The Fee Verte, or the Green Fairy, has been the nickname of absinthe nearly since its invention. While the nickname is now more commonly associated with the myth that absinthe causes hallucinations, the origins of the nickname are less controversial.
When Dr. Ordinaire invented absinthe in the late 1790’s, it was, as many spirits are, originally intended as a medicinal tonic. According to feeverte.net, “Artemisia absinthium was ‘from early biblical days. . .used in medicine and magic. . .to rouse a languid appetite and stimulate digestion'(Gibbons 45). It treated ‘epilepsy, gout, drunkenness, kidney stones, colic, headaches'(Lanier vii) and worms.”
Because it seemed to be such a cure-all, the tonic became synonymous with a helpful, nurse-like spirit, or, a fairy. Since it was green, it simply became known as La fee verte, and later literally translated to the Green Fairy.
While the nickname stuck, the reason behind it changed once absinthe became more popular as an intoxicant.
As the spirit gained traction with artists and writers, it became clear that it inspired new and more magnificent ideas. Eventually the Green Fairy was seen as a muse to these great artists, including Vincent Van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, and Ernest Hemingway.
Recently a study done by researchers at Berkeley, the University of California and Northwestern University Medical School concluded that wormwood (with the help of other absinthe components) actually improves the cognitive function of the brain, giving not only credence, but actual proof that the Green Fairy may just be the perfect muse after all.