There is much controversy about the levels of the psychoactive chemical thujone in Absinthe and so many people want to know how to measure thujone levels in Absinthe that they have made at home. It is impossible to do this at home unless you have the right equipment and know what you are doing. Thujone levels can be measured by solid phase extraction and gas chromatography.
What is Thujone?
For those who don't know, thujone is a chemical found in the herb common wormwood (Artemisia Absinthium) and in the past was thought to be psychoactive like THC in the drug cannabis. In large doses it was thought to have psychedelic effects, to cause convulsions, insanity, brain damage, and ultimately death. The alleged effects of thujone along with the fact that Absinthe was an intoxicant, being such a strong liquor, were enough for the prohibition movements in France, the United States and other countries to persuade governments to ban Absinthe.
Recently, studies have shown that thujone would have to be consumed in large quantities to cause any harmful side effects, so Absinthe with 10mg of thujone per liter or less was legalized in the European Union. Many people in the USA were disappointed that legalization did not take place at the same time in the United States. The United States required that alcoholic beverages should be “thujone free”.
Lux and Fire Erowid contacted both the FDA and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) to seek clarification on the laws surrounding the Green Fairy and thujone. The FDA used a rather outdated indicator test to test for the presence of thujone, not proper analytical chemistry. The TTB stated that wormwood products should be thujone free which meant less than the limit of detection – 10 ppm (parts per million).
Ted Breaux, an Absinthe distiller, tested his collectibles, antique vintage bottles of Absinthe, for thujone levels by using gas chromatography and was surprised by their low thujone levels. It was always believed that vintage pre ban Absinthe contained 260-350mg of thujone per liter, Breaux found that the highest reading from the vintage bottles was 6mg per liter – a very small amount. He also tested the Absinthes of his Jade collection in which he'd put a “full measure” of wormwood, and found that after distillation that these also contained only very small amounts of thujone.
Absinthe and the United States 2007
Breaux and the company Veridian developed an Absinthe called “Lucid” and were able to prove to the FDA and TTB that it contained less than 10 ppm of thujone. Lucid went on sale in the US in 2007 and was soon followed by a few other brands of Absinthe. Americans can now enjoy the taste of Absinthe at home and in bars throughout the US.
Does Absinthe Have Any Effects?
The thujone content in Absinthe is certainly not high enough to cause hallucinations, but Absinthe is a very strong alcoholic liquor, up to 75% abv. It is not meant to be consumed straight or on the rocks. The correct way to serve Absinthe is to pour a shot in an Absinthe glass and dilute with iced water poured over a cube of sugar.
It is possible to get drunk quite quickly when drinking Absinthe because of its strength, but the drunkenness associated with Absinthe drinking is very different from getting drunk on beer, wine or cider. Some of the herbs in Absinthe acts as a sedative and some as a stimulant so you experience a “clear headed” or “lucid” drunkenness – a strange experience!
Absinthe Kits and Thujone Levels
It is not important to know how to measure thujone levels in Absinthe if you use kits containing quality essences, like those from AbsintheKit.com, where thujone levels in the essences are already measured for you. These essences are easy to use. They are already distilled, you just have to mix with Everclear or vodka to make your very own real wormwood Absinthe.