[Thujone-attributable effects of absinthe are only an urban legend--toxicology uncovers alcohol as real cause of absinthism]

Med Monatsschr Pharm. 2008 Mar;31(3):101-6.
[Article in German]


In the discussion about thujone as possible toxic constituent of the wormwood-containing alcoholic beverage absinthe, the dose-response-relationship is frequently ignored. The effects of absinthe are very often attributed only to thujone, an association that is not scientifically proven. Especially the alleged psychotropic effects of thujone are scientifically unproven. However, the question about thujone effects in absinthe is irrelevant, because thujone is contained in both modern commercial absinthes and historic pre-ban products in such low amounts that a pharmacological effect can be excluded per se. The effects of the spirit that are summarized under the term absinthism observed in late 19th century's France, can be explained by chronic alcohol misuse and dependence alone according to today's standards of knowledge. Especially from the perspective of youth and public health protection, an ambiguous and biased reporting about absinthe should be avoided. For example, the alleged antagonistic effects of thujone on the action of ethanol might lead to a trivialization of alcohol-related harms. Scientifically unproven speculations about the influence of certain drinking rituals of absinthe on its toxicity must be rebutted. A return to more evidence and less conjecture in the reporting about absinthe would be desirable.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Absinthe / history
  • Absinthe / poisoning*
  • Absinthe / toxicity
  • Alcoholism / history
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Bicyclic Monoterpenes
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / history
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / poisoning*
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / toxicity
  • Ethanol / history
  • Ethanol / poisoning*
  • Ethanol / toxicity
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Monoterpenes / poisoning*
  • Monoterpenes / toxicity


  • Bicyclic Monoterpenes
  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Monoterpenes
  • Ethanol
  • beta-thujone