Family • Simaroubaceae - Quassia amara Linn. - QUASSIA WOOD

Scientific names

Quassia amara Linn.
Quassia alatifolia Stokes
Quassia crocea Vahl
Quassia officinalis Rich.
Simarouba surinamense Pulle

Common names

Corales (Span., Tag.)
Kuasia (Tag.)
Bitter ash (Engl.)
Bitter bush (Engl.)
Bitter quassia (Engl.)
Bitterwood (Engl.)
Quassia wood (Engl.)

Other vernacular names

CZECH: Kvasie hořká.
DANISH: Kvassia.
DUTCH: Biterhout, Bitterhout, Kwassie, Kwasi bita bluem knoppen.
FRENCH: Bois amer, Bois de quassia, Quassia de Cayenne, Quassia de Surinam, Quinine de Cayenne, Quinine du pays, Quinquina de Cayenne.
GERMAN: Bitteresche, Bitterholzbaum, Bitterquassia, Fliegenholz, Fliegenholzbaum, Quassiaholz, Quassiaholzbaum, Quassie, Simarubabaum.
HUNGARIAN : Keserűfa, Keserű kvasszia, Légyölőfa.
ITALIAN : Abre camino, Legno della quassia, Quassia amaranome comune, Quassio.
POLISH : Gorzkla.
PORTUGUESE : Amargo, Leno de quássia, Marauba, Marupá, Murupa, Pau-amarelo, Pau-quássia, Quássia-de-Caiena, Quina, Quina de Caiena, Quinarana.
SPANISH : Crucete, Cuasia amarga, Cuasia surinamense, Guabo, Guavito, Guavito amargo, Guavo, Hombre grande, Hombrón, Leño amargo, Leño de cuasia, Palo amargo, Palo de cuasia, Palo muñeco, Quassia amara, Quina de Cayena, Suña de Cayeno.
SWEDISH : Kvassia amara Surinam, Surinamkvassia.
TURKISH : Kassia ağaçı.

Kuasia is a smooth shrub growing 2 to 3.5 meters high. Leaves are alternate, about 20 centimeters long. Petiole and rachis are broadly winged. Leaflets are five, stalkless, elliptic-oblong, although the terminal one could be oblong-obovate, and 7 to 12 centimeters long. Flowers are borne on racemes, 8 to 20 centimeters long, bright red, with the corolla about 2.5 centimeters long.


– Ornamental cultivation.
– Certainly introduced; native of tropical America.

– Bark contains quassin, the bitter principle, 0.1 percent.
– Contains no tannin.
– Yields quassain, a mixture of a-picrasmin and B-picrasmin bitter principles, a volatile oil.
– Phytochemicals: Quassinoids (quassimarin, quassol, quassin, neoquassin, isoquassin, 18-hydorxyquassin, quasinol), alkaloids, beta-sitostenone, gallic acid, mallic acid, simalikalactone D.
– Flowers and leaves also contain quassin.


Additional Sources and Suggested Readings

(1) Antifertility activity of Quassia amara in male rats – in vivo study / Raji Y, Bolarinwa AF / Life Sci. 1997;61(11):1067-74.

(2) Quassinoid constituents of Quassia amara L. leaf herbal tea. Impact on its antimalarial activity and cytotoxicity / Houel E, Bertani S, Bourdy G et al / J Ethnopharmacol. 2009 Oct 29;126(1):114-8. Epub 2009 Aug 7.

(3) In vivo antimalarial activities of Quassia amara and Quassia undulata plant extracts in mice / E O Ajaiyeoba, U I Abalogu et al / Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Volume 67, Issue 3, 30 November 1999, Pages 321-325 / doi:10.1016/S0378-8741(99)00073-2

(4) Anti-ulcerogenic properties of Quassia amara L. (Simaroubaceae) standardized extracts in rodent models / García-Barrantes PM, Badilla B. / J Ethnopharmacol. 2011 Apr 12;134(3):904-10. Epub 2011 Feb 4.

