When I finished university, I went on a trip to India with some friends. If you travel to India, you have to take precautions for malaria. I had heard that drinking gin and tonic helped prevent the disease. So you might be wondering, does it?
Does Gin and Tonic Prevent Malaria? No, you should consult your doctor for proper medication. Tonic water does contain quinine, which has an anti-malarial effect. Still, studies show you would have to drink 67 liters of tonic water every day for it to be effective.
If you want to know more about how the gin and tonic cocktail was used as anti-malarial medicine and a little bit of history, read on. Otherwise, you can skip ahead to quick answers on frequent questions regarding this topic.
What is Malaria?
Malaria is a severe disease that can sometimes be fatal. The most common way of getting malaria is from mosquitos. The disease is caused by a bacteria that infects mosquitos and is transmitted to humans when the mosquito bites.
Symptoms from the sickness include fever and flu-like illness. Globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over 400 thousand people died with this disease in 2018.
What is Quinine?
Quinine is a medication known for having anti-malarial effects. It is extracted from the bark of a cinchona tree, also known as a fever tree. Bark extracts from the cinchona tree had been used to treat malaria since the 1600s.
Quinine has a bitter taste, manufacturers have used artificial sugar and sweeteners to change its taste and flavor. Quinine is one of the characteristics in tonic water, providing it the bitter touch.
Does quinine treat malaria? Yes, but in modern medicine, other substances are equally capable of handling this disease with fewer side effects. As such, quinine is no longer recommended by the World Health Organization as a treatment for malaria. You should consult your doctor for anti-malarial medicines.
History of the Gin and Tonic
Gin became popular in the Thirty year’s war when Britain fought on Dutch land. At that time, soldiers believed they would have more courage after drinking it.
Furthermore, gin gained popularity again in the late 17th century and early 18th century in England. English citizens began producing gin in their farms to get most out of it, that’s why that era was termed as “The Gin Craze.”
In the 19th century, British officers in India would mix water and sugar with their malaria medicine, quinine powder. This helped reduce the bitterness of the medication, so it would be easier to consume. The mixture of quinine powder, water, and sugar was the inspiration for creating commercial tonic water.
Some soldiers started adding their daily ration of gin into the mix. Thus, the gin and tonic cocktail was born!
If you would like to know more on the history of Gin, check out my blog post on The History of Gin and its Medicinal Origins.
Can Tonic Water Prevent Malaria?
There are better ways to prevent malaria with modern medication.
Your average tonic water contains 15mg/L of quinine. You would need at least 1g of quinine per day. Dividing a minimum of 1g of quinine by the average 15mg/L in tonic water means you would have to drink at least 67 liters of tonic water each day. Your doctor will have better options.
Can Gin Prevent Malaria?
There are no anti-malarial properties in Gin, the anti-malarial are attributed to quinine. Quinine is present in tonic water, which is used in the popular Gin and tonic cocktail, but the Gin itself has no anti-malarial properties.