Category Archives: thujone

Lucid Absinthe’s Distiller on Thujone: Confused?


“How much thujone in Lucid, Sir?” … “Ask no questions child.”

The words below were written by Lucid Absinthe’s distiller on the subject of thujone, the naturally occurring element in wormwood, previously credited in the 19th century with hallucinogenic and mind altering powers.

If you didn’t know yet Lucid Absinthe is the new FDA “thujone free” compliant absinthe that is being hyped from coast to shining coast in America this week. But is it real absinthe if it has no thujone? Read on..

Using every bit of information I’ve processed over the past seven years, my calculations indicate that quality original Pontarlier labels contained anywhere from 50-100mg/kg total thujone. I do agree that I feel that thujone is not the only player in the secondary effects, although I’m convinced it plays an important role. I also have some evidence that indicates that the presence of other essences and even manufacturing methods is influential.T.A. Breaux

June 5, 2000 (

These days we are told that there was little or no thujone in pre-ban real absinthe by exactly the same source! Seven years of research, and a sudden change of heart? To quote Alice in Wonderland: “Curiouser and curiouser”. What should we make of this? The only person that can answer this is T.A.Breaux himself and he alone is invited to do so below.

The Problem of Thujone in Modern Absinthe



Today’s manufacturers face the problem that they have to generate a distinctive wormwood taste, without exceeding the thujone maximum limit of 35 mg/kg. The selective enrichment of the bitter and flavor compounds, while keeping the thujone concentration low, was extensively investigated (45).

Tegtmeier et al. (46) compared a water extraction to an alcohol extraction method By the percolation with water or alcohol (30%vol) no thujone could be extracted, because the solubility of thujone in water is poor. Only by the application of ethanol 90%vol, it was possible to extract 0.18 mg thujone per g wormwood herb. When the method of digestion with ethanol 30%vol was applied, 0.17 mg thujone per g wormwood herb could be extracted. The largest yields were obtained, whenever the macerate of the wormwood herb was distilled (0.24 mg thujone/g). The use of hot and highly concentrated alcohol for the extraction should therefore be avoided to obtain extracts with a low content of thujone. Because the percolation with pure water might lead to a loss of microbiological quality, the percolation with ethanol 30%vol is regarded as the method of choice. This method is described as being easy to handle and economic. Gambelunghe and Melai (47) verified these results. Wormwood macerated with ethanol 20%vol for 30 days contained only 0.2 mg/I of thujone, while the maceration of wormwood with ethanol 95%vol for 6 months contained 62 mgll of thujone. The consequence for the absinthe manufactures is that traditional recipes and methods have to be modified, in order to avoid thujone contents, which exceed the limit. The maceration should be done with low concentrations of alcohol and the wormwood herb should be separated before the distillation.

A possibility for the continuation of traditional recipes is to remove the thujone from the wormwood herb before the maceration. Stahl and Gerard (48) observed, that the extraction with liquid or supercritical carbon dioxide provides a fast, selective and quantitative method for the separation of thujone from the wormwood herb. Absinthin, which is responsible for the high bitter value of wormwood, remains in the herb. It is therefore possible to generate nearly thujone free wormwood herb and to use it for the manufacturing of absinthe. However, the application of this method for the manufacturing of spirit drinks was never described.

The most elegant alternative to avoid the toxic thujone may be the use of thujone-free wormwood herb, which is available in certain cultivation areas,IO.16 and appears to be perfect for the use in the spirit drink producing industry. With those chemotypes, it would be possible to produce absinthe with wormwood quantities on the basis of the traditional recipes, without the manufacturer facing the risk of exceeding the thujone limit.

Lachenmeier, D. W., S. G. Walch, S. A. Padosch, and L. U. Kroner. 2006. Absinthe–a review. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 46:365-77.

Strong Absinthe in the USA


Drinking different types of absinthe in the USA from Mark Pearson of the Summit Daily News in Colorado:

Absinthe, banned in most countries in the early 1900s, is still prohibited in the U.S., although legal to procure, possess and imbibe as it is not considered a controlled substance. It allegedly can cause hallucinations, the most popular being of a green fairy, aka. La Fee Verte.

