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Cinchona

Cinchona

Botanical Description & Habitat

Cinchona pubescens, C. ledgeriana, C. succirubra, C. officinalis, and C. calisaya

Family
Rubiaceae

Common Names
Peruvian bark
Jesuit's bark

Habitat
South America, India, Africa, Far East

Medicinal Parts
The dried bark

Historical Properties & Uses

Cinchona, the primary source for quinine, has been used for centuries as an astringent, febrifuge, oxytocic and tonic. Its specific use has been to fight malaria, but at smaller doses it can be used for any fever, infection and indigestion. In folklore practice, it is sometimes used to induce labor, and should therefore normally be avoided by pregnant women.

Before the advent of the quinine drugs, Americans used cinchona not only for malaria and other fevers, but also as a tonic, and to stimulate the appetite and digestion. Quinine itself is a common ingredient in non-prescription remedies for headaches, leg cramps, and colds, and is also found in many gargles.

Before the discovery of quinine, exports of cinchona bark from South America to Europe and the United States numbered in the millions of pounds each year.

This herb has approval status by the German Commission E for loss of appetite (see appetite disorders) and peptic discomforts e.g. bloating.

References:

Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.


Method of Action

Cinchona is, of course, the primary source of quinine, or at least it was until the drug was synthetically produced. Good cinchona bark will contain not less than 6.5% total alkaloids, of which not less than 30%, and not more than 60% are of the quinine type, including quinine, quinidine, cinchonine and cinchonidine.

Cinchona possesses the same antiviral, antimalarial, and antipyretic properties as the drug. The equivalency in therapeutic effect may surprise those who believe that commercial drugs are superior to natural medicines, but the efficacy of cinchona next to quinine has been proven.

In one study, rats were injected with an infectious malarial agent and then either fed (or injected) with quinine, or fed cinchona extract. Animals in both groups recovered, as long as they were given an effective dose of either treatment.

Cinchona works by reducing tissue respiration through a direct influence on the enzymatic processes of the cell. This inhibition leads to a lowering of nucleoprotein metabolism and to death of the micro-organisms.

Most lower organisms, such as infusoria, are quickly killed by cinchona; others, like bacteria, cocci and bacilli, demonstrate variable sensitivity, some being very sensitive, and others very resistant to the herb.

Quinine is a general purpose cell and protoplasm poison inhibiting many enzymatic processes by complexing with DNA and blocking nucleic acid synthesis.

Quinine's antipyretic action is the result of an inhibition of oxidative processes. In addition quinine lengthens the refractory phase of smooth muscles, inhibits contractibility of the heart, is a muscle relaxant and local anesthetic.

Quinidine is counted among the membrane stabilizing agents and a negative inotropic action.

The British Herbal Pharmacopoeia classifies cinchona as a bitter astringent, orexigenic, febrifuge, spasmolytic and antiprotozoal, to be used in the treatment of malaria, splenomegaly, anorexia, dyspepsia, hyperchlorhydria, cramps and myalgia.

Cinchona is specifically indicated for general debility, with anorexia, and contraindicated in pregnancy.

This herb is combined with camomile, lemon balm, marshmallow root, angelica root and hops to treat anorexia nervosa; with yarrow, mint, and pleurisy root in influenza; with crampbark and prickly ash bark for cramps.

Drug Interactions & Precautions

Known Interactions

The oxytocic-like action of this herb may produce neonatal jaundice which would interfere with serum bilirubin test results.

Increases the effect of anticoagulants if given simultaneously.

Possible Interactions

In conjunction with ACTH or corticosteroids, this diuretic is more prone to produce hypokalemia.

Allopurinol has been tentatively shown to increase the half life of anticoagulants.

References:

Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Safety Factors & Toxicity

Though large doses of cinchona have a depressant effect on the heart, small amounts are completely harmless.

Further proof of the safety of cinchona is its use in ice cream, baked goods, condiments, soft drinks and candy.

Cinchona bark has approval status by the German Commission E.

References:

Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Preparation & Administration

Use three times daily

Decoction
Use 0.3 - 1g of dried bark

Liquid Extract
Use 0.3 - 1ml of standardized preparations

Tincture
Use 2 - 4 ml of standardized preparations

This herb has approval status by the German Commission E.

Recommended daily dosages in Germany are as follows:

1 - 3 g herb.

References:

Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Note: This Herbal Preparation information is a summary of data from books and articles by various authors. It is not intended to replace the advice or attention of health care professionals.

References

Aviado, D.M., T. Rosen, H. Dacanay & S.H. Plotkin. Antimalarial and antiarrhythmic activity of plant extracts. Medicina Experimentalis-International Journal of Experimental Medicine, 19(2), 79-94, 1969.

Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Braun, H. & D. Frohne. Heilplanzen-Lexikon Fuer Aerzte und Apotheker. Gustav Fisher Verlag, Stuttgart, New York, 1987.

British Herbal Pharmacopoeia, British Herbal Medicine Association, 1983.

Duke, J.A. CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs, CRC Press, Inc., Boca Raton, Florida, 1985.

Furia, T.E. & N. Bellanca. Fenaroli's Handbook of Flavor Ingredients, CRC, Cleveland, Ohio, 1971.

List, P. & L. Hooerhammer. Hagers Handbuch der Pharmazeutishcen praxis, Six volumes, Springer-verlag, Berlin.

Mowrey, Daniel B., Ph.D. Exper. Psych., Brigham Young University. Director of Nebo Institute of Herbal Sciences. Director of Behavior Change Agent Training Institute. Director of Research, Nova Corp.

Trease, G.E. & Evans, W.C. Pharmacognosy, 11th ed., Bailliere Tindall, London, 1978.