Three months ago I wrote about muscle cramps / Charley Horse. This prompted the question: is quinine a good remedy?
For centuries the bark of cinchona plants (large shrubs or small trees) has been used as a muscle relaxant. It is also effective in treating malaria, and the quinine produced from this plant is available in the US as a prescription for this purpose. As recently as 2010, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a safety announcement reminding us that prescription strength quinine (Qualaquin; 324 mg) should not be used for nocturnal leg cramps due to the risk of serious and life-threatening reactions.
In much lower concentrations (not to exceed 20 mg per 8 ounce cup) it may be used as a flavor in carbonated beverages (which, by the way, is bitter). As a beverage, called tonic water, the law requires that the label state the presence of quinine.
Homeopathic supplements with quinine are available, but won’t state so on the package. Why? According to the FDA, quinine cannot be listed when the official ingredient is “Cinchona Officinalis” since cinchona plants also contains other chemicals (alkaloids).
Interestingly, quinine is very sensitive to ultraviolet light and will glow in direct sunlight.