I chose two different versions, Francois Guy and Franco Suisse. My coworker ordered the pick of the month for his groomsmen and Strong 68 for himself. Less than two weeks and $190 later, my share of the package arrived intact, as did the others, well packed in a cardboard box and stamped in words ending in icht.

Wow, this stuff was strong! I took a sip. Yup, tastes just like it smells. Black licorice. I grimaced. I offered a glass to my roommate and her friend. Not even the two of them could finish it. I will say this; it did give me a good buzz. Later on, after a few trials, I figured out that if I added a lot of ice and a little more water, it was a decent drink. And after being on the wagon for a year, I was a cheap date. Two kept me buzzed for several hours.

My officemate and I had planned on a sampling party, so one night after work I joined him at his house. If I thought my versions of absinthe were strong, my buddy’s version grew hair in your ears and nose. My head jerked like I had Tourette’s, and I uttered a few curses that made the dog run for cover.


If I am reading this correctly: his buddy’s absinthe is a macerate, boasts 68% alcohol, as well as 35mg thujone. I quite like that quote, although my favourite is still from a Czech drinking absinth in 1941, who described it as like “dissolved lizards” Then of course we have the words of a famous Val de Travers distiller:

Mais je vous avouerai que la dégustation avec celle à 42 mg/kg a donné des surprises qui en disent long sur l’interdiction de l’absinthe en 1910 en Suisse et 1915 en France.

But I would admit that the degustation conducted on the 42mg/kg has led to many surprises which reveal a lot on the prohibition of absinthe in 1910 in Switzerland and in 1915 in France.

L’absinthe n’est pas un alcool “aimable”. Il a un effet stupéfiant à haute dose. La thuyone n’est pas seule en cause. Le mélange des diverses plantes et graines est détonnant. Au 19e siècle, on qualifiait l’absinthe d’opium du peuple. Je ne suis pas moraliste. C’est juste une mise en garde.

Not the sole cause? His experiment drinking some glasses of absinthe, from a batch yielding 42mg, are an interesting insight into the reality behind the modern day myths about thujone. Thujone doesn’t matter we are told – but by whom? Those that want to sell absinthe today in a climate that allows thujone up to 35mg in the European Union – and ZERO – big fat nothing- 0 mg – in the United States. Another factor to remember is that thujone levels are a good benchmark of the quality of the wormwood used in production – generally the higher the quality of the natural plant, the higher the thujone level. Tonight I can enjoy a glass of 35mg thujone absinthe – 7mg short of this distiller’s Val de Travers batch – I know what to expect.

Four & Lucid Absinthe


Why is Luicd Absinthe having to outsmart the FDA test by having no measurable level of thujone, and testing thujone free?

I spoke to Ted earlier today, and he’s very confident both in the quality of the product, and in his ability to continue producing it with no measurable level of thujone. (Oxygenee’s Blog)

This whilst Americans can legally drink a “berry-flavoured” malt beverage energy drink containing a “herbal extract that gives absinthe some of its hallucinogenic properties” called Four?

According to the report: in July 2007 this berry beverage was available in 16 States! What is going on? What is the thujone level in Lucid Absinthe anyway, does anyone know, or is it still top secret? Why not tell us? If Ted Breaux can test a bottle of pre-ban I assume someone at Louched Lounge also has the expertise to test a bottle of Lucid, no? According to a recent article in USA Today:

he tested vintage bottles of absinthe and surprisingly found no significant amounts of thujone. “I was very shocked,” Breaux says



🙂 Learn About Absinthe Part 1:

REAL absinthe

A doublespeak term used by viral/guerrilla marketers to promote new brands of anise flavored alcohol. The roots of this term are Real as opposed to unreal or “impressive,” and the second term, absinthe, in reference to a product of A. Absenthium. Ironically, REAL absinthe is distinguished from good absinthe by having as little as possible of A. absinthium in it. The less indication that there was wormwood used in its production the more REAL it becomes.

