Picrasma excelsa, (Swartz) Planchon, Quassia amara, Linne'. The wood.

Habitat. 1. W. Indies (Jamaica, St. Kitt's, Antigua, St. Vincent. 2. Surinam, W. Indies, Brazil, Guiana, Columbia, Panama.

Syn. Quasa, Bitter Wood, Bitter (Ash, Bark) Quassia, Lofty Quassia, Bitterwood Tree; Br. Quassiae Lignum; Fr. Quassia de la Jamaique, Bois (amer) de Quassia; Ger. Lignum Quassiae, Quassiaholz.

Pic-ras'ma. L. fr Gr...., bitter -- i.e., the plant's chief property.

Quas'si-a. L. fr. Quassi, Quassy, Quash, name of Surinam negro slave who used the bark as a secret remedy in curing malignant fevers (febrifuge).

Ex-cel'sa. L. excelsus; ex, out, + celsus, beyond, surpassing -- i.e., highest species of the genus.

A-ma'ra. L. amarus, bitter -- i.e., the intense bitterness of the wood.


Picrasma excelsa, tree 15-24 M. (50-80 degrees) high, .6-1 M. (2-3 degrees) thick, erect, spreading; bark grayish-brown, smooth, wrinkled; leaves imparipinnate, 4-5 pairs; leaflets 5-10 Cm. (2-4') long, ovate, petiolate, when young covered with fulvous down; flowers, Oct.-Nov., small, yellowish-green, panicles, polygamous; fruit, Dec.-Jan., black drupe, size of a pea; Quassia amara, small branching tree or shrub; flowers bright red, rather large racemes, hermaphrodite, decandrous; fruit 2-celled capsule, seed globular. WOOD (P. excelsa): Jamaica, usually in chips, raspings, shavings occasionally billets 5-20 Cm. (2-8') thick, yellowish-white, with few light gray pieces somewhat coarsely grained; tracheae in groups 2-6, medullary rays 1-5 cells wide, 10-20 rows deep, calcium oxalate, starch grains; fracture tough, fibrous; odor slight; taste very bitter; Q. amara: Surinam, similar to preceding, but billets usually thinner, tracheae smaller, single or in pairs, medullary rays 1-2 cells wide, 10-30 rows deep, calcium oxalate crystals few or absent.


yellowish-fragments of tracheae, bordered pores; wood-fibers, oblique pores; medullary rays and parenchyma with pores, calcium oxalate 4-6-sided prisms, crystal-fibers, starch grains. Solvents: water, diluted alcohol. Dose, gr. 15-60 (1-4 Gm.)


Plants resemble our common ash and contribute two varieties: 1. Jamaica (P. excelsa -- Quassia (Simaruba) excelsa), the larger, and furnishing most of the supply; 2, Surinam (Q. amara), the smaller and the original source of drug, upon which the slave Quassi established his own and its reputation, being prevailed upon to reveal his secret for compensation, 1756, when the wood was taken to Stockholm and soon became a popular remedy in Europe and elsewhere; owing to scarcity, smallness of plant, and great demand there arose the necessity of recognizing the larger and more abundant source. The plants are felled, but into segments, 1-1.2 M. (3-4 degrees) long, 5-20 Cm. (2-8') thick, and shipped from Jamaica or Surinam with or without the bark, and upon reaching us are turned into cups, etc., reserving the shavings for store use; the wood at first is white, but changes by age to yellow.


Picrasmin (quassiin) .05-.15-.75 p.c., alkaloid (yellowish, blue fluorescence with acidified alcohol), resin, mucilage, pectin; Surinam quassia also contains trace of tannin, giving black or bluish-black with ferric salts.

Picrasmin. -- Obtained by neutralizing infusion with sodium hydroxide, precipitating with tannin, decomposing precipitate by heating with lead oxide or lime, dissolving out with alcohol. It is a mixture of two crystalline compounds, a-picrasmin, CHO, and b-picrasmin, CHO, homologous with quassiin, CHO, of Surinam quassia, crystallizing in needles or prisms, soluble in alcohol, chloroform, water (1200).  Dose (amorphous) gr. 1/2-1 .03-.06 Gm.); (crystalline) gr. 1/32-1/3 (.002-.02 Gm.).


1. Fluidextractum Quassiae, N.F. (33 p.c. alcohol).  2. Tinctura Quassiae, N.F. (33 p.c. alcohol).  Dose, mxv-60 (1-4 cc.).

Unoff. Preps.: Extract (water), gr. 1-3 (.06-.2 Gm.); Infusion (Br.), 1 p.c., 3iv-8 (15-30 cc.); Concentrated Solution, 10 p.c.; Syrup, for fly poison.


Tonic, febrifuge, anthelmintic, simple bitter (similar to calumba).


Atonic dyspepsia, diarrhea, gastric vertigo, constipation, loss of appetite, poisons flies (papier mouri), fish, dogs, rabbits.  Infusion 3viij; 240 cc.), patient being in the knee-chest position, as enema for thread worms (Oxyu'ris vermicula'ris) or ascarides of rectum; internally for lumbricoid worms.  Large doses cause headache, nausea, vertigo, vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, narcosis.  Substituted for hop in making beer and ale.