Cinchona officinalis is the botanical name for a tree that grows in the Amazon rain forest. Also called quinine bark, China bark, or Peruvian bark, it is the source of the anti-malarial drug quinine, which works by reducing fever and inflammation. The plant extract has a wide variety of other uses in homeopathic medicine and home herbal remedies.
For centuries, the bark had been used by native Amazonians as an herbal remedy for dysentery, diarrhea, flu, dyspepsia, nerve problems, and hangovers. The benefits of cinchona officinalis were documented in the 1600s, when the wife of a Peruvian official was healed from a fever by using the bark of the tree. Scientists later isolated the quinine alkaloid and the chemical cinchonine, and then began producing a powdered bark remedy. In addition to using the powdered bark to fight malaria, they also used it for toothpaste, as a remedy for mouth and throat diseases, and to fight cancer.
A ratio of one part powdered cinchona officinalis bark to ten parts water, boiled and strained, produces an infusion that is an effective herbal remedy for a variety of health problems. As an antiseptic and anti-bacterial compress, it can heal boils, abscesses, pimples, bruises, and muscle cramps. The infusion may also be used as a gargle that eases the pain of a sore throat, and can heal mouth sores and the bacterial infection called hairy tongue.
Taken as a tonic, the bark’s anesthetic and antibacterial properties ease the pain of muscle cramps; heal liver, spleen, and gallbladder problems; and treat colds, flu, and anemia. This tonic is an excellent digestive aid and stimulates a poor appetite. In Europe, the infusion is also taken to prevent muscle spasms and treat hair loss. Homeopathic medicine uses tablets of powdered bark for the same health problems. Patients can take two to four .005 mg quinine bark tablets per day.
Scientists have studied the effects of quinine and cinchonine on cardiac patients for several hundred years. They have found that these chemicals regulate heart palpitations and promote heart health. The compound quinitidine is a prescription medication still used by cardiologists.
The cinchona officinalis tree is grown in many areas of South America, as well as the island of Java. Typically, the bark can be harvested without destroying the tree, and once the bark is removed, it will regenerate after a few years. Scientists have not found a way to synthesize the quinitidine compound, so the natural ingredient in cinchona officinalis remains essential to homeopathic and herbal healing.