Q & A Board - View Post
Author:  Jim L
E-mail:  not available
Date:  8/11/2004 11:16:00 PM
Subject:  Absinthe revisited?
Message:  I was surprised to see that R. Abadi allows Absinthe when the active ingredient in Absinthe, thujone, is a known neurotoxin. In other matters of health, R. Abadi has ruled that one must preserve health (e.g., prohibition of cigarette smoking and marijuana use). Is absinthe somehow different halachically or were you unaware of it's damaging effects on the brain?

I attach below, the introduction to a scientific article studying the mechanism of neurotoxicity of thujone. (
α-Thujone (the active component of absinthe): γ-Aminobutyric acid type A receptor modulation and metabolic detoxification,
Karin M. Höld, Nilantha S. Sirisoma, Tomoko Ikeda, Toshio Narahashi, and John E. Casida, Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2000 April 11; 97 (8): 3826–3831)

"Absinthe was a popular emerald-green liqueur in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was commonly imbibed by artists and writers including Vincent van Gogh, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Charles Baudelaire, often inducing fits and hallucinations and sometimes contributing to psychoses and suicides (1–5). Absinthe became an epidemic health problem and was banned in many countries early in the 20th century, but its use continues legally or illicitly even now (6, 7). The toxic properties of absinthe are attributable to wormwood oil used in making the beverage. Wormwood oil is in itself a prevalent herbal medicine for treating loss of appetite, dyspeptic disorders, and liver and gallbladder complaints (8, 9).

α-Thujone (Fig. 1) generally is considered to be the principal active ingredient of wormwood oil and toxic principle in absinthe (2). The content of β-thujone often exceeds that of α-thujone depending on the plant source, but the β-diastereomer (Fig. 1) is generally of lower toxicity. α-Thujone also is reported to have antinociceptive activity in mice (10). This monoterpenoid occurs in many plants, including Artemesia species, sage, and the Thuja tree (4). Extracts of wormwood were used to control gastrointestinal worms with records back to ancient Egyptian times (4). Artemesia absinthium and wormwood oil have insecticidal properties (11), and α-thujone was one of the two most toxic monoterpenoids tested against western corn rootworm larvae (12). Public mistrust of synthetic pharmaceuticals and pesticides has led to the increasing popularity of herbal medicines and botanical insecticides even though they have not been subjected to the same rigorous tests of safety and evaluation of toxicological mechanisms (13–15).

The toxic effects of α-thujone in mammals are well established but the mode of neurotoxic action is poorly understood. It is porphyrogenic, possibly thereby contributing to the absinthe-induced illness of Vincent van Gogh (5, 16). α-Thujone is neurotoxic in rats (17), and ingestion of wormwood oil containing α-thujone recently resulted in human poisoning (18). The hypothesis that α-thujone activates the CB1 cannabinoid receptor, based on the structural similarity of thujone enol with tetrahydrocannabinol (19), was not supported experimentally (20). The convulsant action led to multiple speculations on mechanisms, one of which was antagonism of the γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptor system (20), a proposal that was not explored further. α- and β-Thujone are reduced in rabbits from the ketones to the corresponding alcohols (thujol and neothujol) (21) of unknown toxicity but no other metabolites are identified.

The goals of this study are to define the mechanism of neurotoxicity of α-thujone and identify its major metabolites (Fig. 1) and their role in the poisoning process. Emphasis is placed on the hypothesis that the convulsant action is caused by modulating the GABA-gated chloride channel. "
Reply:  We did not go into the pros & cons of it. That should be determined by a "qualified" doctor. We were addressing the Kosher ingredients issue only... I haven't the slightest idea what it is.

In regards to safety, I trust your opinion that it is not not safe and therefore the law would require us to keep away.

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