Source: Artemesia Alchemy; A place for those who already know what thujone is an why ya can’t sell it here.

Make “Absinthe” at home?


Delicate Bitterness from Poland

Not really. This is something rather different, with a noble and ancient pedigree which actually predates absinthe (Stefan Falimierz 1534) Absinthist in Poland has sent us a picture of this little known wormwood drink, which is called Piołunowka (the Polish word for wormwood is piołun – the French word for wormwood is absinthe) According to Wikipedia:

Piołunowka has much higher levels of thujone than absinthe because it is not distilled. Many people produce it today to try and feel the ‘absinthe effect’

The level of thujone in Absinthist’s Piołunowka is unknown – anyone care to make a guess? There are of course numerous places that sell a ready to use absinthe kit  although this Polish drink uses only wormwood, no costly star anise, fennel, calamus, hyssop and so forth. As I have mentioned before I have been given a strange recipe for Známý likér absintovy (well known liquor absinth) from a late 19th Century Czech text. It seems to call for the addition of lemon oils – as well as the usual absinthe regulars – rather curious, which is why I am currently checking it with a more informed source. This recipe also requires no distillation – a kind of folk recipe absinthe which could be fun to try for Christmas!

What I also find very curious is that Absinthist – an expert herbalist – describes his drink as having a “delicate bitterness“. This is contrary to what others preach at us. We are told that macerating wormwood in high proof alcohol creates something “vile-tasting and insanely bitter” – quite wrong it seems.

The very same writer has penned another polemic on the wrongs of Czech absinth, written words which cry out for a little sugar when reading, due to their bitterness. The writer might like to ponder the words of wiser men: “The worst offense that can be committed by a polemic is to stigmatize those who hold a contrary opinion as bad and immoral men.” (John Stuart Mill).

Anyway, fancy making piołunówka? Here’s how simple it really is:

I have made piołunówka 39.6%, rye-base, no sugar, assemblage of distillate and macerate. Wormwoody to the boot, pleasant herbal aroma, delicate bitterness, medium alcohol bite.

The recipe is simple, makes 300ml of piołunówka

1 coffeespoon of dried wormwood leaves macerate for 24h in 100ml of vodka, then strain and dilute it with 200ml of vodka, let it rest, sugar if you wish. The simplest recipes yield the best results.

The main difference between it and Falimierz’ s recipe: no sugar, wormwood leaves instead of flowertops, slightly less strong.

I wonder if Absinthist actually used spirytus rektyfikowany? A high proof Polish spirit that I understand cannot be legally exported from Poland. The comments box below is open for comments about this drink / alternative recipes – and nothing else.

Thujone in Absinthe Quiz

Thujone in Absinthe

What was the legal thujone level in absinthe set by the French in 1907? You choose:

(i) 35mg

(ii) 100mg

(iii) 250mg

(iv) 1000mg

(v) There were no limits on thujone (alpha or beta)

Absinthe now legal in the USA?



The bizarre story of Lucid Absinthe and their hapless marketing campaign takes another twist! According to absinthe retailer David Nathan Maister: “Absinthes with less than 10mg/l thujone are now potentially legal in the US” Importantly there has been no change in the law, but rather a change in the “margin of error” as regards thujone testing. Apparently this means that Lucid (or any other absinthe) with up to 10mg of thujone is deemed thujone free! How strange is that! The FDA are being led a merry dance it seems!

Why Lucid are still reticent about stating the thujone content in their absinthe remains unclear. It seems that strong absinthe within the thujone 10mg – 35 mg European designation -and known as hořká lihovina (amer) – will still not be allowed.

A very strange tale, and as foggy as a louched glass of Absinthium 1792 (which unfortunately is nearly 3 times the allowed thujone limit for the USA). Still it’s better than an outright ban – but what a strange way to do it 😕

King of Spirits Prádlo u Nepomuka


I have a confession to make: I like the stuff!

