Quassia (Picrasma Excelsa) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects

Quassia (Picrasma Excelsa) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects

Quassia (Picrasma Excelsa) Overview

Quassia (Picrasma Excelsa) other names: Amargo, Bitter-Ash, Bitter Wood, Bitterwood, Bois Amer, Cuasia, Écorce de Quassia, Jamaican Quassia, Palo de Cuasia, Pao Tariri, Picrasma, Picrasma excelsa, Quassia amara, Quassia Amer, Quassia Bark, Quassia de Jamaïque, Quassia de Surinam, Ruda, Surinam Quassia, Surinam Wood.

The quassia is a lofty deciduous tree that usually grows up to 100 feet or 30 meters and has a even gray bark and bears multiple leaves from the branches. The flowers of quassia are yellow in color, while its fruits are black in color and shaped like peas.

Quassia (Picrasma Excelsa) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Quassia (Picrasma Excelsa) plant

What is interesting is the fact that no insect or pest ever bothers the tall and elegant quassia trees. The reason behind such a queer fact is that the entire tree, particularly the white colored timber, is infused with a tremendously astringent resin. The key chemical component of the resin is an amalgam known as quassin, which is said to be an effectual insecticide. Apart from being a potent insecticide, quassin is valuable to the humans both medicinally and otherwise.

The quassia is an ash like tree that is indigenous to Jamaica and many other islands of the West Indies. The tree which normally grows to 100 feet bears compound or composite leaves that are like pinnates or resembling a feather. Furthermore, the compound leaves bear numerous piercing leaflets. On the other hand, the tree bears eye-catching bunches of flowers that are yellow colored. Since ages, the West Indians used the timber of quassia to make quassia cups that were filled with water and left to remain untouched for considerable period of time.

The quassin extracted from the tree has been found to be 50 times bitterer than quinine and has been used as an ingredient in various medications similar to quinine with the same intention. Herbal medical practitioners use medications prepared from quassin to help to enhance secretion of enzymes in the stomach, liver, kidneys, gallbladder as well as the intestines. The medicines prepared with quassin possess both laxative as well as appetizing functions. The quassia resin yields another extract or derivative known as quassimarin. According to several researchers studying the medicinal properties of the quassia tree, quassimarin is potentially beneficial to combat leukemia or blood cancer.

In addition to the above mentioned uses of quassin, the extract from the quassia tree is also accepted as a bitter constituent of tonic wines, aperitifs (alcoholic beverages taken before a meal), and liqueurs (sweetened alcoholic beverages usually drunk after meal), marmalades (clear thick jam prepared with citrus fruits), candies, baked items and sometimes even iced up dairy desserts (after meal sweat dish prepared with milk) and gelatin (semi-solid protein) puddings. The wood of the quassia tree is also useful for brewing beer and ale. Fine wood flakes of the quassia tree are often used as a substitute of hops (dried flowers of the hop plant) to brew these drinks.

Pesticides prepared with quassin are regarded to be among the safest, most effective as well as useful. When sprayed in the garden, the insecticides prepared from quassin not only eliminate all harmful pests and insects in the garden, but also protect beneficial insects such as bees and ladybird beetles. Interestingly, while the resin on the quassia tree firmly repels all kinds of insects and pests, the flowers of the tree draws honey bees. This has been a cause of dilemma for the beekeepers, as the honey obtained from the quassia nectar too is bitter and unfit for use.

The quassia wood is also highly valued by farmers engaged in organic cultivation. Like the West Indians, they also purchase loads of quassia wood flakes, soak them in water and extract quassin. This mixture is then sprayed on crops to eliminate pests and insects such as mealy bugs, thrips, aphids, sawflies, leafhoppers and also slugs from the agricultural fields. Often the liquid is also sprayed on fruit trees to protect the fruits from the greedy birds.

