Traditional Uses and Benefits of Cinchona Bark
The native Quechua people, living in what is now Peru, had been using the bark of cinchona trees for treating hypothermia and fever and this is what led to its development as a drug for malaria. The Jesuits in colonial Peru, knowing of the local use of cinchona for treating fever, began to use concoctions of the powdered bark to treat malaria patients, beginning in the 1630s. The active ingredient against malaria, the alkaloid quinine, was isolated in the 1820s, prompting further cultivation of trees. In the 1940s, after the active alkaloid was isolated and identified drug companies were able to develop synthetic quinine. Some strains of malaria have become resistant to the synthetic quinine which has instigated renewed interest in sourcing natural quinine from cinchona.
Cinchona is used for increasing appetite; promoting the release of digestive juices; and treating bloating, fullness, and other stomach problems. It is also used for bloodvessel disorders including hemorrhoids, varicose veins, and leg cramps. Some people use cinchona for mild attacks of influenza, swine flu, the common cold,malaria, and fever. Other uses are for cancer, mouth and throat diseases, enlarged spleen, and muscle cramps.
Dosage and Administration
The traditional way of preparing the medicine was to grind the dried bark into a powder, prepare a decoction (boiling the powder) and then either drinking as a bitter tea or mixing with wine or other alcohol.
There are recommended dosages given in several herbalist reference books. It should be stressed that the alkaloids contained in cinchona bark are powerful drugs and therefore no one should self-administer a cinchona decoction without consulting a medical doctor.
Tonic water, which contains a much lower concentration of quinine than what is recommended for malaria treatment, is considered safe.
Cinchona Bark is commonly used in the preparation of tonic water at home. Caution: Avoid Cinchona if pregnant or breastfeeding. Note that ingestion of pure cinchona bark can be fatal. An early sign of toxic dosage is tinnitus (ringing in the ears).