Synonyms: Quinine sulfate, Peruvian bark

Medical Specialties: Family practice, Internal medicine

Clinical Definition

Quinine sulfate is a prescription medication approved for use as an anti-malarial treatment. It is one of several remedies to treat malaria, an infection transmitted by mosquitoes that carry the parasite Plasmodium falciparum.

In Our Own Words

In the early 17th century, Spanish Jesuit missionaries learned from Indian tribes about a medicinal tree bark. After it was used to cure a Peruvian countess of her fever, so the story goes, it was known for a time as Peruvian bark. 


Quinine today, as the drug quinine sulfate, is one of several remedies to treat malaria, a disease transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito. Also, quinine became popular as a treatment for restless leg syndrome, and was also historically recommended to treat leg cramps. However, the Food and Drug Administration has issued a recent warning not to use quinine sulfate to treat leg cramps or prevent restless leg syndrome because efficacy has not been proven, and can result in serious side effects, including hypersensitivity reactions and cardiac rhythm disturbances.

Relevant Conditions
Side Effects
  • Thromboctyopenia purpura (blood disorder)
  • Kidney impairment
  • Thrombocytopenia (low platelet levels)
  • Arrhythmia
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  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "The History of Malaria, an Ancient Disease." Malaria, Nov. 2012. http://www.cdc.gov. Accessed Aug. 2013.
  • FDA. "FDA Warns of Risks with Unapproved Use of Malaria Drug Qualaquin." July 2010. http://www.fda.gov. Accessed Aug. 2013.
  • The Cleveland Clinic. "Malaria." Diseases & Conditions. April 2012. http://my.clevelandclinic.org. Accessed Aug. 2013.
  • FDA. "Medication Guide, Qualaquin." April 2013. http://www.fda.gov. Accessed Aug. 2013.
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