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Science Documents on Absinthe

These are some of the most relevant scientific documents relating to the study of absinthe. They range from the earliest papers written by absinthe's polemicists, such as Dr. Valentin Magnan, right up to the modern work of Dr. Dirk Lachenmeier and others.

It should be noted that some of the older papers contain errors or mistaken calculations, sometimes based on the findings of still earlier, erroneous work. Much of this has been detailed and documented in the later pieces.

Myth, Reality and Absinthe - The Truth about Thujone

Absinthe has always had an ambivalent history, on one hand it was praised as ‘The Green Muse’ by its devotees, and on the other it was condemned by it detractors as a cause of madness and moral degeneracy. But is there any scientific or medical basis for either position?

Evidence for mind-altering effects is largely anecdotal and the frequently quoted first-hand descriptions of its mind-altering effects have come from artists and poets who may be expected to describe events in a fanciful manner. Imbibers of alcohol have always described their favourite tipple in extravagant terms, whether it be Burns on whisky or Yeats on wine. The case for its harmful effect is largely based on research on laboratory animals conducted at the behest of the prohibitionist lobby and assumptions drawn from examinations of mental patients in the late 19th century.

Read more: Myth, Reality and Absinthe - The Truth about Thujone


The Illness of Vincent van Gogh

Published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, April 2002


Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890) had an eccentric personality and unstable moods, suffered from recurrent psychotic episodes during the last 2 years of his extraordinary life, and committed suicide at the age of 37. Despite limited evidence, well over 150 physicians have ventured a perplexing variety of diagnoses of his illness. Henri Gastaut, in a study of the artist’s life and medical history published in 1956, identified van Gogh’s major illness during the last 2 years of his life as temporal lobe epilepsy precipitated by the use of absinthe in the presence of an early limbic lesion. In essence, Gastaut confirmed the diagnosis originally made by the French physicians who had treated van Gogh. However, van Gogh had earlier suffered two distinct episodes of reactive depression, and there are clearly bipolar aspects to his history. Both episodes of depression were followed by sustained periods of increasingly high energy and enthusiasm, first as an evangelist and then as an artist. The highlights of van Gogh’s life and letters are reviewed and discussed in an effort toward better understanding of the complexity of his illness.

Read more: The Illness of Vincent van Gogh


Tourist in a taste lab - taste research

A fascinating account of the genetic science behind why some people abhor sugar in their absinthe, and why others can't drink it without.

Read more: Tourist in a taste lab - taste research


Absinthe and γ-aminobutyric acid receptors

Absinthe is an emerald-green liqueur that achieved fantastic popularity at the close of the 19th century. It was associated with the Bohemian lifestyle and was credited with the inspiration of famous artists and poets. Because of its widespread abuse and the associated toxicity of its content of oil of wormwood, absinthe was made illegal in most countries in the 1910s. The most likely ingredient responsible for toxicity is believed to be the terpenoid a-thujone.

Read more: Absinthe and γ-aminobutyric acid receptors


α-Thujone: γ-Aminobutyric acid type A receptor modulation

α-Thujone: γ-Aminobutyric acid type A receptor modulation and metabolic detoxification 


α-Thujone is the toxic agent in absinthe, a liqueur popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries that has adverse health effects. It is also the active ingredient of wormwood oil and some other herbal medicines and is reported to have antinociceptive, insecticidal, and anthelmintic activity.

This study elucidates the mechanism of alpha -thujone neurotoxicity and identifies its major metabolites and their role in the poisoning process.

Read more: α-Thujone: γ-Aminobutyric acid type A receptor modulation


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