Cinchona     
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Information   @ a Glance  

General
  • Shrubs or small, medium-sized to tall canopy trees; raphides absent; axillary thorns absent. Stipules interpetiolar, free at base or interpetiolar, connate at base, broadly triangular, obovate, oblong or ligulate, subcaducous or readily caducous. Leaves opposite, long- to short-petiolate; blades ovate, elliptic, obovate, broadly obovate, oblong, orbicular, chartaceous, stiffly chartaceous, papyraceous, thinly to thickly coriaceous; foliar pellucid glands absent; domatia sparse tufts or dense tufts of hair or absent. Inflorescence terminal, frondose or not frondose, paniculate, densely or sparsely branched.
  • Cinchona is a bitter stomachic and has astringent properties. It may sometimes cause vomiting and if taken over long periods may give rise to symptoms of cinchonism. To keep the alkaloids in solution, liquid preparations of cinchona are usually given in acid media but the decoction and the tinctures are prescribed with ammonium bicarbonate and in these cases Mucilage of Acacia should be added to suspend the alkaloids.

Medical Effects

  • Quinine is a drug which is made from the bark of the Cinchona tree. A number of various other chemicals can also be synthesized from Cinchona, and these include cinchonine, cinchonidine and quinidine.
  • Cinchona bark was prepared by grinding it down to a fine powder, and mixing it with water or wine. Currently however, quinine is generally taken in tablet form, but it can also be taken intravenously by injection. Nowadays, quinine is rarely employed for the treatment of malaria, except for a severe acute form known as falciparum malaria. It is however, commonly taken to relieve night-time leg cramps.

Market

  • American sources of cinchona trees and quinine bark were once again in demand, but new plantations were planted by the Allies in Africa as well. This dire shortage of quinine fueled research for developing and producing a synthetic version of the quinine alkaloid rather than relying on the natural bark
  • Their natural resources were smuggled out and profitable world markets were created from them. They were poor, developing nations without multinational backing or investment capital - and ended up at the bottom of the heap while competing in a global market for resources indigenous to their countries.

Uses

  • Quinine has been so useful that the destruction of the cinchona tree has led to rainforest devastation and ironically, global warming (the earth’s fever!). This has forced the mosquitoes to travel north, spreading malaria to North America. Pure quinine once again cures this, but like all medicines, it is becoming less and less effective. To date, it is only known to lower the fever and relieve some of the pressure felt because of the disease. Synthetic quinine as medicine is the only way to stop this raging cycle and actually end malaria.
  • Quinine is the main ingredient in tonic water, which is used to mix many different alcoholic drinks. It is the flavor that gives tonic water that bitter taste. About half of the total amount of harvested quinine from the cinchona bark is used towards tonic water and quinine water. Because quinine is so bitter, tonic water contains somewhere between 100 to 300 parts per million quinine, or a maximum concentration of 70 mg of quinine per liter of tonic water.   

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