The last time I came down with malaria they dosed me with bitter white tablets the size of elephant tranquillisers. The drug turned my skin yellow. I developed severe tinnitus, so that for a fortnight I felt as if I’d just emerged from a heavy-metal concert. And I got so depressed all I wanted to do was crawl into a dark place and die. I didn’t, thanks to those whopping tablets of quinine sulphate.
Mark Honigsbaum begins with the legends of how this miraculous cure was first discovered in the natural extract of the cinchona tree, indigenous to the forested slopes of the Andes. I always understood that the Jesuits had first revealed its properties. Intriguingly, it also seems possible that the Incas knew