Categories
Herbs & Plants

Picraena excelsa

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Botanical Name :Picraena excelsa
Family: Simaroubaceae
Genus: Picrasma
Species: P. excelsa
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Sapindales

Synonym: Jamaica Quassia.

Common Names:Bitter Ash ,Picraena excelsa, Quassia undalata, Quassia amara

Habitat: Bitter Ash  is native to West Indies. It is found in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Venezuela. It is threatened by habitat loss.

Description:
This is the Quassia excelsa of Linnaeus, though the genuine plant is the Quassia amara. The species amara is a large shrub, or low tree, inhabiting Surinam; while the excelsa is a lofty tree with a very large trunk, and is found in Jamaica and other portions of the West Indies.The tree grows from 50 to 100 feet in height and has smooth, gray bark.  “Leaves alternate, unequally pinnate; leaflets opposite, oblong, acuminate. Flowers polygamous; sepals five, minute; petals five, pale; stamens five. Racemes axillary toward the ends of the brandies, very compound, panicled, many-flowered. Fruit of three black, shining drupes the size of a pea, only one of which comes to perfection.”

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Medicinal Uses:
Parts Used: Wood of trunk and branches, dried

Quassia is tonic, stomachic and antiseptic, possessing all the properties that belong to the other pure bitters. It is employed in cases of anorexia for promoting the appetite and assisting the digestive functions. It is wholly devoid of all irritant, stimulant, or astringent properties, and hence has been regarded as the type of the pure bitters. Its use is mostly confined to atonic states of the system, with indigestion and loss of appetite.

It is an excellent remedy in dyspeptic conditions due to lack of tone. As with all bitters, it stimulates the production of saliva and digestive juices and so increases the appetite. It may safely be used in all cases of lack of appetite such as anorexia nervosa and digestive sluggishness. The wood has been used to prepare “qQuassia cups.” A Quassia cup is filled with hot water and the wqater is allowed to cool somewhat before being drunk. This results in a liquid that is very bitter and thus acts to stimulate the appetitie. Quassia cups can be used in this way for a number of years and will retain an ability to produce a bitter water extract.. It is used in the expulsion of threadworms and other parasites, both as an enema and an infusion. The herb’s bitterness has led to its being used as a treatment for malaria and other fevers, and in the Caribbean it is given for dysentery. Externally as a lotion it may be used against lice infestations.

Known Hazards;
Allergies:

Avoid in individuals with a known allergy or hypersensitivity to quassia or its constituents.

Side Effects and Warnings:

*Quassia is likely safe when consumed in amounts found in foods and beverages. It has Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status in the United States.

*Quassia appears to have a very mild side effects profile. The most common side effects are nausea and vomiting, due to its bitter taste. There have also been reports of mucous membrane irritation.

* Quassia may cause drowsiness or sedation. Use cautiously if driving or operating heavy machinery. Long-term use of quassia may cause vision changes and blindness

*Use cautiously with cardiac (heart) medications and blood thinners.

*Avoid in people who are pregnant, and in males and females trying to become pregnant due to quassia’s potential antifertility effects.

* Avoid intravenous use in cardiomyopathy (heart disease) patients.

Other Uses:
Quassia has been used by brewers as a substitute for hops and is in general use by gardeners, mixed with soft soap, for spraying plants affected with green-fly.

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/Picrasma_excelsa
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/a/ashbi074.html
http://doctorschar.com/archives/quassia-picriena-excelsa/
http://www.appliedhealth.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=108436
http://www.thefreshcarrot.ca/ns/DisplayMonograph.asp?StoreID=5020E137E9014BC38944489AF1F99926&DocID=bottomline-quassia
http://www.henriettes-herb.com/eclectic/cook/PICRAENA_EXCELSA.htm

http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_AB.htm

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Categories
Herbs & Plants

Quassia amara

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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.

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