Citation: Flop. "WormX Review: An Experience with Absinthe (exp51728)". Erowid.org. Jan 12, 2007. erowid.org/exp/51728
My journey into the effects of thujone containing alcoholic beverages began after reading an article from the Journal of Studies on Alcohol (Dettling, 2004). The article suggested that a dose of 0.28mg/kg of alpha-thujone in an amount of alcohol to yield a BAC of 0.04 (roughly 2 drinks for a 78kg male like me) produced decreased attention performance in human peripheral field attention signals as compared to 0.04 BAC alone. Similarly a 0.28mg/kg body weight dose of alpha-thujone in alcohol also caused the human body to have an increased “false alarm” reaction to stimuli compared to alcohol alone. A tenth of this dose at 0.028mg/kg alpha-thujone in alcohol produced no effects different than that of alcohol alone.
In an attempt to mimic the results in the Dettling experiment I figured that the total thujone consumed for a 78kg person like me would be 22mg for the 0.28mg/kg dose and 2mg for the 0.028mg/kg dose. Typical absinthes available on the Internet claim 100mg thujone/liter, but I decided to try and make my own thujone beverage out of wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) and high-proof alcohol alone. My goal was to shoot for around a 0.28mg/kg dose, or 22mg of thujone in alcohol.
Bear in mind the resulting liquid from soaking wormwood in high proof alcohol is not true absinthe. Absinthe production uses distillation and a wide array of various ingredients to produce a drink with separate effects from what has been done here. Wormwood soaked alcohol is what I like to call WormX, short for “Wormwood Extract.” However a special note of consideration should be noted that the plant products in absinthe vary among manufacturers with the only universal component being alcohol and wormwood essence so this similarity cannot be ignored between WormX and absinthe.
So I began by soaking 75g of wormwood in 750ml of 190-proof Everclear for 7 days with occasional shaking. The wormwood smelled very aromatic and was obtained from a reputable online vendor that I trust, do your own shopping around.
The alcohol solution gradually went from light green to a pleasant dark green over the first 4 day soaking as the chlorophylls went into solution. In 7 days the resulting extract after filtration appeared black as a whole but in small quantities appeared a very dark green with brown tinges from small unfiltered wormwood debris. I was pleased with the dark appearance but could not stop gagging from the extreme bitter taste even after diluting many times with soda.
The bittering components, which is thought to be absinthin and anabsinthin in the wormwood, was much too prominent and dilution of the WormX by 1 to 10 with soda did little to curb the bitter taste enough to make it drinkable. The taste and smell reminded me of condensed Evergreen trees to such a point that it was way too much. I had figured on being able to keep diluting until it was palatable but the volumes of liquid got to be too high to be practical. This solution was discarded out of disgust and not enough was ingested to produce any physical or mood effects.
I regrouped my thoughts for a second trial with 28g (or 1 oz.) of wormwood soaked in 750ml of 151-proof Bicardi rum in a dark area for 4 days. The resulting solution after filtration produced a drinkable concotion if mixed with an equal amount of a soda or cola. However the desirability of such a WormX to soda concentration was suspect. A better dilution was found by pouring 75 ml of Bicardi WormX into 225ml. The resulting beverage was much more drinkable and enjoyable, while still being fairly bitter. The amount of alcohol was equivalent to a little over 3 drinks and the effects were only subtle above alcohol alone and hard to distinguish. I was still left wanting more.
Finally I tried 40g of wormwood soaked in 750ml of 151-proof rum for 4 days. Dropping the same 75 ml of WormX or 3 drink alcohol quantity into 225ml of soda produced a drink that I will describe below:
I am at my friend’s apartment and I slam my WormX and soda. I lie to my friend and tell him that I simply mixed up a rum and coke. The effects build similar to alcohol in about 10 minutes after finishing the drink. However, my mind begins to wander out in front of my inebriated body in a way that surprises me. Surprises me because this is different than alcohol alone. Surprises me because my mind is stimulated rather than feeling alcohol impaired. Surprises me because physically I feel drunk and my reactions feel slow but my thoughts and ideas seem sharp as a tack. Surprised because I feel anxious and ready to act and feel like the drink is “pushing” me a bit.
My typical drunk behavior is to laugh at every dumb joke that comes along but with the WormX there is a striving for more beyond the next laugh. One article I read suggests thujones activity at the gamma-aminobutyric acid receptor opposes the stress and tension reducing effect of alcohol which happens to be at the same receptor (Hold ,2000).
I can see why people would consider this superior to alcohol because I feel stimulated and a general ready-to-go feeling, instead of drunk and stupid. Some people who I don’t know at my friend’s apartment start talking about different psychoactive drugs and which ones are worth taking and which ones to avoid. They all seem to be agreeing with each other, laughing amongst themselves and obviously drunk.
However, when one of them asks me about my opinion on the topic I go into a discussion about the importance of set and setting, known purity of the substance, which substances tend to be less pure, plant versus synthetic issues, past personal history, genetic predispositions, etc. I came to the conclusion that to place certain substances into well defined categories based on 1 or 2 experiences seems a bit hasty. In other words I started acting like a complete smart-ass in front of the people there and I laughed at myself for acting in such a way.
Normally I probably would have tried to respond to their question with a joke for some laughs, but with the WormX I was more into really expressing my feelings and my expression of ideas and thoughts came very easy to me. My thoughts just seem to pour out of me without effort whereas with alcohol alone I might simply become confused and stumble around words, thoughts, and ideas opting for the crude joke instead.
