Tradition states that the medicinal qualities of cinchona (Cinchona calisaya) were known to the aborigines of South America from the earliest times. Arrot (Philosophical Transactions, xl, 1737-8, p. 48) states that the qualities and uses of the bark of cinchona were known to the Indians before the days of the Spanish conquest. Others declare that the Peruvians distrusted the drug, considering it dangerous; Markham (406) asserting that the native doctors did not employ it. Preceding 1739, a Jesuit missionary, however, was cured of fever by the bark, administered to him by an Indian; a like incident being recorded concerning the Spanish corregidor of Loxa, in 1630. In 1638, the wife of the Viceroy of Peru, the fourth Count of Chinchon, being attacked by a fever, was cured with the powdered bark, which being commended by her, gave to it the name, "The Countess' Powder," or cinchona. Introduced into Spain under the name Jesuit bark, or powder, as well as cinchona, it passed thence into other European countries, being largely distributed by the Jesuit Fathers.
Acrimonious discussions, too numerous and too personal to attempt to record, followed the inroads of this once rankly empirical drug, which, however, was possessed of qualities sufficient to establish it finally in the favor of "regular medication." It was introduced into England about 1656, commanding then a price many times above that of opium.