given.

By Don_Walsh on Sunday, January 13, 2002 - 12:29 pm: Edit

My personal suspicion is that complex compounds, hard to seperate and identify, are at work in several of the herbs/essential oils. These are higher molecular weight by far than any monoterpene, and the chemistry of a century ago wasn't up to spotting them or characterizing them. Indeed many such compounds in the relevant herbal oils are only being isolated and purified, well, now. Many of them are of profound pharmacological interest and maybe significance. The potent antimalarials in some Artemisia species are a case in point.

I am still a skeptic about secondary effects, myself, other than the mild thujone GABA tweak.

What I am saying is that the simpistic 19th century model of thujone being the 'sulprit' is very likely to be as wrong about its premise as it is about its conclusions.

By Heiko on Sunday, January 13, 2002 - 12:27 pm: Edit

Even funnier I find that they call it "non-alcoholic liqueur"


By Don_Walsh on Sunday, January 13, 2002 - 08:58 am: Edit

Gaff of the day:

From a website:

"Artemesia absinthium . - Wormwood.
Wormwood a half-hardy perennial herb, used medicinally since biblical times, was believed by the ancients to counter the effects of toadstool and hemlock poisoning.
The consumption of the original Absinthe, a non-alcoholic liqueur of which Wormwood oil was a major ingredient, became widespread both in Europe and the USA. Wormwood oil was banned as a flavouring in 1908, after the discovery that its active principle, thujone, is addictive, causing hallucinations when taken to excess.
Seeds - £3.00, Live Plant - £5.00"

Absinthe NON-alcoholic???

By Don_Walsh on Sunday, January 13, 2002 - 08:55 am: Edit

The thuja tree IS the white cedar tree.

The two isomers of thujone are very hard to seperate either preparatively, or on a GC column. And anyway, they are interconvertible, as we have discussed ad nauseam on this forum. I posted a whole lot more about thujone than anyone here wanted to see, including an animation of the molecular interconversion.

The only way I know of to seperate the isomers efficiently is with a $35,000 spinning band still, affording you a seperation efficiency of 200 or so theoretical plates, and providing a throughput of maybe 1 ml an hour.

About Ted's GC work, one must ask Ted.

By Artemis on Sunday, January 13, 2002 - 08:11 am: Edit

Apparently it was first isolated from the Thuja tree.

This is worth reading:

In particular:

"Studies on the pharmacological and toxicological properties of the thujones are complicated by the fact that many experiments involved the use of ill-defined mixtures of the two isomers. Since the isomers differ markedly in toxicity and convulsant activity, quantitative data on mixtures of unspecified composition have to be interpreted with caution."

Every absinthe that ever existed is an ill-defined mixture of the isomers, UNLESS it has been tested as Don outlined, and I very much doubt any of them have, unless Ted Breaux has done it, and he hasn't revealed the results. Given these facts and the one stated above, EVERYTHING anybody has read about the "effects" of thujone in absinthe is at least potentially bullshit. That's why questions about "how much thujone ..." are IGNORANT and frequently treated here as such by people who have taken the time to take anything more than a cursory look at the matter.

By Don_Walsh on Sunday, January 13, 2002 - 07:51 am: Edit

Well before 1900. By the name, probably from white cedar oil.

Merck gives no clue. For the definitive answer, with the citation, probably to a German journal, you will need a GOOD university chemistry library and Beilstein, and some knowledge of chemical German. What -- don't know what Beilstein is? It's going to be a long trek for you then.

(Beilstein's Handbuch der Organische Chemie)

Or you can look in the large expensive monograph entitled THE TERPENES which will probably have the original citation.

Or you can try the Internet, you might get lucky there. I don't recall ever seeing the original citation there, but, I wasn't looking for it, so I could be (gasp!) wrong.

By Dr_Ordinaire on Sunday, January 13, 2002 - 06:43 am: Edit

Does anybody know when was thujone isolated for the first time?

By Don_Walsh on Saturday, January 12, 2002 - 11:35 pm: Edit

Krinkov, it is just that the subject of thujone has been done to death here, so, best advice is for you to do root round in the archives and read over the old threads and flames on this subject.

You will find that even by GC, assaying for thujone is a tricky, highly problematic process involving special columns and techniques.

This is far beyond the reach and realm of the usual absintheur. A gas chromatograph is an expensive fragile analytical tool fed from multiple gas cylinders (H2, N2, He and air are typical) and costing $25,000 or so. There are many different sorts of detectors, injectors, and columns, just for starters, and many different sorts of techniques and plumbing arrangements. In short this is a tool for trained chemists, with a long learning curve and requiring deep pockets.

Analyzing for trace compounds in an anylate containg lots of ethanol and water is a big headache and requires unusual techniques to avoid botched unreadable results. Otherwise the tails from the water and ethanol peaks hide a lot of other peaks, partially or completely.

The entire issue of thujone is a contentious one, abused by many absinthe makers and sellers, also abused by absinthe's enemies and often misunderstood even by its advocates.

There is good reason to suspect that this simple terpene is not the be-all and end-all of absinthe's secondary effects IF THEY EXIST.

Here's a rule of thumb: any document that alleges thujone to work like THC is bullshit and should be ignored.

I hope this gets you off to a good start.

By Raschied on Saturday, January 12, 2002 - 02:19 pm: Edit

Is there a reliable method of testing the thujone content anyway? I thought that if you make the stuff properly, the TJ content will vary depending on the batch of wormwood, and that all the %/kg thujone listings are a bunch of hype.

By Timk on Saturday, January 12, 2002 - 01:50 pm: Edit

Do you have to be so aggressive Wolfgang, that is hardly necissary.

Krinkov, The psychoactive effects of Thujone are highly debatable, do a forum search for some in depth discussion on this topic,

If you really want a good comparison of Thujone contents, you will have to wait until Ted releases his analysis of different brands of absinthe he says he has tested.

By Wolfgang on Saturday, January 12, 2002 - 01:05 pm: Edit

We don't fucking care about it and I realy doubt guys like Jarry and Lautrec cared too.

To answer the question you should have asked instead, There's no commercially available absinthe that taste and smell like the best of the old ones. You can draw your own conclusion from that fact.

By Zman7 on Saturday, January 12, 2002 - 12:17 pm: Edit

Uh-Oh, he said the "T" word.

By Krinkov on Saturday, January 12, 2002 - 11:56 am: Edit

Is there a source for finding the levels of Thujone in the different brands of Absinthe? I am specifically interested in the Spanish brands.

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