History of Quinine and its use Against Malaria


Quinine is the main alkaloid extracted from barks of the quinine tree. It occurs as a white, crystalline powder that darkens when exposed to light. It is odorless and has a very persistent bitter taste. It is only slightly soluble in water, alcohol, chloroform and ether.

PHARMAKINA Quinine is an API (Active pharmaceutical ingredient) available to the market as a sulfate, hydrochloride or di-hydrochloride salt compound.

Analytical requirements of quinine salts are described in classical pharmacopeias (BP,IP,EP,USP and IntPh).

Discovery as a Malaria treatment

The bark of the Cinchona was discovered as a substance to cure malaria by the Jesuit Missionaries in Peru in the 17th century. It has since become an important political and strategic resource in view of the wide spread incidence of malaria not only in Europe but all over the world.

The bark of the Cinchona, endemic in the High Andes of South America, represented a major export item for this region until the end of 19th century when scientists started growing the tree in other regions with similar soil and climatic conditions – mainly in South India and Java and later in the East of Congo as of 1908.  


Historical Facts


Quinine played a crucial role in the colonization of many southern countries until the end of the 20th century. During the 19th century European scientists successfully extracted the quinine alkaloid from the bark. At the same time, over exploitation and lack of reforestation led to the depletion of resources in South America.

During the 1980’s the Phytophtora species destroyed wide extensions of Cinchona plantations in India and Java, leaving the East of Congo the major producer of quinine in the world. As a counter measure, PHARMAKINA established an in-vitro laboratory to produce fungus-resistant seedlings with a higher content of quinine. PHARMAKINA also gradually abandoned the monocultures method of the plantations in order to strengthen the trees.

Quinine remained the mainstay of malaria treatment until the second half of the 20th century when the synthetic product chloroquine was invented. However, chloroquine soon started showing resistance to malaria. This has been the case with most other synthetically produced products which followed the introduction of chloroquine.

Quinine is still widely used as a popular medicine due to its low cost. It shows no resistances when properly applied and is in high demand by hospitals as a secondary treatment for severe malaria.