- Once a major medical hazard, absinthe is an emerald-green liqueur 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 and addictive 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. The first important medical research on absinthe was initiated in 1864 by a psychiatrist, Valentin Jacques Joseph Magnan, who exposed a veritable Noah's arkful of animals to wormwood oil (the essence of absinthe) and alcohol (the base of absinthe).
He put cats, rabbits, and guinea pigs under an individual glass case next to a saucer of either wormwood oil or alcohol. The animals that breathed the alcohol fumes became drunk while those that inhaled the vapors of wormwood had epileptic seizures, reported Dr. Magnan in the medical journal The Lancet. Prolonged drinking of absinthe causes convulsions, blindness, hallucinations, and mental deterioration. Absinthe has been banned but something of its taste of absinthe is still available in such drinks as ouzo in Greece and in France, pastis, long considered "the mother's milk of Provence."
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* * *1) WORMWOOD2) a green liqueur flavored with wormwood or a substitute, anise, and other aromatics
* * *ab·sinthe (abґsinth) 1. absinthium (def. 1). 2. a liqueur made from an extract of Artemisia absinthium and other bitter herbs; its use has been banned because it contains neurotoxins and prolonged ingestion can cause trismus, amblyopia, optic neuritis, and convulsions.
Medical dictionary. 2011.