(5) Antidiabetic Activity of Standardized Extract of Quassia amara in Nicotinamide–Streptozotocin-induced Diabetic Rats / Gulam Mohammed Husain, Paras Nath Singh et al / Phytotherapy Research / DOI: 10.1002/ptr.3491

(6) Antibacterial and antifungal activities of Quassia undulata and Quassia amara extracts in vitro / E O Ajaiyeoba, H C Krebs / African journal of medicine and medical sciences, 2003, Vol 32, No 4, Pp 353-356

(7) Antimalarial Activity of Simalikalactone E, a New Quassinoid from Quassia amara L. (Simaroubaceae) / N Cachet, F Hoakwie, S Bertani et al / ANTIMICROBIAL AGENTS AND CHEMOTHERAPY, Oct. 2009, p. 4393–4398 Vol. 53, No. 10 / doi:10.1128/AAC.00951-09

(8) Sorting Quassia names / Authorised by Prof. Snow Barlow / Maintained by: Michel H. Porcher / MULTILINGUAL MULTISCRIPT PLANT NAME DATABASE / Copyright © 1997 – 2000 The University of Melbourne.

(9) Effects of bioactive principles from stem bark extract of Quassia amara, Quassin and 2-methoxycanthine-6-one, on haematological parameters in albino rats / Raji Yinusa / Nig. J. Physiol. Sci. 25(December 2010) 103 – 106

(10) ANTIULCEROGENIC EFFECTS AND POSSIBLE MECHANISM OF ACTION OF QUASSIA AMARA (L. SIMAROUBACEAE) EXTRACT AND ITS BIOACTIVE PRINCIPLES IN RATS / Yinusa Raji, G. K. Oloyede / African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative medicines (AJTCAM), Vol 9, No 1 (2012)

(11) Efficacy of Topical 4% Quassia amara Gel in Facial Seborrheic Dermatitis:A Randomized, Double-Blind, Comparative Study / Christian Diehl MD and Alicia Ferrari MD / Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, Vol 12, No 3, March 2013.

(12) Reproductive Toxicity of Quassia amara Extract: Action on Sperm Capacitation and Acrosome Reaction / O.O. Obembe and Y. Raji / Academic Journal of Plant Sciences 5 (3): 60-69, 2012 /
DOI: 10.5829/idosi.ajps.2012.5.3.238

– Considered anthelmintic, antilithic, carminative, bile stimulant, digestive stimulant, insecticidal, analgesic, antiviral, antiulcer, gastroprotective, antimalarial, sedative, tonic, vermifuge.
– Considered a bitter tonic without astringency.
– Infusion of wood is considered tonic, febrifuge, and stomachic.

Parts used
Various plant parts.

– Used for dyspepsia and anorexia.
– A strong enema infusion destroys threadworms.
– Infusion used for dyspepsia, loss of appetite, debility after fevers; also given in bilious fevers.
– Infusion used in gout, mixed with alkaline salts, aromatics and ginger.
– In hysteria, used with camphor and tincture of valerian.
– In dyspepsia, used with zinc sulfate, iron or mineral acids.
– Infusion of wood used as tonic and febrifuge; also, as stomachic.
– In French Guiana, leaf tea is is most frequently used antimalarial remedy.




