Thujone is a GABA-a (Gamma-Amino Butyric Acid) receptor antagonist.

  • By inhibiting GABA receptors thujone decreases GABA's slow down effect and allows neurons to fire more easily.
  • Scientists claim, it improves the brain's cognitive functions. The other aspect rarely discussed is the effect of alcohol into the equation which tends to slow down the firing of neurons.
  • Fenchone (fennel), pinocamphonethe (hyssop), and the anethole (anise) can also be dangerous in large doses
  • Much of the toxicity occurring in the past comes from additives like copper acetate (for the green colour) and anitmony trichloride (to create the ouzo effect). 
  • This could be where a great deal of the concern lies with the myth of absinthe causing hallucinations or madness.  These chemicals although not considered deadly will have very adverse effects on the human body. 
  • Copper Acetate – Symptoms may include capillary damage, headache, cold sweat, weak pulse, kidney and liver damage, central nervous excitation followed by depression, jaundice, convulsions, blood effects, paralysis and coma. Death may occur from shock or renal failure. 
  • Antimony Trichloride – Repeated exposure may cause headaches, poor appetite, dry throat, lack of sleep, damage the liver, heart, and may also affect the blood (pigmented or nucleated red blood cells, changes in cell count, changes in serum composition). 
  • 2005 - tests on three recreated 1899 high-wormwood absinthe recipes showed the highest was 4.3mg/L.  A 1930s Pernod resulted in 1.8mg/L. 
  • The fact of the matter with these tests is that only a small amount of thujone actually survives the absinthe distillation process. 
  • If large amounts of absinth(e) is drunk, death from alcohol poisoning would occur before any thujone-induced delirium.
  • The real danger lies in the high alcohol content of Absinth(e).


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