Quassia: A Bit of Botany
a little bit of botanical information on quassia

Quassia amara is a shrub or rarely a small tree of the Simaroubaceae family.

Quassia grows to a height of 3 meters tall—on more rare occasions it grows up to 8 meters. The leaves have winged rachis, are compound and alternate, 15–25 cm long, and pinnate with 3-5 leaflets.

The plant's striking flowers have a bright red exterior and a white interior, and they are produced in a panicle 15–25 cm long.

The quassia fruit is a small drupe ranging in length from 1-1.5 cm.

common names & nomenclature
Carolus Linnaeus—Swedish botanist of the 18th century—gave this plant its genus name. Linneaus named it after the first botanist to describe the plant: the Surinamese freedman Graman Quassi.

Also known as:
amargo, bitter-ash, bitter-wood, jamaica quassia, surinan quassia

Quassia, nature's bitter bark
Quassia: Where in the World
habitat and range for quassia

Quassia amara is native to Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Brasil, Peru, Venezuela, Suriname, Colombia, Argentinia, French Guiana and Guyana. It is widely planted outside its native range.

Quassia: Cultivation & Harvesting
considerations for growing and harvesting quassia

Quassia grows in tropical forests or near bodies of water. Quassia can not tolerate frost, but the plant is partially drought tolerant.

Quassia grows primarily in sandy soils.

Germination from fresh seed can take up to six months, but some seeds will germinate within three weeks. Transplant into individual pots when large enough to handle, grow on for a season in a cold frame, and then plant into the garden the following spring or summer.

Quassia wood chips or bark are collected from the tree once it is felled. These are dried for future use.

Store dried quassia bark pieces and powdered quassia bark in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Quassia: The Rest of the Story
quassia history, folklore, literature & more

bitter quassia
Imagine tasting an herb that’s almost unbearably bitter. It probably doesn’t sound too appealing, but the truth is it can help you in more ways than you might imagine. In fact, the bitterness of quassia bark is actually one of its most important attributes.

Bitter herbs tend to be generally good for the digestive system. Imagine the feeling in your mouth when you even think of something bitter or sour. Does your mouth begin to salivate? If you’re like most people it does. Bitter herbs actually help you to produce more saliva and stomach acids. That helps your digestive system to function properly.

Its ability to improve your digestive system makes it a good all around herb for it. In particular, quassia bark is a good herb for stimulating the appetite. While there are many people who do everything they can to suppress their appetites, there are cases when one would need to stimulate it. For example, if you’re undergoing chemotherapy or radiation that is causing you to lose your appetite or if you’re suffering from another illness you may want to give quassia a try.

If you have problems digesting food once you’ve eaten it, quassia can help you to digest your food better. It can also help you to get relief from diarrhea caused by dysentery. This is a great way to make sure your food passes through the digestive system at the proper rate and you get the best nutrition from your food.

If you’re in the part of the world where malaria is common, quassia chips can help to reduce your fever. While this isn’t its most common use, it’s certainly a good herb for those who suffer from fevers due to this serious illness.

Quassia bark may actually help to prevent some malaria infections because it works as an insect repellent. You must use it in the form of a decoction and apply it to areas of the body to prevent bug bites.

Finally, quassia bark works to kill parasites. However, in order to get this benefit, it must enter the body through an enema so that it can work directly on the intestines. Taking quassia orally will destroy its anti-parasitic properties before it actually gets to the parasite. While this may not be the most pleasant experience of your life, neither is having an intestinal parasite.

Quassia may be used as a decoction to treat digestive problems. This bitter herb is a good friend to have to fight intestinal problems.