Gardening

Cinchona: the miraculous tree of Peru


Emblem of Peru, cinchona is a tree with recognized medicinal properties. With its gnarled branches and red bark, it displays a branched silhouette. Its bark is used in particular to fight against malaria!

Discover the many benefits of cinchona: a miraculous tree.

  • To discover: Maca from Peru, fortifying the Incas

Recognize the cinchona

When we use the word cinchona, we mean the tree or its bark. The Cinchona officinalis is a large shrub up to 6m tall. Other cinchona species form trees that peak at 20-30m. Peru brings together 20 of the 29 species found in the world. Belonging to the Rubiaceae family, it reveals a red-brown bark. Its foliage is oval, glazed, ribbed and dark green. It is enhanced by tubular flowers in pink or white clusters, appearing in late spring. Later in the year, small, capsule-shaped fruits appear.

Therapeutic properties of cinchona

This tree contains powerful active ingredients including tannins and quinine. The latter is known for its antimalarial and analgesic properties. It is the bark of the tree that is used! Reduced to powder, it was used to reduce fever by Indians. In the XVIIe century, it was brought to Rome by Peruvian Jesuits and allowed to cure malaria. The quinine in the bark of the tree is still used in treatments that fight severe forms of malaria. This plant with a thousand virtues also helps to treat various daily ailments.

  • Antiseptic and healing, cinchona is given to treat wounds.
  • Toned it strengthens the immune system.
  • Stimulates the appetite, it is a help for people with anorexia.
  • Diuretic, it promotes the elimination of toxins.
  • Anti-inflammatory, it fights against pain and fever.
  • Fortifying and stimulating for the scalp, it is also used in shampoo.

How to consume cinchona?

  • In infusion: it is used to stimulate appetite and improve digestion. You can easily find cinchona herbal teas in herbalists.
  • In powder : it is applied directly to the wounds.
  • In decoction: bring 1L of water to a boil and add 20g of dried bark. Leave to infuse for about fifteen minutes and filter. The decoction makes it possible to benefit from the anti-flu, tonic and analgesic benefits of the plant.
  • Mixed with henna: cinchona fights against hair loss and hair itching. It gives reddish brown highlights to dark hair.
  • In wine : to combine the useful with the pleasant while enjoying the benefits of this tree. To red wine we add a maceration of rinds as well as spices such as cocoa and vanilla.

Precautions and contraindications

Pregnant and lactating women should avoid consuming cinchona. The same goes for people taking blood thinners and those with alkaloid intolerance. Some people are allergic to quinine. In this case, avoid ingesting or applying cinchona, as it may cause allergic skin reactions, nosebleeds, dizziness or stomach upset.

A plant in peril

Cinchona is still used to fight against the scourge of malaria. In the 1940s, cinchona was decimated to treat European populations with this disease. Today, deforestation in Peru is the new threat to this benefactor tree. In the search for a cure for COVID-19, scientists have turned to chloroquine, rather than quinine. This less toxic substance was chosen because it is not in danger of extinction.


Photo by David J. Stang / CC BY-SA (License)

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