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Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Rubiales
Family: Rubiaceae
Genus: Cinchona
see text
Cinchona is the name of a genus in Rubiaceae family, large evergreens that can grow over 10 meters tall. There are over 40 species in the genus, many of which have spread from their South American center of origin to countries all over the world (especially India). The trees in this genus are the source of a variety of alkaloids, the most important of which is quinine, an anti-fever agent especially useful against malaria. The medicinally important part of the tree is the bark, which is stripped from the tree, dried and powdered. As a medicinal, cinchona bark is also known as Peruvian Bark.

The name of the genus is due to Linnaeus, who named the tree in 1742 after the countess of Cinchona, who was, at the time, popularly attributed for discovering the medicinal properties of the bark. Stories of the medicinal properties of this bark, however, are perhaps noted in journals as far back as the 1560s-1570s (see the Ortiz link below). By the 1630s (or 1640s, depending on the reference), the bark was being exported to Europe. In the late 1640s, the method of use of the bark was noted in the Schedula Romana, and in 1677 the use of the bark was noted in the London Pharmacopoeia.

Further reading