(redirected from cinchonic)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Wikipedia.


cinchona (sĭngkōˈnə) or chinchona (chĭngkōˈnə), name for species of the genus Cinchona, evergreen trees of the madder family native to the Andean highlands from Bolivia to Colombia and also to some mountainous regions of Panama and Costa Rica. The trees are now cultivated elsewhere for “Peruvian bark,” the source of quinine. Quinine is still the drug of last resort in the treatment of malaria, but its commercial importance was greatly reduced after the development of synthetic analogs in the 1950s. Several species yield quinine and several other antimalarial alkaloids. The bark of the uprooted tree is beaten loose, peeled by hand, and dried quickly to prevent the loss of alkaloids. Final extraction is conducted in factories.

The trees were named in honor of the countess of Chinchón who, legend says, was cured of a fever in 1638 by a preparation of the bark. Supposedly, at her instigation the bark was collected for malaria sufferers and later exported to Spain. Native peoples, however, had long used it for medicinal purposes and this use was observed by Jesuit missionaries, who brought the bark to Europe. Cinchona is sometimes called Jesuits' bark because of the part the group played in its dispersal. So successful were the Dutch and English in transplanting cinchona to Java and India that until World War II these countries, especially Java, grew practically the entire commercial supply.

Cinchona is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class division Magnoliopsida, order Rubiales, family Rubiaceae.


See M. L. Duran-Reynals, The Fever Bark Tree (1946); P. E. Thompson and L. M. Werbel, Antimalarial Agents (1972); F. Rocco, The Miraculous Fever-Tree (2003).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a genus of evergreen tree of the family Rubiaceae. The trees are 10–15 m tall (some up to 25 m). The leaves are opposite, leathery, and entire. The pentamerous, tubular flowers are in cymose umbels, gathered into panicles. The corolla is pink or yellowish white and has lobes that are pubescent on the limb. The fruit is a dehiscent, bilocular, many-seeded, elongate capsule.

There are about 40 species, distributed in South America between 10° N lat. and 19° S lat. The trees grow at elevations of 1,600–2,400 m above sea level in forests on the eastern slopes of the Andes (C. officinalis is found at elevations to 3,300 m above sea level). The bark and other parts of the cinchona tree contain quinine, cinchonine, and other alkaloids that have antimalarial, tonic, and antiseptic effects. Since the 17th century, the tree has been greatly exploited for the healing properties of its bark. Despite a ban on export, Europeans sent cinchona seeds and seedlings to Java and India, where plantations were established. As a result of selection, the alkaloid content in the bark was raised from 2–2.5 percent to 16 percent. Several species, including C. ledgeriana, C. officinalis, and C. succirubra, and numerous hybrid forms are cultivated. In the USSR the cinchona tree is cultivated as an annual crop on the Black Sea coast of the Caucasus; cuttings and ovaries are preserved for the winter in hothouses. Cinchona culture is being curtailed as a result of the synthetic manufacture of its alkaloids.


Atlas lekarstvennykh rastenii SSSR. Moscow, 1962.
Zhukovskii, P. M. Kul’turnye rasteniia i ikh sorodichi, 3rd ed. Leningrad, 1971.
Murav’eva, D. A., and A. F. Gammerman. Tropicheskie i subtropicheskie lekarslvennye rasteniia. Moscow, 1974.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


The dried, alkaloid-containing bark of trees of the genus Cinchona.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


of Ecuador. [Flower Symbolism: WB, 7: 264]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. any tree or shrub of the South American rubiaceous genus Cinchona, esp C. calisaya, having medicinal bark
2. the dried bark of any of these trees, which yields quinine and other medicinal alkaloids
3. any of the drugs derived from cinchona bark
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005