Can you explain what thujone is and its role in the European absinthe ban?
Thujone is a chemical compound found in wormwood that was believed to cause hallucinations. In 1988, the European Union allowed absinthe to be distilled again with a 10mg of thujone limit. However, most brands 100 years ago had less than 10mg in their absinthe anyways. In order for thujone to cause you to hallucinate, you’d have to consume so much that you’d be killed ten times over.
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Absinthe was banned was because the wine industry gave it a bad name
During the Belle Époque, vineyards were dying out due to mold and the parasite phylloxera. People were turning to absinthe because it was a more affordable and available. To revive the wine market, the wine industry sought to demonize absinthe by exaggerating its hallucinatory effects.
Another contributor to the ban was the Swiss laborer Jean Lanfray, who killed his two kids and pregnant wife
after two glasses of absinthe. After that, 82,000 people signed a petition to ban absinthe. But what wasn’t mentioned in the news was that earlier that day he also drank crème de menthe, cognac, brandy and a whole liter of wine.
Do you think the hallucinatory feeling then was somewhat of a placebo effect?
No, what I can say is that you don’t have that slouchy feeling you get from sugar-derived alcohol like rum and tequila. Absinthe just causes a clear, relaxed state of mind. People during the bohemian era, especially many of the great writers and artists, were not just drinking absinthe. They were doing other things, like taking opium, which contributed to hallucination.