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Quinine is a natural, bitter-tasting alkaloid basically produced in the laboratory or it can be obtained directly from the Cinchona tree. It acts as powerful antipyretic and analgesic substance. Because of these anti-inflammatory properties quinine has been used for many years for treatment of certain illnesses. As a matter of fact, the first people who used quinine in medical purposes were the quechua Indians of Peru and Bolivia.

Quinine is Good Treatment for Malaria and It’s Found in Tonic Water

An interesting fact is that in the 17th century quinine was first used as a treatment option for people suffering from malaria triggered by Plasmodium falciparum. From that time until 1940s quinine remained the drug of choice for this medical condition. By the middle of the 20th century scientists managed to discover several more efficient medications against this parasitic disease.Today people with malaria are generally treated with different antimalarial drugs while quinine may be prescribed in rather rare occasions or better to say critical situations in poor region that are basically not well-supplied with medications. As far as the United States are concerned, quinine is available over-the-counter and can be also prescribed by a health care provider, if necessary.Apart from being highly efficient against malaria i.e. the parasite causing the diseases, quinine has been proven to help patients suffering from lupus and arthritis. It was even used by individuals dealing with nocturnal leg cramps, but such treatment has never actually been officially approved by FDA hence it is not recommended.Finally, small amounts of quinine are found in tonic water, a favorite carbonated beverage of many people around the world. Tonic water was first introduced in the U.S. in the 1950s although it was actually discovered and patented in England in the 19th century.

Other Ingredients in Tonic Water

Since the very word “tonic” sounds like something beneficial for the health, many people wonder what the ingredients of this refreshing beverage are.Quinine is a major ingredient of tonic water that gives it its recognizable bitter aroma. It originated from colonial India, where the British troupes had many troubles with malaria. It was found in the 17th century that this dangerous disease can be prevented and cured with quinine, a substance obtained from the bark of a tree called Cinchona. Since quinine has a very intensive and extremely unpleasant taste, soldiers were reluctant to take it regularly, even though it could save their lives. Finally, they found a way to consume it, after they mixed it with some gin, lemon and sugar. After quinine was brought back to England, it became the main ingredient of tonic water.

Today it is a known fact that quinine can only help with the symptoms of malaria, like high fever, and that a successful treatment of this disease requires antibiotics. In fact, in order for tonic water to be a cure for malaria, one would need to drink 60 oz of it, which is a lot. Because it still contains some quinine, this beverage is called “tonic”, but it also has newer ingredients, recently added to it, like fruit aromas. Nowadays, the ingredients of tonic water include spring water, natural quinine, sugar, citric acid, bitter herbs extracts, carbonated water, sodium citrate, fruit flavors, preservatives and saccharin.

Side Effects of Quinine

Even though quinine is a powerful substance helping many, there are side effects that can affect people already suffering from certain medical conditions or individuals who take other medications together with quinine.First of all, people who are allergic to components of quinine, quinidine or mefloquine, are advised against its consumption. Quinine is also contraindicated in individuals with bleeding issues, low platelet count, irregular heartbeat, low potassium levels, inflammation of the eye nerve, GSPD deficiency and myasthenia gravis.

Furthermore, pregnant, nursing and women trying to conceive should consult their doctor or pharmacist before they use quinine, which also applies to people with allergies, heart problems, vision or hearing problems, liver or kidney conditions, depression, nerve or muscle problems and those about to undergo anesthesia. As quinine may interact with many drugs, all people on medications, herbal or dietary supplements are advised to talk to their health care specialist before taking quinine.Rashes, flushing and pruritus are most common dermatological side effects, while erythema and swelling have been reported only in rare cases. Quinine may affect the gastrointestinal tract by causing stomach upset, nausea, pain/discomfort, vomiting and diarrhea. Cases including neutropenia, purpura, disseminated intravascular coagulation, thrombocytopenia, ecchymosis and petechiae have been reported as well. Purpura-hemolytic uremic syndrome has been known to induce kidney failure.

Quinine may cause the appearance of asthma symptoms, hemoptysis and be a culprit of transient bilateral pulmonary infiltrates. Blurred vision, diplopia, reduced visual fields, disturbed color perception, photophobia, scotomata and blindness are all potential ocular side effects, whereas cardiac dysrhythmia is a side effect of this medicine on the cardiovascular system. Quinine can easily interfere with the hepatic enzyme system and trigger liver poisoning, the symptoms of which disappear after discontinuation of the drug.Nervous system side effects include tinnitus, dizziness, syncope, confusion, vertigo, loss of hearing, anxiety and hyperactivity. Quinine also interferes with electrolyte balance and the level of blood sugar. It may provoke nose bleeding, bleeding of the gums and gastrointestinal bleeding. In addition, a single oral dose of quinine produces hypersensitivity reactions, and a single oral dose of 2 to 8 grams of quinine may lead to a fatal outcome.

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