Ash, Bitter

Medical Herbs Catalogue


Ash, Bitter

Botanical Name: Picraena excelsa (SWARTZ)
Family: N.O. Simarubeae
Synonym: Jamaica Quassia.
Habitat: West Indies.

Description: The Bitter Ash (Picraena excelsa, Swartz), a native of the West Indies, a lofty tree somewhat resembling the Ash Tree, the wood of which is the Jamaica Quassia of commerce, is employed in the place of the original Quassia amara of Surinam and Trinidad.

Uses: It abounds in a peculiar extractive substance of great bitterness which, as a drug, is purely tonic, invigorating the digestive organs with little excitement of the circulation or increase of bodily heat.

The wood is generally sold in small chips, yellowish white, about an inch wide and 1 to 4 inches long and 1/8 to 1/12 inch thick. Their taste is extremely bitter, but there is no odour.

Exhausted Quassia chips having hardly any bitterness are sometimes met with in commerce and also chips with greyish markings due to a fungus. Neither of these are, of course, suitable for an infusion.

Sometimes cups turned out of the wood are made. These are sold as Bitter Cups, and water standing in them for a short time acquires the bitterness of the wood.

From Syrup of Quassia, made with molasses, a harmless fly-poison is prepared, with which cloth or filtering-papers are moistened.

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.

Preparations: An infusion of Quassia, 2 oz. in a pint of water, affords a valuable and safe injection for seat-worms.

The dose of the fluid extract is 15 to 30 drops; of the tincture, official in the B.Ph. and U.S.Ph., 1/2 to 1 drachm; of the U.S.Ph. powdered extract the dose is 1 grain. Of the concentrated solution of the B.Ph. the dose is 1/2 drachm. The dose of the solid extract is 1/2 to 2 grains.