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Two pieces of cinchona bark, South America, 1601-1700

Quinine is the component of cinchona bark, which makes the bark effective in treating and preventing malaria. Before quinine was isolated in 1820, the bark was ground up and drunk with milk or water or chewed as a pain and fever reliever. According to the documentation for this piece of cinchona bark, it dates from 1601-1700, making it a very old surviving piece of tree material. The bark probably originated in South America, most likely Peru.

Object number:

A654742

 

Glossary:

Glossary: sample

Individual units, segments, or small quantities taken as evidence of the quality or character of the entire group or lot

Glossary: malaria

Parasitic disease transmitted by certain kinds of mosquito. Malaria is characterized by fever and enlargement of the spleen. Each year, there are approximately 515 million cases of malaria, killing between one and three million people.

Glossary: quinine

A substance taken to fight malaria. Quinine is found naturally in the bark of the cinchona tree. It is also an ingredient in tonic water.

Glossary: cinchona

The dried bark of any of the Cinchona trees. Used to stimulate the appetite, prevent bleeding and, in the past, to treat malaria.