Quinine sulfate is a well-known medicine which has been in use for many centuries. Read this article to get a brief overview of various uses of quinine sulfate.
Chemically, quinine sulfate can be described as an alkaloid. In its pure form, it appears as a white, crystalline, powdery substance. It is odorless and extremely bitter in taste. It has got some excellent medicinal qualities. It is capable of bringing down fever, pain and inflammation and most importantly it is antimalarial. Naturally, it is obtained from the bark of cinchona tree which is found in South America. Today, it can be synthesized in the lab as well.
Antipyretic properties of quinine sulfate were discovered by the native Americans many centuries ago. Europeans came to know about it in the 17th century. Since then it is used for the treatment of malaria caused by a parasite named Plasmodium falciparum. This parasite is carried by the female anopheles mosquito. When the carrier mosquito bites humans, the parasite enters the human body and starts living in the body cells.
Quinine sulfate is one such class of drug that can destroy the parasites that are present inside the red blood cells. Till 1940s, it was the only drug available for this treatment. Today, many different antimalarial class of drugs are being used for treating the disease. However, in some specific critical conditions, quinine sulfate is needed along with other medicines to cure the condition completely and prevent its recurrence.
There are a number of other off-label uses of quinine sulfate as well. It works really well as a muscle relaxant. For this reason, many doctors prescribe it for leg cramps, restless leg syndrome, facial palsy and other forms of muscle cramps that are associated with various health problems. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, it is often used for the treatment of arthritis and lupus.
Sometimes, it is used to induce uterine contractions at the time of childbirth. For this reason, pregnant women are often advised not to avoid this medicine during pregnancy. It is also used to treat another serious transmissible disease named babesiosis. It is transmitted to humans from animal bodies by ticks.
One of the non medicinal quinine sulfate uses is in the preparation of tonic water. It is a beverage made up of carbonated water with quinine sulfate dissolved in it. Originally, this drink used to have a large amount of quinine sulfate and was taken as a prophylactic for the prevention of malarial infection. It was widely used by people living in south Asian and African countries where the disease is more prevalent. However, today, quinine content of tonic water is quite less and sweetener is added to it to improve its flavor. It is now mostly used as a cocktail like gin and tonic.
In most cases, quinine sulfate does not give any side effects when the right dosage of the medicine is taken. However, there are some people who get some side effects, the intensity of which can vary from mild to severe. Some mild side effects are nausea, restlessness, ringing in the ears, unusual sweating, headache, dizziness, etc.
Some people get allergic reactions like hives, swelling of lips, tongue and face, breathing difficulty, etc. If you experience any such effects after taking the medicine, then you must inform your doctor about it, who will suggest the next course of action. Some people may experience serious side effects such as blurred vision, faintness, nosebleeds, irregular heartbeat, etc. Such a condition requires emergency medical intervention.
FDA does not approve the use of quinine sulfate for the treatment of any other health problem except malaria. For this reason, you should not purchase this medicine over the counter and use it on your own. However, if doctors find it suitable for the treatment of any condition, then they are allowed to prescribe it. In that case, you should strictly follow the instructions related to the dosage prescribed by your doctor.