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Friday, April 22, 2016

A Tonic for Whatever Ails You

                                Tonic water contains a powerful agent to prevent malaria

San Diego has had unusually warm weather the last few weeks.  While I’m not a mixed-drink-kind-of-gal, I have to admit that on a warm day (particularly at the beach) I’m often drawn to a gin and tonic.   Perhaps this is because the first gin and tonic I had, 35 years ago, was in the middle of the summer on Spain’s tiny island of Ibiza.  I was with a group of Norwegian friends and the last one to order libations.  All 11 had ordered a gin and tonic---so I made it an even dozen!

                                            Cinchona forests in South America

Did you know that tonic water at one time was an actual medicine?  It started in South America in the 17th century when European missionaries in Peru made note that the locals used a tree bark concoction to effectively reduce the fevers of malaria.  Modern day medicine now understands that not only does tree bark treat fevers, but it is actually a powerful agent to prevent malaria.  This prophylactic part of the tree bark is called quinine.

                                         Cinchona's bark is the source for the quinine
Quinine is the purified substance from the bark on the cinchona tree. The quinine antidote for malaria quickly spread to Europe which was also suffering from the disease.  But it was the British who were responsible for turning it from medicine to pleasure.  When the British began their rule of malaria-rampant India they planted cinchona trees throughout the country purposefully.  British army officers on duty in India began adding it to their spirit of choice, gin, as prophylaxis.  

At this same time back in Britain, there was a craze for adding carbon dioxide to liquids to create bubbly drinks.  When the Brits returned from Foreign Service in India, they jumped on the bandwagon and added carbon dioxide to their quinine "tonic."  It wasn’t long before a gin and tonic became the rage----and it still is the quintessential drink of Britain.

To good health...and long live the Queen!


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  2. I love a good gin and tonic! While we're talking about long life, here's the latest take on gin, an anti-aging gin:

  3. I can just see you on your waterside deck in Fort Lauderdale sipping a G & T.
    Cheers, June

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