Definition of Wormwood

Wormwood: The essence of absinthe, an emerald-green spirit, flavored with extracts of the wormwood plant, licorice and aromatic flavorings in a alcohol base. Absinthe was manufactured, commercialized and popularized in France in the late 1700s by Henri-Louis Pernod. It became an extremely popular drink. Among the famous figures who made absinthe a symbol of decadence were the writer Oscar Wilde, the poet Charles Baudelaire, and the artists Edouard Manet, Vincent Van Gogh, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Pablo Picasso.

Medical research on absinthe was initiated in 1864 by a psychiatrist, Valentin Magnan, who studied alcoholics and did animal experiments regarding the inhalation of wormwood or alcohol vapor. The animals that breathed the alcohol fumes became drunk while those that inhaled the vapors of wormwood had epileptic seizures.

Absinthe has often been portrayed as a dangerously addictive psychoactive drug. The chemical compound thujone, although present in the spirit in only trace amounts, was blamed for its alleged harmful effects. Although banned in some countries around the turn of the 20th century, bans have been lifted in most countries since the 1990s and the spirit has had a revival in its popularity.

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