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Soda water has given way to a new drink that is often used to dilute vodka, gin and other spirits. It is commonly called tonic water. Some people might consume the drink directly without using it as a mixing substitute. The drink has a recognisable bitter taste. Interestingly, it is not popularly known that tonic water contains the therapeutic drug quinine in small quantities. Quinine has been a traditional treatment for malaria for many years. Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by the anopheles mosquito. The characteristic symptoms are fever, chills and headaches.
The chemical quinine comes from the branch of the cinchona tree which is native to some parts of South America and some parts of Africa. While quinine has been used as an effective medicine for treating malaria (it can kill the germ causing the illness) but the chemical is associated with adverse effects if taken in high doses. It is believed that quinine also helps in treating leg cramps at night and restless leg syndrome, however, there is not much evidence to prove that.
Quinine is found in small quantities in tonic water and hence it is safe to consume. The chemical is well diluted in tonic water so experiencing any side effects is unlikely. Quinine when taken as medication has been associated with some side effects if taken in high quantities. A wrong reaction can cause nausea, stomach cramps, ringing in the ear, confusion, nervousness and serious side effects like bleeding problems, abnormal heartbeat and others.
It has been recommended that people having abnormal heart rhythms, those who are pregnant and those having kidney or liver disease must avoid the medication. The drug also might interact with other medicines like antidepressants, blood thinners, and certain antibiotics.
A study suggested that long exposure to quinine, even in tonic water, can increase a person's risk for life-threatening conditions that involve damage to vital organs like the liver, kidney and blood-related conditions.
Tonic water much like soda water or sparkling water is a carbonated drink that is high in manufactured sugar. As quinine forms a small part of it, so side-effects are not very likely but it does significantly add to the calorie intake of a person. Tonic water is finding itself as an independent beverage gaining popularity but it is also widely used as a mixing agent with many spirits. While it is safe to consume but there is no evidence that the drink has any health benefits or can improve leg cramps or restless leg syndrome. Also, the quantity of quinine in the drink is less which means that it has no such therapeutic benefits even if it might be present in the drink.
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