Quinine is extracted from the bark of the cinchona tree, an evergreen. Quinine has been used for centuries to treat malaria, discovered by Peruvian natives in the 1600s and subsequently brought to the West.
Cinchona trees are native to humid Andean mountain slopes, where they prefer temperatures of 50-70F. They are now widely cultivated in many other tropical countries for their commercial value.
Tonic water in the U.S. contains about 80 mg. per quart (83 mg. per liter).
You can make your own tonic extracted from cinchona bark, although there have been adverse side effects from overdosing.(1) One study found that pregnant rats given quinine showed birth defects and slowed growth rates (although it is not clear from the abstract the dosage).(2) Interestingly, another study found that tryptophan deficiency may underlie the side effects.(3)
However, even if quinine is safe, know that quinine is an anti-bacterial, and will have a detrimental effect on the healthy bacteria in your body.
The information provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be healthcare advice or medical diagnosis, treatment or prescribing. Full disclaimer.
Quinine’s Health Benefits
More than 36 different alkaloids are found in various Cinchona barks, the most commonly used being quinine, quinidine, cinchonine and cinchonidine.(4) There is a great deal of research about the beneficial properties of cinchona alkaloids, including: Anti-parasitical, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-cancer, amoebicidal, blood thinning, and many more benefits.
Here are some known benefits of chinchona alkaloids:
- Quinine and quinidine are used to treat the parasite malaria and cardiac arrhythmias, respectively.(4)
- Quinine has been widely shown to be beneficial against viral infections.(5)
- Hydroxychloroquine has been said by many doctors to be very beneficial in the treatment of corona virus.
- Quinine has been found to be anti-bacterial.(6)
- Cryptolepine from Ghananian quinine showed high anti-bacterial activity in vitro against Lyme disease (along with Japanese knotweed). Cryptolepine has also been used for malaria (parasitic), hepatitis (viral), septicemia (any type of microbe), and tuberculosis (bacterial).(7-8)
- Quinine has anti-tumor properties, helping overcome cancer, and suppressing tumor cell proliferation.(9-10)
- Quinine is anti-fungal, slowing and reducing fungal growth in vitro.(11-14)
- Cinchonine showed inhibition of human platelet aggregation, helpful as a blood thinner for heart attack or stroke cases.(4)
- Cinchophylline alkaloids, isolated from leaves of C. officinalis, have shown in vitro amoebicidal activity.(15)
- Cinchophyllamine has been found to offer weak local anesthetic activity, as well as some analgesic activity.(15)
- Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine (synthetic forms of quinine) have been recognized to have beneficial effects on rheumatic diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis; skin diseases; in the treatment of chronic Q fever, and other diseases.(15)
“I’ve found that by drinking a liter or two of tonic water and taking higher doses of Zinc, Vitamins A, C, & D, I’ve been able to clear a cold in a day, before it even gets started.” — Visitor Comment
Quinine’s Anti-Viral Mechanism: The Zinc Connection
Quinine (and it’s synthetic version hydroxychloroquine) works as an anti-viral a few different ways, and this may also be how it works on other microbes:
- First, quinine can change the pH in the cells, making them more alkaline (thus impairing viruses ability to replicate).
- Second, quinine stops a virus from landing on and attaching to your cell, preventing it from entering.
- Third, quinine is a zinc ionophore. That means it helps bring otherwise bio-unavailable zinc into your cells, and the zinc then inhibits the viruses’ ability to replicate inside your cells.(17)
Thus, quinine needs zinc to be effective. And taking quinine with zinc will help overcome a cold more quickly.
Dr. Shiva discusses the zinc-quinine connection in this video: Top Scientist Explains Why You Need Zinc To Combat Coronavirus
This video explains more about the zinc ionophore mechanism.
Note that as an ionophore, quinine may bring other substances into your cells, amplifying their effect in undesirable ways. For example, someone told us that taking quinine with a caffeinated drink caused nausea.
Quinine content varies among the 50 cinchona species, from 0 to 16%. Some say the yellow cinchona varieties are milder than the red. Determine which varieties are available when you shop. Below is a guide of typical quinine percentages of the various species, but actual amounts can vary. (18, the chart is from a comment)
Species Total Quinine Alkaloids (%) Content (%) C. calisaya 3 - 7 0 - 4 C. pubescens 4.5 - 8.5 1 - 3 C. officinalis 5 - 8 2 - 7.5 C. ledgeriana 5 -14 3 - 13 C. succirubra 6 - 16 4 - 14
Bark vs. Powdered Form
When extracting quinine from cinchona, it is probably best to use the chipped bark form. With the powdered form, it can be difficult to strain out all of the solids, leaving more quinine in the finished product than planned. Sieving a powdered cinchona preparation through a French press or a coffee filter can still have a high percentage of solids still in suspension. At that point it can be more difficult to estimate what the quinine content is. Also, any of the solids you swallow contribute the full amount of the quinine as your body digests the powder.(18)
How Much Quinine is in your Bark?
Below is a chart of approximately how much bark would be needed for a standard quart of tonic water in the U.S. (up to 80 mg/quart). The measurements are only estimates if the full bark was left in the final product or the cinchona alkaloids were fully extracted into it. It takes a lab to determine actual amounts, so do not rely on the chart.
