Absinthe--Is Its History Relevant for Current Public Health?

Martijn Huisman; Johannes Brug; Johan Mackenbach


Int J Epidemiol. 2007;36(4):738-744. 

In This Article

Absinthe and Tobacco Before Industrialization

Both the main ingredient of absinthe (wormwood) and tobacco have been known to mankind for their qualities for centuries. The oldest known reference to medical use of wormwood dates from about 1552 BC, in the Egyptian Ebers Papyrus.[5] In the middle-ages, wormwood was known and used primarily because of its assumed medicinal qualities.[5] A recipe for an alcoholic drink based on dried leaves of wormwood (absinthe) was developed in 1789 by Dr Ordinaire. He used it as treatment for illness, but this recipe later became the basis of the industrially produced absinthe, which commenced with the founding of the Pernod-fils distillery in 1798.

Widespread tobacco use in eastern North America, where the tobacco leaf is native to, dates back to at least 2000 years ago.[6] The oldest existing illustration of a smoker is a Mayan illustration of a smoking God.[7] Accounts of the smoking of tobacco can be found in the manuscripts and journals of European explorers of the New World. Gradually, using tobacco in all kinds of forms (e.g. snuff, cigars, cigarettes) was introduced into Europe as well. Tobacco was introduced into France by 1556, in Portugal by 1558 and in Spain by 1559.[8] But widespread smoking was greatly promoted after 1880, with the invention of a cigarette-rolling machine to replace the time consuming hand-rolling of cigarettes.


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.