Quinine tree, Cinchona

Cinchona succyruba

European conquistadors first heard about this 10-15m high tree in 1532 with the invasion into the lands of the Incas in Peru.

They died of malaria, but Indians survived thanks to the bark of a certain tree, which they called hin-hin. 110 years later nobody knew the secret apart from the natives, and when the vice-king of Peru, count Cinchon became ill with malaria, he returned to Europe bringing the cure there. Of course, Spanish doctors were not familiar with it and, therefore, they applied the old useless methods again. Almost no one dared to use the new powder because many cases of poisoning were registered. It was not until 1737 that the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus got acquainted with the plant and named it after the first man who brought it to Europe. 

In 1820, the French scientists Pierre-Joseph Pelletier and Joseph-Bienaim Caventou extracted a medically important alkaloid, which they named quinine. Researches showed that quinine controls blood temperature, increases the activity of immune cells and kills certain microorganisms. This a painkiller, slows down the frequency of heartbeat and increases blood pressure. When a high dose is taken, nausea and vomiting usually occur, as well as stomachache, dizziness, hearing- and vision impairment, low body temperature, and seizures. Fatal end is uncommon because the lethal dose is very high. 

Quinine is widely used and is successfully cultivated in many countries all over the world. Moreover, quinine concentration in barks has reached 16% in comparison with 2-2.5% in the natural state. Although modern pharmacy prefers synthetic materials, this plant is a proof that pharmacy remains indebted to nature.