Picraena excelsa (Sw.) Lindl.
Quassia excelsa Sw.
Common Name: Jamaican Quassia
Jamaican quassia is a tree growing from 6 - 25 metres tall[
The plant has been used for many hundreds of years by native peoples as a medicine and insecticide. Its use spread to the western world in the 18th century and it is cultivated, mainly for medical use, in parts of S. America[
The plant is threatened by deforestation and over-exploitation. It is classified as 'Vulnerable' in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species(2011)[
Some care needs to be exercised when ingesting this plant since excess doses can lead to gastric irritation and vomiting[
Northern S. America to Central America and the Caribbean.
Hill pastures, relict woodland and along the sides of roads at elevations from 90 - 825 metres[
]. Tropical forests and near water[
|Other Uses Rating||
|Cultivation Status||Cultivated, Wild
Prefers a fertile, humus-rich, moisture-retentive sandy loam[
The bitter extract of the bark is used as a flavouring in drinks, baked goods, candy etc[
Jamaican quassia bark contains several medically active constituents including quassinoid bitter principles (including quassin); alkaloids; a coumarin, scopoletin; and vitamin B1[
]. It is an intensely bitter, non-astringent, odourless herb that lowers fever, stimulates appetite and improves digestion[
]. It is an effective parasiticide and is reputedly antileukaemic[
]. Some of the quassinoids have been shown to have cytotoxic and antileukaemic actions[
The strongly bitter principle in the bark supports and strengthens weak digestive systems, increasing bile flow plus the secretion of salivary juices and stomach acids[
]. It is used internally in the treatment of a wide range of illnesses where digestion is a contributory factor, particularly convalescent debility, poor appetite and anorexia[
]. Its bitterness has led to it being used in the treatment of malaria and other fevers[
]. It is also used to rid the body of nematode worms[
Used externally, it is a good lotion to get rid of parasites such as lice[
]. It is also used in an enema to rid the body of threadworms and other parasites[
The bark can be harvested as required throughout the year, and can be dried for later use[
The decocted bark is an effective insecticide against flies, red spider mites, aphids and woolly aphids[
]. It is used as an insect repellent[
The white to yellowish-white wood is soft, light, loosely grained, easily split[
Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe.
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