Species: officinalis, ledgeriana, succirubra, calisaya
Common names: quinine bark, cinchona, Jesuit’s bark
General Description: The members of this genus contains about forty species of trees that all grow 15-20 m in height and produce white, pink, or yellow flowers. Quinine bark, also known as Cinchona, is one of the most popular and well-known plants of the rainforest.
Location: They are cultivated in many tropical areas such as India and Java, but are native to the Andes Mountains.
Uses: The medicinally active bark is stripped from the tree, dried and powdered, and generally used to treat malaria symptoms. Today, it is used infrequently due to the threat of death if consumed in large quantities. However, Quinine was used sporadically through the first half of the 18th century for cardiac problems and arrhythmia and it became a standard of cardiac therapy in the second half of the 19th century. Another alkaloid chemical called quinidine was discovered to be responsible for this beneficial cardiac effect.
Quinidine, a compound produced from quinine, is still used in cardiology today, sold as a prescription drug for arrhythmia. The sales demand for this drug still generates the need for harvesting natural quinine bark today because scientists have been unsuccessful in synthesizing this chemical without utilizing the natural quinine found in cinchona bark.
In addition to it use for malaria and heart arrhythmias, quinine bark is also used to calm nerves, stimulate digestion, as an anti-parasite and anti-bacterial agent, and fever reducer.
Disclaimer: The statements contained herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Any reference to medicinal use is not intended to treat, cure, mitigate or prevent any disease.
Photo. H. Zell / CC BY-SA