What is quinine and what is it used for?

If you usually drink Tonic water It is quite possible that on some occasion, when reading your label, you have noticed a warning that says: "It contains quinine" , or basically "Contains a source of quinine" .

The reason why this compound is used in this type of drinks is its ability to enhance its flavor , turning it into a drink with that characteristic bitter taste that so many characterizes them. Therefore, in some countries this type of drink is also known by the names quinada or aguaquina water.

quinine

Also known by the name of chinchona , consists of a alkaloid of natural origin , of white and crystalline appearance, which is produced by some species belonging to the genus Cinchona . Basically it is a stereoisomer of quinidine.

The history of quinine

For many years quinine was obtained from the bark of the cinchona tree, a tree native to Peru, which is found mainly in the rainforest of Amazonia. This bark was very used by the pre-Columbian cultures of Peru, Ecuador and Colombia for its healing and medicinal effects. In fact, after the discovery of the New World, its properties were recognized in Europe in 1631, when the Jesuit Alonso Messia Venegas brought cinchona bark to Rome.

During the second half of the eighteenth century various botanical studies of several species of cinchona were carried out. Among those varieties we find the Chinchona , on which there was an almost special attention for a curious legend that said he had cured the wife of the Viceroy of Peru, the Countess of Chinchón.

cinchona

From that moment the use of the bark was imposed as natural remedy for a wide variety of conditions, highlighting above all its use as febrifuge . For that reason it began to be sold at the price of gold and was becoming more and more demanded.

What is quinine used for?

Quinine becomes one of the main compounds of the tonic , a popular carbonated drink in which quinine is used as a flavoring, thanks to its characteristic bitter flavor. However, given that high doses can cause side effects, the American FDA has limited its concentration to a maximum of 83 ppm (approximately four thousandths of that used medically for different medical treatments).

tree-quino

Precisely because of its contribution to quinine, tonic water provides some properties, such as: it is a digestive beverage by inducing secretion and reflecting the salivary and gastric glands, in addition it exerts a vascularization of the gastric mucosa.

On the other hand, it also became the Main compound used in the medical treatment of malaria , until it was replaced by other synthetic drugs much more effective, as for example is the case of primaquine, chloroquine or quinacrine. However, Quinine is still used in the treatment of resistant malarias .

In turn, it also provides other therapeutic benefits. For example, it is a recognized antipyretic, analgesic and antimalarial.

Images | ISTOCKPHOTO / THINKSTOCK

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