Absinthe – The Fairy Alcohol

The Fairy Alcohol

With 45-75 % alcohol by volume, Absinthe is one of the most illusive alcoholic drink till date. Mentioned in the Ebers Papyrus in the 1550 BC about the most potent herb wormwood, Absinthe has a widespread consumption all across the globe. Absinth is primarily a concoction of herbs, namely, Wormwood, Anise, Fennel and other medicinal and culinary herbs. These ingredients make this alcoholic drink different and unique from other. Absinthe has suffered ban in most countries namely the United States, Europe, including France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, and Austria-Hungary. This is due to its widespread notion of it being dangerously addictive psychoactive drug and a hallucinogen. This, however, has been proven that absinthe’s psychoactive properties (apart from that of the alcohol) have been exaggerated.

P.C: Wikimedia

In the early 21st century the ban was removed after which nearly 250 brands of absinthe were being produced in many countries, more specifically in Spain, France, Switzerland, Australia and the Czech Republic. Absinthe gets its signature green color from the chlorophyll of the herbs mixed in it.

The Science

The chemical that takes all the­ blame for its hallucinogenic reputation is ‘thujone’, which is a substance in wormwood herb. Thujone can be toxic in very high dosage. It is a GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid) inhibitor, that means it blocks certain GABA receptors in the brain, which can cause convulsions. It occurs naturally in many edibles, but none in doses high enough to make you sick. In fact, there is not enough thujone in absinthe either. When the distillation process of manufacturing Absinthe comes to an end, there is very little thujone left to even account for.

Science has estimated that a person consuming absinthe would more notably die from alcohol poisoning before he or she were affected by thujone. And there is no evidence at all that thujone can cause hallucinations, even in high doses.

The Past

A large number of artists and writers living in France in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were the major absinthe drinkers and featured using absinthe in their work. Some of them include Édouard Manet, Guy de Maupassant, Amedeo Modigliani, Arthur Rimbaud, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Verlaine, Vincent van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, and Émile Zola. Many other renowned artists and writers followed the trend, including Aleister Crowley, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, and August Strindberg. The aura of illicitness and mystery surrounding absinthe has played into literature, movies, music, and television, where it is often portrayed as a mysterious, addictive, and mind-altering drink. Absinthe has entered into the realm of fine art, video, music, films and literature since the mid-19th-century. The earliest film reference is in the movie ‘The Hasher’s Delirium (1910)’ and also in two different silent films, each entitled Absinthe, from 1913 and 1914 respectively.

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