In South Africa, where quinine sulfate is widely available over the counter for the treatment of malaria, it was noticed that many women there were purchasing quinine often. A survey conducted in 1993 and 1995 in KwaZulu-Natal among 61 private pharmacists, indicated that 50% of these pharmacists were selling quinine to an average of 2-6 clients per day (well above what would be expected amongst the population for malaria treatment).
When 76 of these clients were asked why they made their purchase, it became clear that these women were purchasing the tablets to use for birth control. High levels of quinine do have an abortifacient action. What was more surprising was the discovery that many men were actually the ones taking the tablets, as quinine will “weaken the sperm” thus reducing the risk of contraception. While this might have been the intent, most men exposed to quinine do not have this intention. So how are men (especially in America and other western nations) exposed to Quinine?
Tonic Water Dangers
Most men are exposed to quinine in tonic water (which is the ingredient that gives it it’s bitter taste). According to researchers at Germany’s Institute of Reproductive Therapy, quinine will not only slow sperm activity but also reduces testosterone levels. Not ideal for middle age men in particular, who often suffer from testosterone deficiencies anyway. This is also especially important if you plan to have a child or even just simply have a romantic evening.
Due to its abortifacient properties, women who are pregnant must absolutely avoid tonic water as quinine can passthrough the placenta and directly into the baby’s body. There is limited evidence that birth defects could be derived from quinine exposure.
As you can see, while the dosage of quinine (about 83mg per liter) is low compared to what is often used for medicinal purposes, it is recommended to avoid tonic water especially if you are planning sexual intercourse and/or intend to get pregnant. Women who are already pregnant must avoid tonic water intake, and especially the ever common gin and tonic.