Cinchona pubescens

Cinchona pubescens

Red cinchona o quina (Cinchona pubescens Vahl, 1790) is a species of shrub or tree belonging to the Rubiaceae family.

Systematics –
From the systematic point of view it belongs to the Eukaryota Domain, Kingdom Plantae, Magnoliophyta Division, Magnoliopsida Class, Rubiales Order, Rubiaceae Family, Cinchonoideae Subfamily and therefore to the Cinchona Genus and to the C. pubescens Species.
This species over time has been with various synonyms:
– Cinchona caloptera Miq .;
– Cinchona chomeliana Wedd .;
– Cinchona cordifolia Mutis;
– Cinchona coronulata Miq .;
– Cinchona decurrentifolia Pad .;
– Cinchona elliptica Wedd .;
– Cinchona goudotiana Klotzsch ex Triana;
– Cinchona govana Miq .;
– Cinchona howardiana Kuntze;
– Cinchona lechleriana Schltdl .;
– Cinchona lutea Pav .;
– Cinchona morado Ruiz;
– Cinchona ovata Ruiz & Pav .;
– Cinchona palescens Vell .;
– Cinchona pelalba Pav. Ex DC .;
– Cinchona pelletieriana Wedd .;
– Cinchona platyphylla Wedd .;
– Cinchona pubescens var. cordata DC .;
– Cinchona pubescens var. ovata (Ruiz & Pav.) DC .;
– Cinchona purpurascens Wedd .;
– Cinchona purpurea Vell .;
– Cinchona purpurea Ruiz & Pav .;
– Cinchona rosulenta Howard ex Wedd .;
– Cinchona rotundifolia Pav. Ex Lamb .;
– Cinchona rubicunda Tafalla ex Wedd .;
– Cinchona rufinervis Wedd .;
– Cinchona rugosa Pav. Ex DC .;
– Cinchona subsessilis Miq .;
– Cinchona succirubra Pav. formerly Klotzsch;
– Cinchona tucujensis H. Karst .;
– Quinquina obovata (Pav. Ex Howard) Kuntze;
– Quinquina ovata (Ruiz & Pav.) Kuntze;
– Quinquina pubescens (Vahl) Kuntze;
– Quinquina succirubra (Pav. Ex Klotzsch) Kuntze.

Etymology –
The term Cinchona derives from Ana de Osorio, countess of Cinchon and wife of the viceroy of Peru, who according to legend discovered on herself the virtues of cinchona bark, recovering from malarial fevers and deciding to import it to Europe (1639).
The specific epithet pubescens comes from pubes -is adolescent chin fluff: covered with fluff, hairy, pubescent, fluffy.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Red cinchona is a plant native to South America: Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela and Central America: Panama and Costa Rica.
Its habitat is that of cool, humid mountain regions, where it grows well even in volcanic soils with high levels of nutrients, and at altitudes between 1,000 and 3,900 meters.

Description –
Red cinchona is a deciduous plant that varies from small to large, growing up to 10 meters in height.
When cut, the bark tends to turn red.
The leaves are elliptical to oblate and thin and have pubescent teeth that turn red when they are larger, hence its nickname of the red quinine tree.
The flowers form in large panicles and are pink and fragrant, while the Galapagos species are light pink.

Cultivation –
Cinchona pubescens is a fast growing plant and flowering begins 2-3 years after planting.
It is a resilient species, able to bounce back even from extreme damage. If the tree is cut down but the stump remains, it can regrow new stems. If the bark is removed and the xylem is exposed to the elements, the tree will reproduce the bark. The tree can also grow back if the roots left in the ground are more than 2 cm in diameter.
It reproduces rapidly and spreads its seeds through the wind. Growing at a rate of 1–2 m per year, it quickly reaches a high height where it can shade the rest of native plants. Adult trees grow much slower than young ones.
Due to its characteristics it has become an invasive species when planted outside its area of ​​origin, especially on islands with a tropical climate such as the Galapagos, Hawaii and Tahiti.
This plant grows best in areas where the annual daytime temperatures are in the range of 17-25 ° C, but can tolerate 9-28 ° C. It can be killed by temperatures of 5 ° C or lower. It prefers an average annual rainfall between 2,500 and 3,500 mm, but tolerates 1,400 – 4,000 mm. Requires well-drained, moist soil and a location in full sun or partial shade. It grows poorly or not at all on land that has been exposed to fire. It prefers a pH between 5 and 6, tolerating 4.5 – 6.5.

Customs and Traditions –
The bark of this plant tastes bitter, astringent, tonic and is made into powder, tablets, liquid extracts and tinctures.
It has similar uses to Cinchona officinalis in the production of quinine, which is famous for treating malaria.
Cinchona pubescens has a long history of use in the areas of origin, especially as a treatment for fevers and malaria. Modern research has shown that it is a very effective treatment for fever, and especially as a treatment and prevention of malaria. The bark contains various alkaloids, in particular quinine and quinidine. Up to 70 – 80% of the total alkaloids contained in the bark are quinine.
The bark is bitter, astringent, tonic that lowers fever, relaxes spasms, is antimalarial (via the quinine alkaloid) and slows the heart (via the quinidine alkaloid).
The cortex is used internally in the treatment of malaria, neuralgia, muscle cramps and cardiac fibrillation. It is an ingredient in various patented cold and flu remedies. The liquid extract is useful as a cure for drunkenness. It is also used as a gargle to treat a sore throat. Care should be taken in using this herb as excess can cause a number of side effects including cinchonism, headaches, rashes, abdominal pain, deafness and blindness. The herb, especially in the form of the extracted quinine alkaloid, is subject to legal restrictions in some countries.
From an ecological point of view, as mentioned, it tends to be an invasive species.
There are currently two strategies for the removal of C. pubescens. These strategies involve a physical method and a chemical method. The physical method consists of manual felling of adult trees and complete removal of the stumps. Plant residues must be extracted from the soil. The chemical method uses herbicides diluted in water and sprayed on etching marks on the bark.

Preparation Method –
The bark of Cinchona pubescens, as mentioned, is transformed into various preparations, such as tablets, liquid extracts, tinctures and powders.
Quinine is also used in the manufacture of hair oils, shampoos and insecticides, as well as as a vulcanizing agent and in the preparation of some metals.
However, it should be noted that overuse has various side effects such as headaches, rashes, abdominal pain, deafness and blindness.

Guido Bissanti

Sources
– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (edited by), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.

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