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Any of about 40 species, mostly trees, that make up the genus Cinchona in the madder family. Cinchona is native to the Andes Mountains. Four species have been cultivated in tropical regions for hundreds of years, mostly in Java and, since World War II, in Africa. The bark is processed to obtain various alkaloids. The most significant are quinine, used to treat malaria, and quinidine, used mainly for cardiac rhythmic disorders. High demand for quinine among Europeans living in the tropics led naturalists to smuggle cinchona seeds from South America to plantations in Asia in the mid 1800s and to conduct intensive research leading to new high-yield strains and improved processing methods.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on cinchona, visit Britannica.com.