Study Findings
• Antifertility Effect in Male Rats: Study on the male reproductive toxic effect of Q. amara in a Swiss mouse model showed extract-treated mice showed dose-dependent toxicity on epididymal sperm parameters, with decreased sperm count, decreased motility, with abnormal morphologies in more than 50% of the sperm. Results affirm the male reproductive toxic effects of QA when applied as a therapeutic or biopesticide.
• Antifertility Activity in Male Rats / Quassin: A crude methanol extract of stem wood significantly caused reduction in weights of testis, epididymis and seminal vesicle, with an increase of the anterior pituitary gland. Treatment with the extract caused significant reduction of epididymal sperm counts serum levels of testosterone, LH, and FSH. Fractionation isolated two compounds: quassin and 2-methoxycanthin-6-one. Quassin appeared to be the antifertility principle of Quassia amara.
• Quassinoids: Young leaf tea contains several quassinoids: simalikalactone, picrasin B, picrasin H, neoquassin, quassin, picrasin and picrasin J. Both biologic activity and cytotoxicity may be attributed to the simalikalactone D.
• Insecticidal: Study has shown the water extract of Quassia has anti-larval activity on Culex quinquefasciatus.
• Anti-Headlice: Report presents the pediculicide activity of Quassia Vinegar as an alternative form of therapy for headlice infestation. It combines Quassia amara, a natural repellent and inhibitor of chitin synthesis with vinegar which prevents the attachment of nits to the hair shafts by dissolving their chitin envelops.
• Anti-Malarial: Six extracts from two Nigerian plants, Q amara and Q undulata were screened for antimalarial properties. The Q amara leaf methanol extract showed the highest suppressive activity.
• Anti-Ulcerogenic: Quassia amara extracts showed an an important anti-ulcerogenic effect in acute ulcer induction models. The effect was probably related to an increase in gastric barrier mucus and non-protein sulfhydril groups.
• Anti-Diabetic / Anti-Dyslipidemic: QAe significantly increased the glucose tolerance in nicotinamide-STZ-induced diabetic rats. QAe and glibenclamide normalized dyslipidemic associated with STZ-induced diabetes.
• Antibacterial / Antifungal: In a study of extracts of Q. undulata and Q. amara, all eight extracts exhibited marked antibacterial (E. coli, S. faecalis, S. aureus) and antifungal (Aspergillus niger) activities, in most cases higher than the standard reference drug. QA leaf methanol leaf extract singularly exhibited the highest activities in both assays.
• Simalikalactone / Antimalarial: Study yielded a new quassinoid, simalikalactone (SkE), from the leaves of Q. amara. SkE inhibited the growth of Plasmodium falciparum. It also decreased gametocytemia seven-fold lower than that of primaquine.
• Topical Rosacea Therapy: A topical gel with 4% Quassia amara extract in the treatment of various grades of rosacea showed it to be very effective relating to flushing, erythema, telangiectasia, papules and pustule scores. Results suggest the extract can a new, efficient, and safe alternative in the management of rosacea.
• Hematologic Effects / Quassia / Anti-Anemic: Quassin and 2-methoxycathine-g-one, isolated from a stem bark extract, was studied for hematological effects. All doses of extract and quassin significantly increased RBC count, packed cell volume, and hemoglobin concentration. 2-methoxycathine-6-one effected no change.
• Antiulcerogenic Effects / 2-methoxycanthin-one: Study evaluated an extract and bioactive principles-quassin and 2-methoxycanthin-one on gastric ulcerations in albino rats. The extract and 2-methoxycathine-one significantly inhibited gastric ulceration induced by indomethacin.
• Facial Seborrheic Dermatitis: Study evaluated the efficacy and safety of a topical gel of 4% Q. amara extract in the treatment of SD (seborrheic dermatitis). QA was tested and compared with topical ketoconazole and topical ciclopiroxolamine. All three were found effective, with an efficacy advantage for 4% Quassia extract. Results showed the topical gel from the 4% extract represents a safe and effective treatment for SD.
• Reproductive Toxicity / Sperm Capacitation / Acrosome Reaction: Thirty nine percent of rat sperm cells treated with Q. amara failed to be capacitated and their acrosome remained intact white 30% failed to undergo acrosome reactions. Quassia amara may mediate its antifertility effect by acting on ion channels or on caudal epididymal sperm proteins critical for sperm capacitation.

Tinctures, extracts, and pills in the cybermarket.