SCIENTIFIC NAME(S): Quassia is a collective term for 2 herbs: Picrasma excelsa and Quassia amara L. Family: Simaroubaceae.

COMMON NAME(S): Bitter wood, picrasma, Jamaican quassia (Picrasma excelsa), Surinam quassia (Quassia amara), Amara species, Amargo, Surinam wood, and ruda.

Quassia, also called Bitter Wood, Bitter Ash, and Bitter Bark, comes from a tree that is native to Northern Brazil, the West Indies, and Jamaica. The Jamaican variety can grow up to a hundred feet in height and has often been used in the lumber trade.


Quassia has been used for malaria in the Amazon. It also has been used topically for measles, and orally or rectally for intestinal parasites, diarrhea, and fever. The plants, at one time, were also used as anthelmintics and insecticides. Central Americans have been known to build boxes to store clothing out of the quassia wood, which acts as a natural repellent.

Botany :- Surinam quassia is a 2- to 5-m tall shrub or small tree native to northern South America, specifically Guyana, Colombia, Panama, and Argentina. Jamaican quassia is a taller tree, reaching 25 m, native to the Caribbean Islands, Jamaica, West Indies, and northern Venezuela. The pale yellow wood parts are used medicinally. Leaves also are used.

Uses of Quassia

Quassia has a variety of uses including treatment for measles, diarrhea, fever, and lice. Quassia has antibacterial, anti-fungal, antifertility, antitumor, antileukemic, and insecticidal actions as well.

Side Effects of Quassia

Quassia is used in a number of food products and is considered to be safe by the FDA. If taken in large doses, this product can irritate the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and cause vomiting. It is not recommended for women who are pregnant.


Talk with your caregiver about how much Quassia you should take. The amount depends on the strength of the medicine and the reason you are taking Quassia. If you are using this medicine without instructions from your caregiver, follow the directions on the medicine bottle. Do not take more medicine or take it more often than the directions tell you to.


Quassia is listed as generally regarded as safe (GRAS) by the FDA. No side effects were reported upon topical application of the scalp preparation in the 454 patients in the head lice study. Large amounts, however, have been known to irritate the mucus membrane in the stomach and may lead to vomiting. Excessive use may also interfere with existing cardiac and anticoagulant regimens. Because of the plant's cytotoxic and emetic properties, avoid its use during pregnancy. Parenteral administration of quassin is toxic, leading to cardiac problems, tremors, and paralysis.

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