Journal Mobile

MJ Eadie
Journal Issue: 
Volume 39: Issue 1: 2009




Absinthe is an alcoholic liquor containing extracts from the wormwood plant.  It  was  widely  consumed  in  France  in  the  late  nineteenth  century.  Its production  was  banned  in  1915,  partly  because  it  was  thought  to  cause neurological  disturbances,  including  mental  changes  and  epileptic  seizures. Modern  knowledge  of  an  acceptable  content  of  the  convulsant athujone  in absinthe has allowed the lifting of the production bans, and called into question the  experimental  work  of  Valentin  Magnan  in  the  1870s,  which  formed  the scientific  background  to  the  campaign  against  absinthe.  An  examination  of Magnan’s published investigations suggests that his science was very adequate by the  standards  of  his  time,  and  that  he  had  shown  that  an  alcohol-soluble component of wormwood did produce lapses of consciousness, myoclonic jerks and  tonic-clonic  convulsions  in  animals. Whether  that  component,  presumably thujone,  was  present  at  convulsant  concentrations  in  some  of  the  available absinthes of Magnan’s time cannot now be known.