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The Many Health Benefits of Quinine

The Many Health Benefits of Quinine

quinine

What is Quinine?

Quinine is a basic amine and is usually provided in salt form, with various existing preparations encompassing hydrochloride, dihydrochloride, sulfate, bisulfate and gluconate. In the United States, quinine sulfate is commercially available in 324-milligram tablets under the brand name Qualaquin; it’s also a flavor component of tonic water and bitter lemon drink mixers – in fact, on the soda gun behind many bars, tonic water is designated by the letter “Q” representing quinine. 

In the scientific community, quinine – and quinidine – are used as the “chiral moiety” for the ligands used in “sharpless asymmetric dihydroxylation” as well as for numerous other “chiral catalyst backbones.” Because of its relatively constant and well-known fluorescence quantum yield, quinine is used in photochemistry as a common fluorescence standard. 

Cinchona trees remain the only “economically practical” source of quinine, however, under wartime pressure during World War II, research on its synthetic production was undertaken, with a formal chemical synthesis accomplished in 1944 by American chemists R.B. Woodward and W.E. Doering. Since that time, several more efficient quinine total syntheses have been achieved, but none of them can compete in economic perspectives with isolation of the alkaloid from natural resources. 

Bulk Supplements Fun Fact: The first synthetic organic dye, mauveine, was discovered by William Henry Perkin in 1856 when he was trying to synthesize quinine.

The history of quinine dates back to the Spanish Jesuit missionaries, the first to bring cinchona to Europe by the 1570s or even earlier after the Spanish observed the Quechua people’s use of cinchona, eventually becoming aware of the medicinal properties of the bark. Nicolas Monardes, 1571, and Juan Fragoso, 1572, both described a tree which was subsequently identified as the cinchona, whose bark was used to produce a drink to treat diarrhea. Quinine has been used in unextracted form by Europeans since at least the early 17th century (x). 

Quinine remained the antimalarial drug of choice until after World War II.

Quinine Uses

Quinine is commonly used alone or with other medications to treat malaria, but it should not be used to prevent malaria. It is also sometimes used to treat babesiosis, a serious or life-threatening illness that is transmitted from animals to humans via ticks. 

Quinine sulfate is used to kill the malaria parasites living inside red blood cells; in some cases, you may need to take a different medication, such as primaquine, to kill the malaria parasites living in other body tissues. Both drugs may be needed for a complete cure and to prevent the return of infection (otherwise known as a relapse).

This medication is normally taken orally with food to decrease upset stomach, as prescribed by a doctor. It’s usually absorbed every eight hours for three to seven days, or as directed by a physician. Important to note here is that antacids containing aluminum or magnesium bind with quinine, preventing the body from fully absorbing the drug; this is why it’s recommended that quinine sulfate is taken two to three hours before or after taking such antacids.

Some believe that quinine can help with leg cramps and restless leg syndrome when taken as a tonic water – though there is little evidence to suggest that this is effective (x). 

Quinine Benefits

As we mentioned, quinine’s primary benefit is for the treatment of malaria – but here are some interesting facts related to other benefits of this drug/substance:

The internet has been buzzing about the use of tonic water and zinc as a remedy to treat or prevent the recent COVID-19 virus, but this has yielded some caveats; tonic water contains quinine, a medicine that is distantly related to Hydroxychloroquine, the antimalarial drug that’s been in the news lately and which is being tested to treat coronavirus. But the concentration of quinine in tonic beverages is significantly below the levels found in anti-malaria drugs, effectively making the point moot.

And while zinc won’t cure or prevent COVID, it is essential for a healthy immune system, which is how our bodies fight off virus and bacteria. Zinc, in particular, plays a vital role in inflammatory response, and a deficiency could result in an increased risk of infection and disease – including pneumonia

Quinine in tonic water is diluted enough that serious side effects are unlikely, but some reactions do occur, and these normally include:

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Still, these aforementioned symptoms are more common side effects for quinine when taken as a medication; among the most serious potential side effects associated with quinine are:

  • Bleeding complications
  • Kidney damage
  • Abnormal heartbeat
  • Severe allergic reaction

Bulk Supplements Fun Fact: These reactions are primarily linked to quinine, the medication; you would have to drink about two liters of tonic water a day to consume a day’s dose of quinine in pill form. 

Quinine Powder

As we touched on in the beginning of this article, quinine was first isolated in 1820 from the bark of a cinchona tree, which is native to Peru, and bark extracts have been used to treat malaria since at least 1632. Homemade tonic waters begin with this tree bark either in chunk or powered form, with the powdered form being particularly difficult to strain out of the final beverage. 

Bottom Line

Quinine is a basic amine and is usually provided in salt form, with various existing preparations encompassing hydrochloride, dihydrochloride, sulfate, bisulfate and gluconate. In the United States, quinine sulfate is commercially available in 324-milligram tablets under the brand name Qualaquin; it’s also a flavor component of tonic water and bitter lemon drink mixers – in fact, on the soda gun behind many bars, tonic water is designated by the letter “Q” representing quinine. 

In the scientific community, quinine – and quinidine – are used as the “chiral moiety” for the ligands used in “sharpless asymmetric dihydroxylation” as well as for numerous other “chiral catalyst backbones.” Because of its relatively constant and well-known fluorescence quantum yield, quinine is used in photochemistry as a common fluorescence standard.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, and these products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

 
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