Quassia is indigenous to the tropical regions of America and the Caribbean islands. The quassia tree normally prefers to grow in the forests and closer to water bodies. Basically, the tree is cultivated commercially for its therapeutic benefits and the bark of the tree, which is of most value, may be harvested all through the year.

Quassia (Picrasma Excelsa) Health Benefits

Quassia is a plant. The wood is used as medicine.

Quassia is used for treating an eating disorder called anorexia, indigestion, constipation, and fever. Quassia is also used to rid the intestines of various kinds of worms; as a tonic or purgative; and as a mouthwash.

The quassia has multiple therapeutic uses. Medicines prepared from the extracts of this tremendously astringent tree not only help to keep the digestive system stable, but also reinforces a scrawny digestive system. Among other things, quassia enhances the secretion of bile, salivary enzymes, production of stomach acids and perks up the digestive progression en bloc. In fact, quassia is normally used to invigorate a weak appetite, particularly while curing anorexia or constant loss of appetite. The bitterness of the herb has rendered it useful for treating malaria as well as other fevers or unusually high body temperatures. In the West Indies, physicians even recommend the use of quassia for treating dysentery. On the other hand, enema (liquid inserted through the rectum into the bowels) prepared from the bark of the quassia tree has been effectually used to throw out threadworms and other parasites from the body. In addition, decoction prepared with the quassia bark may be effectively used to repel insects and pests.

Quassia that is normally available in the shops is in the form of chips or raspings (like fine bread crumbs). These products do not possess any fragrance, but are extremely bitter to taste. And this particular characteristic of quassia distinguishes the herb from the adulterated substances sold in the market as quassia. Infusion prepared with these quassia chips and raspings with a persalt of iron imparts a bluish-black color. However, this produces no result in the infusion as the blue colored quassia flakes do not enclose any tannin acid.

Quassia (Picrasma Excelsa) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Quassia (Picrasma Excelsa) picture

The quassia wood has multiple benefits. It is an unadulterated stimulant that is associated with the stomach. At the same time, it is an effective vermicide (a drug that kills worms) and mildly narcotic (a substance that soothes or induces sleep). In flies and some higher animals, quassia performs as narcotic venom. At the same time, quassia is a precious medication for recuperation, especially after an acute ailment and also in debility or feebleness, and atonic dyspepsia or unstressed acid indigestion or an anti-spasmodic fever.

Since quassia does not enclose any tannic acid, the herb is often prescribed with substances containing iron salt. Prescribing quassia with iron salts also makes it a perfumed, but bitter medicine for stomach disorders, much akin to the functions of calumba. What is significant about quassia is the fact that when it is administered in small doses, the herb helps in improving appetite, but when used in larger dosages, it proves to be an irritant and leads to vomiting. The quassia possibly reduces disintegration in the stomach and thereby avoids development of tart during digestion.

The quassia as well as medications or lotions prepared with it may be applied externally to get rid of lice on the body.

In manufacturing, quassia is used to flavor foods, beverages, lozenges, and laxatives. The bark and wood have been used as an insecticide.

Quassia (Picrasma Excelsa) Side effects

Quassia is likely safe when taken by mouth in food amounts. But quassia is possibly unsafe when taken by mouth in medicinal amounts. Quassia can cause side effects such as irritation of the mouth, throat, and digestive tract along with nausea and vomiting. In very large doses, it could cause abnormal heart function; however, most people throw up before they get a high enough dose to cause heart problems. Long-term use can cause vision changes and blindness.

Quassia is possibly safe when used on the skin.

Quassia (Picrasma Excelsa) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Quassia (Picrasma Excelsa) flower

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Quassia is likely unsafe when taken by mouth during pregnancy or breast-feeding. Quassia can cause cell damage and nausea. There is not enough reliable information about the safety of applying quassia to the skin or scalp you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Digestive tract problems or diseases, such as stomach or intestinal ulcers, Crohn's disease, infections, and many other conditions: In large amounts quassia can irritate the digestive tract. Don’t use it if you have one of these conditions.