Absinthism: a fictitious 19th century syndrome with present impact. Published: 10 May 2006.
Absinthe, a bitter spirit containing wormwood (Artemisia absinthium L.), was banned at the beginning
of the 20th century as consequence of its supposed unique adverse effects. After nearly centurylong
prohibition, absinthe has seen a resurgence after recent de-restriction in many European
countries. This review provides information on the history of absinthe and one of its constituent,
thujone. Medical and toxicological aspects experienced and discovered before the prohibition of
absinthe are discussed in detail, along with their impact on the current situation. The only
consistent conclusion that can be drawn from those 19th century studies about absinthism is that
wormwood oil but not absinthe is a potent agent to cause seizures. Neither can it be concluded
that the beverage itself was epileptogenic nor that the so-called absinthism can exactly be
distinguished as a distinct syndrome from chronic alcoholism.