Picraena excelsa. N.O. Simarubaceae.
Synonym ► Bitter Wood or Bitter Ash.
Habitat ► A West Indian and South American tree, is imported from Jamaica, and the wood is obtainable in small, yellow chips.
Quassia wood is very commonly used as a bitter tonic and anthelmintic.
Small cups known as “Bitter Cups” are sometimes made of the wood, and water standing in them soon acquires the medicinal properties of the wood. This water, or an infusion of 1 ounce of the chips in 1 pint of cold water is taken in wineglass doses as a remedy for indigestion and general debility of the digestive system. Quassia infusion is also given to children suffering from worms, in appropriate doses according to age. Midges, gnats, and other insect pests may be kept away by damping the hands and face with the liquid.
The history of Quassia wood as an agent in non-poisonous herbal medicine is interesting. The curative properties of the wood were first brought to general notice through a negro slave named Quassy, whose people in his native country of Surinam, used it as a remedy for the various fevers to which they were subject. Quassy communicated his knowledge of the tree’s virtues to Daniel Rolander, a Swede, who brought specimens to Europe in 1755.