A teaspoon usually weighs about 5g. But with chipped or cut bark, a teaspoon only weighs about 3 g. (18, the chart is derived from their calculations)
Est. % of Est. Amt. of Bark Quinine used for 1 qt. commercially (if ALL quine is extracted) 3% 1 tsp bark (2.8 g) 5% 1/2 tsp bark (1.6 g) 16% 1/6 tsp bark (0.5 g)
Typical Quinine Dosage for Malaria
The typical dosage for malaria is about 650 mg/day for an adult, for up to 7 days. That’s about 8 quarts a day of tonic water.(19)
Cinchona Bark Herbal Tonic
This recipe is for a healing Herbal Tonic, derived from this tonic water recipe.
Using bark that is 5% quinine, this recipe will generate 6 oz, which equals 12 Tbsp; one Tbsp.equals approximately one quart-size bottle of tonic water. Adjust the recipe if you are using cinchona bark with a different percentage of quinine.
- 1 cup water (will cook down to about 3/4 cup)
- 1/8 cup of 5% quinine cinchona bark (6 tsp, the approximate amount used for 12 quarts of tonic water)
- 1 orange peel, scrubbed to remove pesticides (Contains orange essential oils, plus the white contains vitamin C and other nutrients. Also, citrus fruits are evergreen trees.)
- 1 lemon peel, scrubbed
- 1 lime peel, scrubbed
- 1/2 tsp. nutmeg (nutmeg is the berry from a tropical evergreen)
- 1 Tbsp. citric acid
- Pinch of salt (helps extract the alkaloids)
- Add anything else you like in a herbal tonic
- Combine ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat.
- Once mixture starts to boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Remove from heat and strain out solids using a strainer or chinois.
- You’ll need to fine-strain the mixture, as it still contains fines from the bark. You can use a coffee filter and wait for an hour or more, or run the whole mixture through a French coffee press.
- Add honey if you like.
- Store 3/4 cup in the attractive bottle of your choice. If you have have less than 3/4 cup, add water up to that amount.
- Store in a cool, dark place.
1 Tbsp. of this Herbal Tonic will be about the same as a 1-quart bottle of tonic water. Lemon juice will help minimize the bitter taste. ion
If you are using bark with a different percentage of quinine content:
- 2.5% bark: 1 Tbsp. of Herbal Tonic might be about the same as a half a quart bottle of tonic water.
- 10% bark: 1 Tbsp. of Herbal Tonic might be about the same as two quart-size bottles of tonic water.
- 15% bark: 1 Tbsp. of Herbal Tonic might be about the same as three quart-size bottles of tonic water.
Again, remember it takes a lab to measure actual amounts, so these are only estimates.
Store your Herbal Tonic in the frig, it will last a week or so. You can also experiment with preservatives such as apple cider vinegar or alcohol (although I’m not sure how long it will last). To do so, decrease the amount of Herbal Tonic to 1/2 cup, add 1/4 cup of preservative after the Herbal Tonic has cooled. You can also try salt: Keep the liquid at 3/4 cup and add about 2-3 tsp. of salt. You will have a very salty tonic.
- Quinine https://www.drugs.com/mtm/quinine.html
- Saccharin- or Quinine-Induced Changes in the Rat Pups following Prolonged Ingestion by the Dam https://www.karger.com/Article/Abstract/241239
- Anti-Malarial Drug: Tryptophan Deficiency May Underlie Quinine Side Effects https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090626141235.htm
- Cinchona (PROSEA) https://uses.plantnet-project.org/en/Cinchona_(PROSEA)
- The Use of Antimalarial Drugs against Viral Infection https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7022795/
- Quinine is bactericidal https://www.researchgate.net/publication/24377152_Quinine_is_bactericidal
- Lyme disease treatment: 2 herbal compounds may beat antibiotics https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/lyme-disease-treatment-2-herbal-compounds-may-beat-antibiotics#Quinine-and-knotweed-show-promise
- Antimalarial and Other Antiprotozoal Products from African Medicinal Plants https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780124059276000175
- More evidence that malaria drug could help combat cancer, and that breaks from treatment could improve results https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110107083731.htm
- Suppression of tumor cell proliferation by quinine via the inhibition of the tumor necrosis factor receptor‑associated factor 6‑AKT interaction https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27430155/
- Quinine, as a lipase inhibitor, could slow the growth of Candida species. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4576120/
- Quinine in combination with bicarbonate reduced fungal growth https://www.researchgate.net/publication/328072750_Novel_Combinations_of_Agents_Targeting_Translation_That_Synergistically_Inhibit_Fungal_Pathogens
- Quinine inhibits stimulation of yeast growth by serotonin C-albicans https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Quinine-inhibits-stimulation-of-yeast-growth-by-serotonin-C-albicans-SC5314-upper_fig4_259629912
- Synthetic quinine derivatives display “superior in vitro fungicidal activity” https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.jafc.9b04224
- Cinchophylline alkaloids benefits https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21221847/
- Top Scientist Explains Why You Need Zinc To Combat Coronavirus https://banned.video/watch?id=5e8fb08d105eff002c2eb812
- Zn(2+) inhibits coronavirus and arterivirus RNA polymerase activity in vitro and zinc ionophores block the replication of these viruses in cell culture https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21079686
- Potential Dangers of Home Made Tonic Water https://www.alcademics.com/2014/08/potential-dangers-of-homemade-tonic-water.html
- Quinine, Tonic Water, Cinchona Bark Safety in Cocktails https://www.cocktailsafe.org/quinine-tonic-water-cinchona-bark.html
- Quinine https://www.rxlist.com/consumer_quinine_qualaquin/drugs-condition.htm