Searching for more I tried soaking 40g of wormwood in 750ml of 190-proof Everclear, instead of the Bicardi rum, for 4 days. Dropping 60ml of the Everclear solution in 225ml of soda gave me the same approximate 3 drinks of alcohol amount compared to the 75ml of Bicardi rum. However the Everclear seem to pull more bittering component into the WormX. The taste of this drink was more endured rather than enjoyed.
After finishing the drink the full realization of WormX as a completely separate psychoactive substance from alcohol alone hit me. The most notable feeling that stands out in my mind is the anxiousness and stimulating feeling, not unlike 200mg of caffeine. The same physical drunk feeling is there but my cognitive ability feels stimulated versus the relaxed physical feeling of my body below the neck. There is an extra feeling of yearning and chicanery too that is different than alcohol alone. For example I don’t just want to chat with someone, I want to really have a great conversation and understand the other person too and manipulate them at the same time.
Based on a few sources I tried to pull together here are some rough calculations I did to calculate the amount of thujone extracted in my WormX made from 40g of wormwood in 750ml of 95% Everclear alcohol soaked for 4 days. Values from (Skyles, 2004), (Hold, 2000) and (Lachenmeier, 2004): About 1-2% plant weight of wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) makes up the volatile oil of wormwood, so there is about 0.40g-0.80g of total volatile oil in 40g wormwood. About 50% of volatile oil weight consists of thujone (some reports say as little as 35% is thujone, while others say 90% of the weight of is thujone, while still others suggest 70% thujone so there seems high variability in this number). If we assume 50% or volatile oil is thujone then 0.40g of volatile oil would have 0.20g thujone and 0.80g volatile oil yields 0.40g thujone.
Taking the average of the high and low end thujone amounts we arrive at a number of 0.30g thujone, or 300mg thujone, in 40g of wormwood. With 300mg thujone present in 750ml of Everclear alcohol, then the concentration of this WormX might roughly be 400mg/l of thujone, assuming 100% extraction effciency. However based on my lab experience, probably a 75% extraction efficiency is more like it. Which would be around 300mg thujone/l for my 40g wormwood soaked in 750ml of 190 proof alcohol. Obviously these are very rough numbers, but they are numbers to work with nonetheless.
Historically thujone was present in amounts of 260mg/l in the 19th century France absinthes brews as documented by (Strang, 1999). Old France absinthe was about 80% alcohol and the popular 19th century artist Toulouse-Lautrec traditional took 30ml of the absinthe liquer of 80% alcohol and added it to about 5 volumes of cold water trickeld over a sugar cube. The amount Toulouse-Lautrec consumed for one absinthe mix would be one and a half drinks of alcohol with about 8 mg of thujone. If we assume he consumed about 3 drinks over a course of a sitting that would be about 24mg of thujone.
My consumption of 60ml of my 40g wormwood in 750ml of 190 proff Everclear for 4 days, would then amount to a very approximate 18 mg of thujone in about 3 drinks of alcohol. Other compounds and terpenes in wormwood oil besides thujone have been suggested such as: phellandrene, thujyl alcohol, cadinene, and azulene, with the bitter components in wormwood oil coming from absinthin and anabsinthin. These other compounds other than thujone are not thought to be psychoactive but who knows what contribution they have to the WormX.
Drinking WormX drinks tends to leave a bitter taste in the back of ones throat and can make your mouth feel horrible the next morning you get up. However this is nothing a little mouthwash can’t cure. The next day after drinking WormX is met with some mild diahrrea but no serious gastrointestinal distress. The worst thing about WormX is consuming it to close to bedtime because of its stimulating properties. Sleep is more restless and the next day and I feel more lethargic than with alcohol alone.
One experiment I consumed 125ml of my 40g in 750ml of 151-Bicradi rum WormX, equivalent to a little over 5 drinks of alcohol, which led to very restless sleep and a series of sexually perverted dreams over the course of the evening. The next day after this larger dose I felt emotionally drained and just and overall feeling of dullness.
In a separate experiment I covered 40g of wormwood with 190-proof Everclear (which was about 100ml to cover the plant material and totally submerge it) and let sit for 4 days before filtering. Afterwards the alcohol was attempted to be evaporated with slight heating but the evaporation of the 100ml of WormX was very slow. So the mixture was heated to alcohol boiling point, about 78C, and the alcohol boiled off until a remaing sludge was left of about 1-2 g quantity. Smoking 1g of the sludge in a pipe yielded absolutely no physical or mental effects. I assume the psychoactive compounds were boiled off much like how absinthe is distilled and carried over in the distillate under high temperatures around 78C. Allowing the Everclear to evaporate over a several day period with no heating would be a more desirable experiment for next time.
Dettling A. Grass H. Schuff A. Skopp G. Strohbeck-Kuehner P. Haffner HT. Absinthe: Attention performance and mood under the influence of thujone. Journal of Studies on Alcohol. 65(5):573-581, 2004 Sep.
Hold KM. Sirisoma NS. Ikeda T. Narahashi T. Casida JE. alpha-thujone (the active component of absinthe): gamma-aminobutyric acid type A receptor modulation and metabolic detoxification. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 97(8):3826-3831, 2000 Apr 11.
Lachenmeier DW. Frank W. Athanasakis C. Padosch SA. Madea B. Rothschild RA. Kroner LU. Absinthe, a spirit drink - its history and future from a toxicological-analytical and food regulatory point of view. Deutsche Lebensmittel-Rundschau. 100(4):117-129, 2004 Apr.
Skyles AJ. Sweet BV. Wormwood. American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy. 61(3):239-+, 2004 Feb 1.
Strang J. Arnold WN. Peters T. Absinthe: what's your poison? Though absinthe is intriguing; it is alcohol in general we should worry about. British Medical Journal. 319(7225):1590-1592, 1999 Dec 25.
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