King of Spirits is made by L’Or in Prádlo. According to L’Or : “Prádlo is a great address for distillers, the water here is the best.”

It’s certainly a very popular brand in Prague. The taste is not to everyone’s liking, don’t expect a perfumed cloying sweetness, but rather a confident wormwood note without too much background noise. You’ll notice the herbs at the base of the bottle. King of Spirits is good company; a heady brew which is not for the shrinking violet, and then of course there’s the thujone!

Thujone is the active ingredient in wormwood and the sole reason that absinthe cannot be sold in any liquor stores across the USA. The law is unclear, but it seems that you may buy absinthe for personal use without any problem. People have run into problems where they have promoted absinthe parties and sold tickets (according to recent news reports) but that is a different matter altogether as one can be prosecuted for running vodka parties like that too.

King of Spirits is openly sold as being a thujone rich brew and King of Spirits Gold even claims to have levels of thujone at 100mg (the European Union max is 35mg)

I’ll keep drinking Czech absinth for the taste, the pleasure and the unique experience it offers. Well! I’ll sit back, take a sip of King of Spirits, and leave them to it. I hope everyone is enjoying the summer 🙂

Lucid reply on thujone in absinthe?

Thujone Free Absinthe

Thujone free fee verte? It’s been tried before and is nothing new, but they didn’t call it absinthe! Here’s the long awaited comment from Lucid:

What is the difference between Grande Wormwood and Southernwood (or Southern Wormwood)?

Lucid contains a full measure of Grande Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium). By contrast, other products with a claimed relationship to Absinthe contain Southernwood (Artemisia Abrotanum – sometimes referred to as Southern Wormwood). Southernwood bears little resemblance to Grande Wormwood and has a completely different flavor and chemistry. Genuine Absinthe, such as the Absinthe made during the Belle Époque period in France, has always been made with Grande Wormwood as a key ingredient. In fact, the word “Absinthe” itself is derived from the scientific name for Grande Wormwood- Artemisia absinthium.

How were you able legally to import Lucid into the US if Wormwood is illegal?

Wormwood is not illegal as long as the finished product meets applicable standards for content. We found that by adhering to the strict techniques used over a century ago, the result was not only a genuine, historically accurate product, but a product that also happens to meet US requirements relating to alcoholic beverages.
Is Wormwood responsible for hallucinations or is this a myth?

The reputation of Wormwood as a hallucinogen is largely based on the politically motivated publicity that was given to Thujone, a chemical contained in Wormwood, back in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. However, modern studies have conclusively demonstrated that humans are unable to detect (or experience any effects from) the presence of Thujone when consumed in test samples containing relevant concentrations. Moreover, thanks to T.A. Breaux’s modern testing of vintage bottles of Absinthe from over 100 years ago, we now know that, just as with Lucid, most of the high quality Absinthes from the 1800’s would meet today’s US standards for content, further discrediting the theory that Thujone had any real relevance to the Absinthe experience. In any event, we believe that if you consume Lucid responsibly and in moderation, there should be no unusual effects.
Does Lucid contain Thujone?

Lucid has been tested and it meets US and EU standards for content. It is worth noting that using modern equipment, T.A. Breaux, the distiller of Lucid, has analyzed dozens of bottles of traditional, high-quality vintage Absinthe from the Belle Époque period and has determined that quality Absinthe that was properly made typically did not have any significant Thujone content- even 100 years ago.

🙂 Hmm…are you thinking what I’m thinking? This is all based upon one serious report made by Dr Dirk Lachenmeier and an extract follows:

Habitual abuse of the wormwood spirit absinthe was described in the 19th and 20th centuries as a cause for the mental disorder ‘‘absinthism’’ including the symptoms hallucinations, sleeplessness and convulsions.

