Quinine: The plant-based medicine that saved millions of lives

05 August 2016 (14664 visits)

More than 7000 medical compounds currently prescribed by physicians in Western culture are derived from plants, and some experts estimate that there are more than 21,000 medicinal plants in the world’s remaining tropical forest ecosystems.

 

While many travelers book eco-tourism vacations in Peru in the hope of seeing major fauna such as jaguars, responsible tourism programs also offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn more about the fascinating flora of South America’s Amazon jungle.

 

Perhaps the most historically important medicinal plant family of all is the tree genus known to science as Cinchona. While most people will not have heard of the Cinchona genus, they will certainly have heard of the alkaloid produced from it bark: quinine, used for centuries to treat malaria, as well as other ailments.  

 

The Spanish learned of the medicinal properties of the bark of the Cinchona from the Quechua-speaking indigenous people they conquered in the early 16th century, and they quickly adopted it in the treatment of the tropical fevers to which the European invaders were all too susceptible.

 

Quechua people routinely mixed the ground bark of the Cinchona with sweetened water, to counter the bark’s bitter taste, thus creating the first tonic water; that essential ingredient in the gin and tonic, a beverage created by British officers in India, who first added gin to their quinine to mask its unpleasant taste. Quinine is used to this day as an ingredient in tonic water.

 

The people of Peru had already been using quinine for countless generations, in the treatment of infections, inflammations, fever and pain, when in the 17th century it was used to treat the wife of the Spanish viceroy for malaria. Her recovery helped lead to the widespread use of quinine to combat malaria.  The name selected for the genus in the 18th century by the great botanist Carl Linnaeus is derived from the name of this illustrious patient, whose title was the Countess of Chinchon. The countess is credited with introducing the bark to Spain, from where its use quickly spread across the European continent through the wide-reaching influence of the missionaries of the Jesuit order. Eventually, the Jesuits took their cure for malaria as far afield as China and Japan, encouraged the establishing of plantations back in Peru, and were the first to plant the trees beyond South America in the 19th century.

 

It was the Jesuit order which first produced a powdered form of quinine for the treatment of malaria. “Jesuit’s bark”, along with “Peruvian bark”, was one of the names by which this medicine was known among the apothecaries of 17th century London.

 

Unfortunately, while drugs to treat malaria are now produced synthetically, historic over-exploitation of the Cinchona genus has led to all its 17 species being classified as endangered in Peru, while Cinchona officinalis, the species featured so prominently on the nation’s coat-of-arms, is said to be on the verge of extinction.

 

 

Click on image to enlarge:

Weather:


Weather - Tutiempo.net

Check out the itineraries we offer:


rainforest EXPERIENCE

3 days (USD 494.00)

rainforest EXPLORER

4 days (USD 677.00)

rainforest ENCOUNTER

4 days (USD 761.00)

rainforest ADVENTURE

4 days (USD 932.00)

rainforest JOURNEY

4 days (USD 1148.00)

rainforest EXPEDITION

5 days (USD 1370.00)

What your rainforest visit means

In Peru ecotourism has helped make it possible to create national reserves and save the forests of the Amazon basin from destruction. By implementing our ecotourism-based conservation model (see our video), we are ensuring the forests will be around for future generations to appreciate. Pioneering projects like Tambopata Ecolodge, which was established in 1991, serve as a conservation model, by showing how responsible ecotourism can support conservation initiatives.
Follow us
neuro(drive).pro() / www.eltraductoringles.com
Enjoy an upgrade to SUITE for the cost of a SUPERIOR room. This offer is subject to availability. To take advantage of this offer, click here and fill out the form, indicating your selected dates, and requesting this promotional offer.
Enjoy 25% off any room type, available for the Rainforest Experience or Rainforest Encounter programs. To take advantage of this offer, click on the program you’re interested in, enter your dates, and select the room type available, number of people, and the other options. The discount will be applied to the rates automatically.
The comfort of our guests is our priority; we do not operate camping itineraries from November 1st to March 31st.