Cinchona

Cinchona

The indigenous people of the Andes shared the Cinchona plant with Jesuits stationed in Peru in the early seventeenth century. The “Jesuit powder,” also widely known as Peruvian bark, Loja bark, and fever bark, cured several European nobles of malaria. Today, we call it quinine. Until the 1930s, quinine was the only effective malaria treatment, as there was no synthetic alternative, making cinchona trees an invaluable commodity for empires like the British and Dutch that held tropical territories. In the eighteenth century, however, cinchona was nearly eradicated from South American tropical forests through over-collecting. Thus followed numerous attempts to grow cinchona in Europe or in its warmer colonies. The discovery of further varieties of cinchona was also a key goal of many botanical expeditions, such as those by Hipólito Ruiz López and José Antonio Pavón, and by José Celestino Mutis.

 
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