Botanical: Picrasma excelsa (also known as Quassia excelsa)
Family: Simaroubaceae (quassia/tree of life)
Other common names: Picrasma, Bitter Bark, Jamaica Quassia, Quassia, Bitter Ash, Quassia Lignum
Bitter Wood is a simple, powerful bitter that is an old-time tonic for the digestive system. It is used in Europe to stimulate the appetite and is also said to soothe gastric upsets, indigestion and acute dyspepsia. An old reliable vermifuge, the herb destroys and expels intestinal worms. Bitter Wood is thought to generally tone up a rundown system, which may also be very helpful to convalescents who are recovering after illness.
The information presented herein by Herbal Extracts Plus is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.
Bitter Wood is a tall, graceful, ashlike tree that is native to tropical America, most notably in the hill forests of Jamaica and Surinam, where it is cultivated as a commercial crop. Bitter Wood is a tender, deciduous perennial that thrives in moist, sandy, humus-rich soil in sun or partial shade. The tree may grow to a height of one hundred feet and requires moderate to high humidity in a minimum of sixty degrees Fahrenheit to succeed. Bitter Wood produces pinnate, coarse-toothed leaves and small, green-white flowers that bloom in late autumn, followed by black, shiny berries, which ripen in the winter. Insect pests never attack the tree, because it is permeated by an extremely bitter resin, whose major chemical constituent is a bitter compound called quassin - an effective natural insecticide. The wood, which is chipped and dried, is used in herbal medicine as an intensely bitter, non-astringent, odorless herb that is fifty times more bitter than quinine and had been used by the native tribes to remedy malaria, dysentery and venereal disease (the quassin content is, in fact, the bitterest substance found in nature). In 1756, Bitter Wood was brought from Surinam to Stockholm by a Swede who had purchased it from a native healer named Quassi, thereby giving the herb another of its names, Quassia, and the drug soon became popular as a digestive tonic, appetite stimulant and herb for indigestion and gastritis. In Europe, Bitter Wood is still used as a popular appetite stimulant. The Bitter Wood from Jamaica (Jamaican Quassia) soon superceded the species from Surinam in popularity, but the name often continued. In addition to it use in herbal medicine, Bitter Wood is a very valuable commercial crop that is an ingredient in soft drinks, candies, baked goods, marmalades, liqueurs and other alcoholic drinks and as a substitute for hops in brewing beer and ale. It is enormously valuable in the pesticide industry as an insecticide against flies, spider mites, aphids and woolly aphids. Although it is an effective herbal pesticide, it spares such beneficial insects as ladybird beetles and bees. Some of the constituents in Bitter Wood include volatile oil, quassin, gummy extractive pectin, woody fiber, tartrate, calcium and sodium chlorides, salts and sulfates.
Bitter Wood is a powerful, simple bitter and stomachic that is widely used to support a healthy digestive system. It has been used as an effective tonic that soothes gastric upsets, indigestion and acute dyspepsia, and it is believed to lessen putrefaction in the stomach and prevent the formation of acid substances during the digestive process. It contains extremely bitter chemical substances known as quassinoids, the major one being quassin, which settles nausea. Bitter Wood is also said to stimulate the production of stomach secretions (as well as those of the liver, kidneys, gallbladder and intestines), which also help to improve digestion. Bitter Wood has long been used as a reliable way to stimulate a flagging appetite and may be helpful in treating anorexia. It is particularly valuable in cases of convalescence and general debility after acute disease, as well as act as a tonic to tone up a rundown system.
As a febrifuge, Bitter Wood is said to effectively lower fevers.
Bitter Wood has been used for centuries as an effective vermifuge, an agent that works to kill and expel worms in the intestines (especially roundworms) and nematodes. Used externally as a lotion, it destroys parasites (treatment for lice); and as a hair rinse, it is said to inhibit dandruff.
Many people claimed that Bitter Wood was a cure for drunkenness because it appeared to destroy one's appetite for alcohol.
Bitter Wood may be of possible value in the fight against leukemia. In some studies, another extract of the resin, quassimarin, has been reported by researchers to show promise in this area; hopefully, further studies will show positive results.
Bitter Wood Herbal Supplement should not be taken in large amounts (many times the recommended dosage), as it may act as an irritant and produce vomiting.