Jim Ryan gave the medicinal history of quinine, the characteristic ingredient in tonic, detailing how Jesuit missionaries learned from South American tribes in the mid-1600s to use the bark of "the fever tree," or cinchona, as a cure for malaria.
Ryan, who attended a Jesuit high school, described the Jesuits as a cross between the U.S. Marines and hippies, which made them "open-minded and curious" toward this New World cure.
Their involvement in fever-tree bark earned it the nickname "Jesuits' Bark" or "Jesuit powder." At this point, audiences sampled a thick red sludge - a quinine solution made of one part cinchona bark powder, six parts water. Ryan then spoke about how misunderstandings about the bark coupled with extreme anti-Catholic sentiment prevented quinine from being used in Europe in the late 1600s. The cure was finally resurrected by French scientists in the 1800s following decades of wandering Bolivian jungles and pleading for research money.
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