Is absinthe really illegal/harmful?

I’ve recently watch Moulin Rouge for the trillionth time, and, after some brief, lazy, incomplete research on Google and such, I am wondering: Is absinthe really all that bad? Is it really illegal everywhere except a few countries in Europe? From what I’ve found, I can see how it would be harmful in massive, undiluted doses, but if I were to indulge in, say, one or two drinks a week, would that be bad? And why exactly is it illegal, if it is? I would much apprecaite any help!


As far as I know, it is indeed illegal in most parts of the world. It’s legal in Sweden but two years ago it wasn’t, and the absinthe that’s legal for sale now isn’t exactly what they were drinking in Paris in 1900. I’ve tried this watered-down version (and will be drinking it tonight) and it’s certainly special. Its effects, while not hallucinogenic, are different from those of other spirits. Hard to explain exactly how. The world seems subtly different after a couple of glasses of absinthe.

I’m told the real stuff is sold in the Czech Republic and in Denmark. I don’t know about any other countries.

Spain, France, Switzerland and the Czech Republic have all been making Absinthe for quite some time now. EU trade laws are allowing absinthe to be sold, as long as the thujone levels are low.

It is acceptable in the US for you to have a bottle of Absinthe, but it is illegal for you to buy it. There is a fast growing “grey market” of people that import Absinthe, then sell it, claiming they are only distributors, not the actual sellers.

There are several sites (no links, I’ve gotten in trouble enough over the Fairy) of alcohol distributors in Europe that will ship to the US.

Much of the effects of Absinthe are actually from the fact that you’re swilling down slightly watered down alcohol. Strong alcohol. Like 140 proof alcohol.

Also, most people that drink Absinthe these days don’t drink it like it was drunk in the 1900’s… when you’re springing anywhere from $110-$250 for a single bottle, you tend to take it easy…

You can buy Czech Absinthe in Canada (I’ve got a 1/2 drank bottle in my liquor cabinet). While the thujone level is low, the Alcohol level is very high, 70%.

Tastes god awful, too. I’ll only drink it as a last resort now, although it makes a good conversation piece.

I reckon that Everclear would knock that around the corner and dump it’s body into a garbage bin. 140 proof. Pffft.

From my reading, yes true absinthe really is that bad. There is consensus that it is addictive and ultimately damages neurons in the brain.

That said, there is probably someone here who’s grandmother made her own absinthe and drank it every day for 60 years, smoked cigars, ate fat, and lived to be 95 when she died while extreme snowboarding in the Himalayas. Or not.

The question you’re asking pertains to dosage. What dosage is acceptable? Is there a safe dose?

I haven’t found any source that can answer that. Absinthe itself was never a single substance produced by one manufacturer under controlled conditions. The contents of Absinthe in the old days could have included methanol, cupric acetate, or antimony trichloride added by disreputable manufacturers.

The main ingredients, of course, are ethanol and wormwood. There are different species of wormwood. It’s possible that modern producers use a non-toxic species. I’m sure the manufacturers could provide a chemical analysis to interested consumers (but maybe not?)

I doubt that there are any scientific studies which investigated how much Thujone (one of chemicals that comes from the wormwood in the original Absinthe) is safe over a long period of occasional use in humans.

Summary: don’t know, probably never will.

Alcohol is only part of the effect. The above is only correct if you are comparing US permissible absinthe, which lacks the [correct] wormwood.

I understood from the above that it was all a big question mark, and the effect was likely thought to be the potent alcohol content more than anything else.

After a bit of 190 proof Everclear, I doubt there would be much room for debate. :wink:

I read that on one website, but I strongly doubt that alcohol explains Absinthe’s effects. The drink was diluted 4:1 in the glass. Besides, the chemistry of thujone is very interesting, and very likely to have neurological effects IMHO.

well i know the absinthe in prague is definitely better than the type you can buy in the UK (and thats only 60% and they won’t serve you more than 3 in a night).

however, i’d had too much to drink BEFORE the absinthe to somment on hallusinations. it’s damn hard to hallucinate while unconscious.

I believe Vincent Van Gogh cut his ear off whilst under the influence of true absinthe. I once had true absinthe, too much, and realised i was sat beside myself. Bizarre.

Also, too much absinthe makes your flatula sound like motorbikes. I went to the doctor, and he said “of course, absinthe makes the farts go Honda”


I look at it this way: without the luxury of detailed chemical analysis, absinthe gained a reputation as providing an effect far different from other potent liquors. Low and behold, more modern analysis suggests that thujone may well be hallucinogenic. Not an ironclad case, but I would tend towards thinking absinthe does more then merely intoxicate until we learn more.

Ladies and Gentlemen, please stand by.

A Moderator will be around shortly to remind us all not to stray onto the subject of obtaining true, thujone-containing absinthe in the United States.

Thank you for your attention.

Oh, please don’t shut me down! I just wanted to know why it was bad, not where to get it! ::whine:: I always get this stuff messed up–I’ve got to learn to post! ::angry at self::


As long as you don’t ask how to procure it, you’ll probably be OK… unless Manny is in a bad mood.

May I suggest doing a search on Absinthe? There has probably been a dozen threads (WAG) in the past year alone.

Looks like it is not real well understood how thujone works.
This page says…


Interestingly, The Merk Index does not list an oral LD 50 for thujone, but does note that, “Ingestion may cause convulsions”.

I’d go with the tremors, convulsions and paralysis as things that make it bad :wink:

Sorry to dredge up this thread, but I’ve spoken with folks that drink Absinthe on a regular basis. Many of them have been lucky enough to actually try some absinthe from the pre-ban period.

Most of them describe the “effects” of absinthe to be more like Marijuana. None of them have had hallucinations.

They also state, unanimously, that pre-ban stuff is much stronger in “effects” than the modern Absinthes.

Also, none of them have cut of their ears, and they all seem quite stable (or as stable as someone who will shell out $100+ for a bottle of liqour is).

I’m still waiting. Everytime I get my money saved up, something happens to my car. I think I’m cursed.

As a complete aside, how does one pronounce ‘thujone’?


thew-zhone is how I’ve been pronouncing it.

that “zh” is a hypothetical, since I don’t have a letter that properly makes the sound. blur the letters together, and it sounds sort of like the Zs in Zsa Zsa Gabors name.


I was thinking the ‘j’ maybe had a spanish sound like a ‘h’ (like in cojones, for example).

But I guess not.