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Absinthism: fictitious 19th century syndrome

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Modern absinthe

Most absinthe brands available today contain mainly the same herbal ingredients and extracts as pre-ban absinthe. Absinthe produced within the European Union is limited in its thujone content to 35 mg/l (maximum limit for bitter spirits) [ 8 ].

Top grade absinthe products are still manufactured according to traditional recipes, without the addition of dye or other additives. Some products are made of herbal distillates and are differentiated by a mild flavor. Because such products are colorless, they are sold as Blanche or La Bleue. Types with a lower alcoholic strength and added sugar are sold as absinthe-liqueurs. Independent of traditional recipes, many products sold nowadays are made with readily bought finished extracts of wormwood or other plants, which are blended with ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin. For the coloring artificial dye is used, especially mixtures of tartrazin (E102, FD&C Yellow No. 5) and patent blue V (E131) or brilliant blue FCF (E133). Inferior products contain no herbal extracts and are made solely by the blending of artificial flavors, coloring and ethyl alcohol [17].

In cases like this, sometimes even the macerated herbs are not distilled but only filtrated, diluted to drinking strength and bottled. These products have a strong pronounced taste of wormwood and a very strong, bitter taste. Further falsification is possible with the addition of extracts of other thujone-containing plants (e.g., Thuja occidentalis L., Salvia officinalis L.).
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