Cinchona tree which was used to make medicine for Malaria disappears from Kerala
Konni (Pathanamthitta): Quinine was a medicine that gave relief to the world when Malaria outbreak occurred. The ingredients of this medicine was extracted from cinchona tree, a plant that was commonly found in Kerala. But now there is no trace of this tree in the state. This was found out in a study conducted by Kalleli Vayakkara native Arun, a Botany research scholar at Mahatma Gandhi University.
Quinine medicine was made from the bark of cinchona tree in the 1820's. The world faced severe scarcity of this medicine during the World Wars. In 1862, the then Resident of Travancore F N Maltby started cinchona cultivation in Peerumedu. As the technology to extract medicine from the bark of cinchona was developed, the tree was farmed widely all over the world.
Cinchona officinalis, Cinchona nitida, Cinchona succirubra, Cinchona micrantha, Cinchona peruviana and Cinchona calisaya were major species cultivated in Travancore. The bark of the tree was collected after the tree turns 15-25 years old. In 1869, the then Resident of Travancore Ballard distributed cinchona saplings to farmers to promote its propagation.
Cinchona trees were found in Nilgiri also. The then King of Travancore Ayilyam Thirunal Rama Varma brought the saplings of cinchona from Nilgiri. There were factories to extract quinine from cinchona in Travancore. In 1940, Travancore Sree Chithira State Council encouraged cinchona farming in order to resist the Malaria outbreak in the state.
Chloroquine, the new medicine for treating Malaria was invented in 1934. Also the government gave more importance to teak cultivation which in turn reduced cinchona farming and the trees gradually disappeared from here.