QUASSIA, the generic name given by Linnaeus to a small tree of Surinam in honour of the negro Quassi or Coissi, who employed the intensely bitter bark of the tree (Quassia amara) as a remedy for fever.
The original quassia was officially recognized in the London Pharmacopoeia of 1788.
Since that date this wood has continued in use in Britain under the name of quassia to the exclusion of the Surinam quassia, which, however, is still employed in France and Germany.
Quassia amara is a shrub or small tree belonging to the same natural order as Picraena, viz.
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 wood contains no tannin, and for this reason quassia, like chiretta and calumba, may be preserved with iron.
Instead of discoursing on the corporate conscience of the state and the endowments of the Church, the importance of Christian education, and the theological unfitness of the Jews to sit in parliament, he is solving business-like problems about foreign tariffs and the exportation of machinery; waxing eloquent over the regulation of railways, and a graduated tax on corn; subtle on the monetary merits of half-farthings, and great in the mysterious lore of quassia and cocculus indicus.
These pests can be kept in check by syringing with nicotine, soft-soap and quassia solutions, or by "vaporising" two or three evenings in succession, afterwards syringing the plants with clear tepid water.
The bitterness is imparted by such substances as bitter orange rind, gentian, rhubarb, quassia, cascarilla, angostura, quinine and cinchona.