Quassia amara

Botanical Name :Quassia amara
Family: Simaroubaceae
Genus: Quassia
Species: Q. amara
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Sapindales

Common Names :Amargo, Bitter-ash, Bitter-wood,Quassia, Jamaica Quassia

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

Description:
Amargo is a shrub or rarely a small tree, growing to 3 m tall (rarely 8 m). The leaves are compound and alternate, 15–25 cm long, and pinnate with 3-5 leaflets, the leaf rachis being winged. The flowers are produced in a panicle 15–25 cm long, each flower 2.5-3.5 cm long, bright red on the outside, and white inside. The fruit is a small drupe 1-1.5 cm long.  It has beautiful red flowers and fruits that turn red as they mature.

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Quassia amara is marketed and used interchangeably with another tree species, Picrasma excelsa. Sharing the common name of quassia (and many of Quassia amara’s constituents and uses), P. excelsa is much taller (up to 25 m in height) and occurs farther north in the tropics of Jamaica, the Caribbean, the Lesser Antilles, and northern Venezuela. In herbal medicine in the United States and Europe, very little distinction is made between the two species of trees; they are used identically and just called quassia. The name amargo means “bitter” in Spanish and describes its very bitter taste.

Chemical Constituents:
In the wood a share of 0.09 to 0.17% of quassin and 0.05 to 0.11% of neoquassin was detected in Costa Rician plants. Quassin is one of the most bitter substances found in nature.

Other identified components of bitterwood are: beta-carbolines, beta-sitostenone, beta-sitosterol, dehydroquassins, gallic acid, gentisic acid, hydroxyquassins, isoparain, isoparaines, isoquassins, malic acid, methylcanthins, methoxycanthins, methoxycantins, nigakilactone A, nor-neoquassin, parain, paraines, quassialactol, quassimarin, quassinol, quassol and simalikalactone D.

Medicinal Uses:
In the Amazon rainforest, Quassia amara is used much in the same manner as quinine bark: for malaria and fevers and as a bitter digestive aid. It grows at lower elevations (where quinine does not) and contains many of the same antimalarial phytochemicals (plant chemicals) as quinine. In addition, it is used as an insecticide and tonic, and for hepatitis. Brazilian Indians use the leaves in a bath for measles as well as in a mouthwash used after tooth extractions. Indians in Suriname use the bark for fever and parasites. Throughout South America, amargo is a tribal remedy for debility, digestion problems, fever, liver problems, parasites, malaria, snakebite, and back spasms. In the rainforests of Suriname, carved cups made out of amargo wood can be found in local markets. They are called “bitter cups” and they used medicinally in indigenous Saramaka traditional medicine systems. Drinking from these cups are thought to help digestion with the “bitters” leached from the wood.

In current Brazilian herbal medicine systems, Quassia amara is considered a tonic, digestion stimulant, blood cleanser, insecticide, and mild laxative. It is recommended for diarrhea, intestinal worms, dysentery, dyspepsia, excessive mucus, expelling worms, intestinal gas, stomachache, anemia, and liver and gastrointestinal disorders. In Peru, amargo is employed as a bitter digestive aid to stimulate gastric and other digestive secretions as well as for fevers, tuberculosis, kidney stones and gallstones. In Mexico, the wood is used for liver and gallbladder diseases and for intestinal parasites. In Nicaragua, amargo is used to expel worms and intestinal parasites as well as for malaria and anemia. Throughout South America, the bitter principles of amargo are used to stimulate the appetite and secretion of digestive juices, as well as to expel worms and intestinal parasites.

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In herbal medicine in the United States and Europe, amargo is employed as a bitter tonic for stomach, gallbladder, and other digestive problems (by increasing the flow of bile, digestive juices, and saliva); as a laxative, amebicide, and insecticide; and to expel intestinal worms. In Europe, it is often found as a component in various herbal drugs that promote gallbladder, liver, and other digestive functions. In Britain, a water extract of the wood is used topically against scabies, fleas, lice, and other skin parasites. U.S. herbalist David Hoffman recommends it as an excellent remedy for dyspeptic conditions, to stimulate production of saliva and digestive juices, and to increase the appetite (as well as for lice infestations and threadworms). He also notes, “It may safely be used in all cases of lack of appetite such as anorexia nervosa and digestive sluggishness.”

The preparation of a tea out of young leafs is used traditionally in French Guyana. Experiments showed a high inhibition of Plasmodium yoelii yoelii and Plasmodium falciparum.

Other Uses:
Insecticide:
Extracts of Quassia wood or bark act as a natural insecticide. For organic farming this is of particular interest. A good protection was shown against different insect pests (eg. aphids, Colorado potato beetle, Anthonomus pomorum, Rhagoletis cerasi, Caterpillars of Tortricidae).[3] Quassin extract works as a contact insecticide. Adverse effects on beneficial organism were not found.

For Switzerland, a licensed formulation available for organic farming.

Formulation:
Around 200 gramms of Quassia wood chips are put together with 2 liters of water. It is allowed to stand for 24 hours and then it is cooked for 30 min. It is then diluted with 10 to 20 liters of water and used as a spray.  The use of approximately 3-4.5 kg wood extract per hectare seems to be optimal to minimize the damage of Hoplocampa testudinea on apple trees.

Flavouring:
Extracts of Q. amara wood or bark are also used to flavor soft drinks, aperitifs and bitters which can be added to cocktails or to baked goods.

Contraindications:
•Amargo should not be used during pregnancy.

•Amargo has been documented to have an antifertility effect in studies with male rats. Men undergoing fertility treatment or those wishing to have children probably should avoid using amargo.

•Large amounts of amargo can irritate the mucous membrane of the stomach and can lead to nausea and vomiting. Do not exceed recommended dosages.

Disclaimer:
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quassia_amara
http://www.rain-tree.com/amargo.htm#.UgY4yL7D92Y
http://www.anniesremedy.com/herb_detail488.php

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