Natalie Gulbis was forced to withdraw from the LPGA’s Founders tournament this week because of a case of malaria she apparently contracted during the Tour’s Asian swing. Malaria is not a disease that is on our radar in the US, but the parasitic infection causes more than a million deaths each year, mostly in Africa and Asia. Malaria is thought to be the single greatest cause of death in human history.
The good news is that today, malaria can be effectively cured.
If you enjoy a gin and tonic after a round, you may be interested in the drink’s malarial connection. The story begins with quinine, an extract of the bark of the Peruvian cinchona tree. The bitter substance was used by native peoples for a variety of medicinal purposes. When mixed with sweetened water, it was known as “tonic water.” Europeans are known to have used tonic for malaria treatment as early as the 1600s. It wasn’t a cure, but would inhibit the symptoms and side effects.
It was in the 1800s that British soldiers in India mixed tonic water with gin, lime and sugar to make the malarial treatment more palatable. Thus, the Gin-and-Tonic was born.
More random facts: the quinine in tonic water makes it fluorescent.