absinthe (ăbˈsĭnth) [key], an emerald-green liqueur distilled from wormwood and other aromatics, including angelica root, sweet-flag root, star anise, and dittany, which have been macerated and steeped in alcohol. It was invented in the 1790s by a Dr. Pierre Ordinaire, a Frenchman who lived in Switzerland, and the liqueur became enormously popular, particularly in late-19th-century Paris. Genuine absinthe is 70% to 80% alcohol. Because it caused harmful neurological effects (due to the presence of thujone, a toxic chemical in wormwood), absinthe was banned in many countries; where it still is available it is no longer as toxic as it once was.
See study by J. Adams (2004).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.