Online Encyclopedia


Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V22, Page 718 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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QUASSIA, the generic name given by Linnaeus to a smallor five pairs, with a terminal odd one, of short-stalked, oblong, blunt, leathery leaflets, and inconspicuous green flowers. The fruit consists of black shining drupes about the size of a pea. It is found also in other West Indian islands, as Antigua and St Vincent. Quassia amara is a shrub or small tree belonging to the same natural order as Picraena, viz. Simarubaceae, but is readily distinguished by its large handsome red flowers arranged in terminal clusters. It is a native of Panama, Venezuela, Guiana and northern Brazil. Jamaica quassia is imported into England in logs several feet in length and often nearly one foot in thickness, consisting of pieces of the trunk and larger branches. The thin greyish bark is usually removed. The wood is nearly white, or of a yellowish tint, but sometimes exhibits blackish markings due to the mycelium of a fungus, The wood has a pure bitter taste, and is without odour or aroma. It is usually to be met with in the form of turnings or raspings, the former being obtained in the maufacture of the " bitter cups " which are made of this wood. The chief constituent is a bitter neutral principle known as quassin. It exists in the wood to the extent of about -N%. It forms crystalline needles soluble in alkalis, chloroform and 200 parts of water. There is also present a volatile oil. The wood contains no tannin, and for this reason quassia, like chiretta and calumba, may be preserved with iron. The infusion is useful as a bitter tonic—a group of substances of which calumba is the type—and is also a very efficient anthelmintic for the threadworm (Oxyuris vermicularis). It is toted by brewers as a substitute for hops.
End of Article: QUASSIA

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