A controversial discussion is going on if thujone, a characteristic component of the essential oil of the wormwood plant Artemisia absinthium L., is responsible for absinthism, or if it was merely caused by chronic alcohol intoxication or by other reasons such as food adulterations. To ascertain if thujone may have caused absinthism, absinthes were produced according to historic recipes of the 19th century. Commercial wormwood herbs of two different manufacturers, as well as self-cultivated ones, were used in a concentration of 6 kg/100 l spirit. In addition, an authentic vintage Pernod absinthe from Tarragona (1930), and two absinthes from traditional small distilleries of the Swiss Val-de-Travers were evaluated. A GC–MS procedure was applied for the analysis of a- and b-thujone with cyclodecanone as internal standard. The method was shown to be sensitive with a LOD of 0.08 mg/l.The precision was between 1.6 and 2.3%, linearity was obtained from 0.1 to 40 mg/l (r = 1.000).

After the recent annulment of the absinthe prohibition all analysed products showed a thujone concentration below the maximum limit of 35 mg/l, including the absinthes produced according to historic recipes, which did not contain any detectable or only relatively low concentrations of thujone (mean: 1.3 Æ 1.6 mg/l, range: 0–4.3 mg/l). Interestingly, the vintage absinthe also showed a relatively low thujone concentration of 1.8 mg/l. The Val-de-Travers absinthes contained 9.4 and 1.7 mg/l of thujone.

In conclusion, thujone concentrations as high as 260 mg/l, reported in the 19th century, cannot be confirmed by our study. With regard to their thujone concentrations, the hallucinogenic potential of vintage absinthes can be assessed being rather lowbecause the historic products also comply with today’s maximum limits derived to exclude such effects. It may be deduced that thujone plays none, or only a minor role in the clinical picture of absinthism.

Quite a deduction based upon 3 old bottles and a re run using traditional absinthe recipes! An interesting question would be how these absinthes, that were supplied to Dr Lachenmeier, were produced, and by whom. According to Lucid, a skilled distiller like Ted Breaux is perfectly able to produce an absinthe which does not register thujone content when the FDA test is applied. The distiller knows that using particular parts of the plant, harvesting time and climatic conditions have a dramatic effect upon thujone content in artemisia absinthium. Dr Lachmeier should also consider the effects of time on the thujone molecule in those pre ban bottles.

Lucid “Pre Ban” Absinthe


Thujone Molecule – In Lucid Absinthe or not?


These are interesting comments on Lucid absinthe, the new American absinthe:

Absinthe is back. Sort of.

There is probably no beverage with more mythology attached to it. Called la fée verte, or the Green Fairy, it is an anise-flavored liquor that was once the hootch of choice for the demi-monde of bohemian Paris. Poetry has been written about it. Paintings have been made, music composed.

“Absinthe has a wonderful color – green,” wrote Oscar Wilde, known to have downed a dram or two. “A glass of absinthe is as poetical as anything in the world. What difference is there between a glass of absinthe and a sunset?”

Purported to have near-hallucinogenic properties, it was banned in France in 1915 and has been illegal in the United States since 1912. Now, a distributor is going to aim a new brand of the liquor to the upscale American market. Called Lucid, it will sell for about $60 a bottle. Unlike the many absinthe substitutes that have been on the shelves for years, Lucid claims to be made according to original, pre-ban recipes.

In Europe, though, there has been a resurgence of absinthe manufacturing. Done properly, it is completely legal in most countries there. The makers of Lucid have contracted one of them to create their new American version of the liquor, adapted to American tastes, with less of the anise flavor that the French adore and Americans have always been suspicious of.They are betting that they can market the new, cleaned-up absinthe based on its not-so-clean outlaw reputation.

Cleaned up! Seems that we are still in the dark about the thujone content of this “cleaned-up” pre ban recipe ❓ When the writer says done properly, he forgets to mention that many European absinthes have up to 35mg/ l of thujone. La Clandestine absinthe from Switzerland for example – according to one retailer – has 30mg/l.

Note: Annex II of Directive 88/388/EEC (EEC, 1988) allows in excess of 25mg/l thujone when the product is labeled as a bitter. Why can’t America follow the sensible European Union lead, and allow American consumers the chance to try real European absinthe that hasn’t been modified?