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Jay

Allergies to herbs used in Absinthe

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Hey everyone,

 

I haven't found a previous thread on this subject, so I'm starting this one. Has anyone experience any allergies to drinking absinthe, either in general or in response to one particular brand? My girlfriend and I have been enjoying absinthe together for a few years now without any issues, but she suddenly broke out in a red rash on her chest after a glass of verte. She tried other absinthes afterward and had no issues, but upon trying another glass of that same brand, it happened again. [i don't want to say the brand name here because it might cast the absinthe in an unfavorable light, which wouldn't be fair.]

 

If I had to guess, I'd say she's allergic to a specific herb, and that it must be one used in the coloration step because everything else would essentially be "neutralized" during distillation, wouldn't it?

 

Any thoughts or similar experiences involving allergies you all wouldn't mind sharing?

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The first time I drank St. George I experienced redness and swelling in the face and hands. My guess is it was the thistle they use since I have tried all the other botanicals before without issue.

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Jay, Can you compare what you know of the herb bill in the "offending" absinthe to those of the "non-offending" ones to pinpoint what herb may be causing the issue? Until you figure this out, I'd caution against having her drink the problematic absinthe (or any others that you're unsure of her reaction to) since allergies can become worse on successive exposures to the allergen and you don't want to have to rush her to the ER.

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Sounds like a reaction to a specific botanical to me. Jules here has reported a sensitivity to hyssop used in finishing.

 

... it must be one used in the coloration step because everything else would essentially be "neutralized" during distillation, wouldn't it?

Not necessarily. It's generally the oils in the plant that cause a reaction, whether an actual allergic response or just a sensitivity. I wouldn't want to test the theory by distilling poison ivy! According to the CDC:

Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac release an oil, urushiol, when the leaf or other plant parts are bruised, damaged, or burned. When the oil gets on the skin an allergic reaction, referred to as contact dermatitis, occurs in most exposed people as an itchy red rash with bumps or blisters. [...] Although over-the-counter topical medications may relieve symptoms for most people, immediate medical attention may be required for severe reactions, particularly when exposed to the smoke from burning these poisonous plants. Burning these poisonous plants can be very dangerous because the allergens can be inhaled, causing lung irritation.

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Anyone poisoned by the smoke of burning Poison Ivy knows how terrible it can be. I used to have a similar reaction to the aroma of cooking shrimp, lobster, etc... although my allergies seem to have subsided a bit. As G~ shared, Jules has a lovely reaction to hyssop: migraines, irritability, lessening of her sense of humor (one out of three, is true). Guess which coloring herb Ridge doesn't use for that reason?

 

This is very interesting, Jay. If the herb bill is on the bottle (or website), would you share it?

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Thanks all for chiming in. To answer a couple of questions:

 

1) Elecampane is the only herb that was in this absinthe that wasn't (to the best of my knowledge) in previous absinthes that she tried. However, this is uncertain, since not everyone publishes their herb bill.

2) She is allergic to a number of unrelated things, among them wheat, dairy, eggs, beef, and legumes. In the past, this has only ruled out beer for her.

 

Also, she's not taking any prescription drugs, although she does take many vitamin supplements, and so I suppose the combination of those might possibly be a factor.

 

(I agree with you about the poison ivy, G. I'm extremely allergic, and repeated exposures as a kid only made it worse, so I guard against it religiously!)

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She's gonna hit ya, fpb. Then, she will hit me. Maybe reverse that order. ;)

 

Jay, if she has allergies to ragweed, the Elecampane could be to blame (Jules is allergic to ragweed but Elecampane doesn't bother her so that may not prove anything). Elecampane is not an unusual absinthe herb and is in both Ridge verte and blanche. We wish everyone could enjoy them but not at the expense of triggering an allergic reaction.

 

I also love Pacifique and Leopold. :cheers:

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Jay, I wouldn't rule stress management out either, since it sounds like she's had that absinthe before without any reaction. I've got a shit ton of allergies but they didn't come about until last March and as far as I can figure it I was incredibly stressed out at the time.

After I had most of my allergies figured out, I still didn't cease to flare up (in a very angry, itchy rash), until I started improving how I manage stress. Everyone is different though.

 

Oh, THAT absinthe. ;) :laugh:

 

x2.

 

I've heard about certain foods that can make certain allergies worse when eaten or taken in combination. I don't remember exactly what they are called or what the most common ones are, but if your girlfriend has an allergist perhaps she can ask him/her about that.

 

2) She is allergic to a number of unrelated things, among them wheat, dairy, eggs, beef, and legumes. In the past, this has only ruled out beer for her.

 

Sounds like she's got a pretty good list of her allergies. My boss as telling me that there are common proteins found in some foods and that some of the digestive enzymes out there can help prevent or minimize flair ups. Perhaps there is a common protein in elecampane and something else that she is allergic to.

 

I almost went on sublingual immuno-therapy drops, is this an option for you and your lady friend?

Edited by baubel

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fpb :wave2:

 

An allergist advised that ragweed and sunflowers are related and it is best to avoid sunflower seeds during ragweed season. I've reacted to hyssop but I've also reacted to poorly dried/stored herbs so at this point I'm not certain if it is really the hyssop or the way it is processed and stored. I can tell with a simple sniff test if I will tolerate something or not. If something triggers a headache or makes me itch then I avoid it. My loss on some counts but at least I don't suffer.

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You can buy some elecampane oil for pretty cheap. A very small drop left on her skin may tell you if that's the culprit.

 

I'm probably being overly cautious here, but I wouldn't suggest doing that without an epipen handy.

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...I wouldn't suggest doing that without an medic with an ambulance handy.

 

Fixed! :) Not all of us are Docs, Doc.

Edited by Miguel

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True. And I'm not even that kind of doc. I just shrink heads. What goes on from the neck down is not my area of expertise. :)

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Benedryl an other anti-histamines help as well. I've had some weird flare ups every now and then which seen to leave about as quickly as they show up, I'm not entirely certain what has caused most of them.

 

Jay, you and your girlfriend are certain the reaction is due to that absinthe, and not anything else she may have been exposed to? My allergist told me that I have immediate and delayed allergies. Delayed allergoes sometimes taking a day or two to show signs of reaction.

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Good point, and thanks for addressing that. I meant that it's useful to have that stuff around for other food allergies, or incase Jay and his girlfriend decide on trying the oil experiment. When my doctor gave me a set of epipens she said that sometimes one wasn't enough and benadryl was still needed. I'm no doc though.

Edited by baubel

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Thanks all for chiming in (even with alternative absinthes to enjoy, Joe!).

Jay, you and your girlfriend are certain the reaction is due to that absinthe, and not anything else she may have been exposed to? My allergist told me that I have immediate and delayed allergies. Delayed allergoes sometimes taking a day or two to show signs of reaction.

This one would qualify as immediate, since it happens within 5 to 10 minutes of her starting to drink the absinthe. However, your earlier post may be quite relevant, as she has been under a lot of stress between working her full-time job and trying to finish her 120+ page master's thesis at the same time. Once that's behind her, we'll see if the rash is too ;)

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