What are the Benefits of Tonic Water?

Find out if tonic water is worth the hype.

tonic water health benefits

Does tonic water have any benefits? How about side effects?

In this article, you will learn about the possible benefits of tonic water and its side effects. 

For some, drinking tonic water is refreshing. You can enjoy it by mixing it with gin, vodka, and other spirits and served as a cocktail. 

Gin tonic is one of the common cocktails that use tonic water. Aside from that, it’s an ingredient of many happy hours of booze. 

Somehow, this thirst-quenching drink has a part of it that may be beneficial for our health. 

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What is tonic water?

Tonic water, otherwise known as Indian tonic water, is a carbonated drink that contains the alkaloid quinine

This alkaloid gives it a bitter and astringent taste. The bark of the Quinquina or Cinchona tree produces Quinine.

Quinine was historically used as medicine to cure malaria. Also, it was used as a flavoring for foods and beverages in European countries. 

The widespread use of tonic water began with the Peruvian Incas of the Andes region as early as the 1600s. 

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The Incas pulverize the bark of the Cinchona tree to produce something like a medicinal tea. 

This so-called tea gets prepared with hot or cold water. And it’s given to malaria patients to stop its symptoms such as chills and fever. 

What is the history of tonic water?

In a story, believed to be a legend, an Indian with a high fever lost himself in the Andean jungle. 

He found a pool of stagnant water and drank from it. The water tasted bitter for him. 

He thought he got himself poisoned as he observed the water was surrounded by Cinchona trees which may have contaminated it.

Interestingly, his fever went down. And he introduced the use of Cinchona bark extracts as a cure for fever. 

What are the benefits of quinine in tonic water?

Up to this day, people still use quinine as a treatment for certain health conditions. 

Medicinal tonic water originally contained pulverized quinine, sugar, and carbonated water. Read more to find out what quinine can do to your body.

1. May help cure for malaria

As described in its history, quinine is known to have anti-malarial effects

The Anopheles mosquito transmits Malaria infection to humans that pose. Quinine can destroy the schizont of malarial parasites. 

And also it can kill protozoan parasites Plasmodium vivax and Plasmodium malariae. In several countries, the use of quinine is important in the management of malaria

2. Contains antipyretic properties

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Studies have claimed that quinine can bring down a fever or prevent fever. 

If quinine is used before administering acetaminophen, together with other drugs, a rapid drop in body temperature occurs.

Another study revealed that quinine has potential anti‐inflammatory and anti‐pyretic properties. 

This may be an important addition to anti‐plasmodial activity for cerebral malaria 

3. Provides restless leg syndrome relief

Quinine is also found to relieve leg cramps. But, the Food and Drug Administration suggests being mindful about dosage.

Also, the FDA advises avoiding the use of “off‐label” quinine products for cramps. 

Here’s the thing though:

Only minimal studies claim that quinine is effective in decreasing the episodes of nocturnal leg cramps. 

But it does not show any results affecting the severity or duration of cramping. 

Another study revealed that using quinine in therapeutic doses for leg syndrome relief may do more harm than good. 

Quinine toxicity may cause a variety of adverse effects. 

For example cinchonism, hypoglycemia, hearing and visual disturbances, gastrointestinal symptoms, and arrhythmia. 

4. Possible to aid weight control

In an in vitro study, diet supplementation incorporated with quinine showed a decrease in food intake and body weight in rats. 

Hence, quinine may be found helpful in weight management. But further studies on humans will be needed to confirm this claim. 

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In general, evidence suggest that drinking water can help with weight loss.

Is it safe to use quinine or tonic water?

According to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), quinine is safe for consumption in small doses up to 83 parts per million in carbonated beverages. 

Some people may experience adverse effects of quinine consumption. This may lead to:

  • hypoglycemia
  • allergies or urticaria
  • cinchonism, and 
  • other reactions on hypersensitivity.

Quinine is not recommended for everyone’s consumption. 

If you are pregnant, lactating, or have abnormal heart rhythms, avoid taking it. 

The same is true for you if you have liver or kidney disease, and low blood sugar levels.

Does tonic water contain any nutrients?

According to the USDA, a 12-ounce (366g per serving) tonic water contains:

  • Calories: 114
  • Fat: 0g
  • Sodium: 40mg
  • Carbohydrates: 30g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugars: 30g
  • Protein: 0g

Tonic water can make you think that it is low in calories. But it’s not. 

Every bottle has 114 calories in it because it has added sugars – high fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, or plain sugar. 

Tonic water contains no fat, fiber, and protein. You now know that quinine in tonic water gives a distinctive bitter flavor. 

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Tonic water with small doses of quinine is safe for consumption. It is now mostly mixed in popular cocktails involving gin and vodka.

Nowadays, the carbonate tonic water that manufacturers produce may contain sugar and flavors, with minimal nutritional value.


Tonic water contains quinine which has been widely studied as a cure for malaria. 

More studies should be done in the association of taking quinine and its effect on leg cramps and weight loss

So take precautions if you have these health issues. It’s better to seek your doctor’s advice before attempting to use quinine.

However, the tonic water that you can find in grocery stores nowadays mostly has very little quinine, loaded with added sugars. 

(Registered Nutritionist-Dietitian)

Dorothy is a Registered Nutritionist-Dietitian and a candidate for a master's degree in Public Health (MPH) major in Public Health Nutrition. She has a passion for teaching to her university students about food, nutrition, and health. Dorothy is a coffee lover and she enjoys traveling, writing, cycling, running, cooking, baking, and cooking.