Plants and Trees With Real Health Benefits

Albert B. Lowenfels, MD


May 30, 2017

The Cinchona Tree

The cinchona tree is native to the western forests of South America. In the 17th century, a Jesuit apothecary working in Peru noted the beneficial effect of cinchona bark on treating fever in the local population. The government of Peru, realizing the potential value of the cinchona tree, prohibited the export of cinchona-related products. Nevertheless, trees and bark were soon smuggled out of Peru; and by the late 17th century, cinchona bark was listed in the London Pharmacopoeia. The bark contains the alkaloid quinine, an effective antimalarial agent, which was eventually synthesized in 1820.[8] Today, quinine is not a recommended first-line treatment for malaria but still has some use when the more effective drug, artemisinin, is unavailable. Quinine is also a popular ingredient in such soft drinks as tonic water.

Figure 5. Image from istock


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