Why is quinine in tonic water
Tonic water along with its trademark cocktail, the “gin and tonic”, owe their origins to British exploits throughout Africa many years ago. In fact, both tonic water itself and the gin and tonic cocktail are responsible for saving many lives in the past and continue to do so today.
The primary reason for this lies in quinine and the effect it has upon our bodies. Originally derived from the bark of the Cinchona tree, quinine fits between the DNA strands of some cells and blocks cellular transcription, effectively preventing the cell from replicating. The ability to block cellular replication of some cells was particularly important in areas affected by malaria, a disease spread by a protozoa carried by mosquitoes that attacks the human body. Regular doses of quinine can help prevent the protozoa from replicating and thus prevent
unnecessary death from occurring.
Being very difficult to successfully dissolve into water though highly soluble in ethanol, quinine is originally thought to have been a primary ingredient in gin since its inception many years ago. Unfortunately the actual dosage level possible in any amount of gin (or gin and tonic) is quite low, and it would require roughly 100 gin and tonics a day for a week to successfully treat any malaria case (though at this level alcohol poisoning is a much more likely side effect).
Tonic water was successfully invented for commercial use in 1870 by Schweppes, containing a sufficient enough level of quinine in a water-based form rather than ethanol-based to make regular consumption easy and saleable. This greatly assisted many individuals in both Africa and Asia where malaria is still a major issue today.
Following the Japanese invasion of Java in 1941 the majority of the world’s supply of quinine was cut, thus causing a major rise in Malaria cases throughout World War 2. This also caused a large number of treatment alternatives to be developed, including tablet forms of various chemicals proven to prevent the onset of Malaria. Since that time the usage of tonic water as a source of treatment for Malaria and other illnesses due to its quinine content has been limited, however
its historical significance has not decreased any and it is still used in many locations today.