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Botanical Name :Picraena excelsa
Species: P. excelsa
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.