Related entry: Quassin
Quassia wood is obtained from the trunk and branches of Picraena excelsa, Lindl. (N.O. Simarubeae), also known as Picrasma excelsa, Swartz (Planchon), a tree indigenous to Jamaica. The wood is imported in logs and billets, often covered with a thin bark. For medicinal use the bark is removed, and the wood is cut into chips, which are kiln dried. The logs, as imported, are of various lengths, and often 20 to 30 centimetres in diameter. The wood is yellowish-white, light, dense, and easily split. The transverse section exhibits numerous medullary rays, two to three cells wide; the vessels are usually in groups of two or three, and often extend from one medullary ray to the next; the fibres are moderately thick-walled, and the cells of the wood parenchyma often contain crystals of calcium oxalate. The drug is odourless, but has a very bitter taste. It yields about 4 per cent. of ash. Surinam quassia (from Quassia amara, Linn.) occurs in much smaller billets than Jamaica quassia, and is used on the continent in its place. The wood closely resembles Jamaica quassia, but may be distinguished by the medullary rays, which are usually only one cell wide; it is, moreover, devoid of calcium oxalate. Surinam quassia contains four crystalline bodies, which have been termed quassiins. They are similar to, but not identical with, the picrasmins of Jamaica quassia. Quassia, U.S.P., may be either Jamaica or Surinam quassia. "Bitter" or "tonic" cups are vessels turned from a block of quassia wood; they are filled with water, which is allowed to stand overnight before taking as a bitter draught.
Constituents.—The chief constituents of Jamaica quassia are the two homologous, crystalline, bitter principles, α-picrasmin and β-picrasmin (see Quassinum). The wood also contains a very small quantity of a third crystalline, bitter principle (melting-point, 234°), and a minute quantity of a yellow, crystalline substance, which exhibits a blue fluorescence in an acidified alcoholic solution.
Action and Uses.—Quassia is a pure bitter, without astringency. It is employed to increase the appetite, and hence to improve the condition of the gastric mucous membrane; it is best administered thirty minutes before a meal in mixture form. It is a matter of considerable doubt whether all the benefit derived from bitters might not be obtained by the rise of a simple gargle, and without swallowing the drug. On account of its freedom from tannin it may be prescribed with the salts of iron, for which infusion of quassia is a useful vehicle. An infusion of quassia (1 in 20) is used as an injection for the thread worms of children. A similar solution painted on the skin keeps away small insects.
Dose.—1 to 5 decigrams (2 to 8 grains).
- Extractum Quassiae, B.P. 1885.—EXTRACT OF QUASSIA.
- Quassia wood, rasped, 100; distilled water, a sufficient quantity, Macerate the quassia with 50 of the water for twelve hours, then percolate till exhausted, filter the liquid, and evaporate on a water-bath to a pilular consistence. Extract of quassia is prescribed in pills as a bitter, with reduced iron, or sulphate of iron, and generally in place of extract of gentian. Dose.—2 to 3 decigrams (3 to 5 grains).
- Extractum Quassiae, U.S.P.—EXTRACT OF QUASSIA, U.S.P.
- Quassia, in No. 20 powder, 100; water, a sufficient quantity; milk sugar, sufficient to produce 10. Average dose.—65 milligrams (1 grain).
- Fluidextractum Quassiae, U.S.P.—FLUIDEXTRACT OF QUASSIA.
- Quassia, in No. 40 powder, 100; alcohol (32 per cent.), sufficient to produce 100. Average dose.—5 decimils (0.5 milliliters) (8 minims).
- Infusum Quassiae, B.P.—INFUSION OF QUASSIA.
- Quassia wood, finely rasped, 1; distilled water, cold, 100. Infuse the drug in the water for fifteen minutes, in a covered vessel and strain. This infusion keeps better if boiled for a few minutes after straining. Infusion of quassia is a simple bitter, without astringency and, therefore compatible with salts of iron. It is also used as a rectal injection for thread worms, but a stronger infusion (1 in 20) is sometimes ordered. Dose.—15 to 30 mils (1/2 to 1 fluid ounce).
- Infusum Quassiae Concentratum, B.P.C.—CONCENTRATED INFUSION OF QUASSIA.
- A product closely resembling infusion of quassia is obtained by diluting 1 part of this preparation with 7 parts of distilled water. Though the quantity of quassia. wood used in preparing the concentrated infusion is less in proportion, the bitterness of the diluted preparation is equal to that of the simple infusion owing to complete exhaustion of the drug. Dose.—2 to 4 mils (1/2 to 1 fluid drachm).
- Liquor Quassiae Concentratus, B.P.—CONCENTRATED SOLUTION OF QUASSIA.
- Quassia wood, in No. 40 powder, 10; alcohol (20 per cent.), sufficient to produce 100. Moisten the drug with to of the alcohol, transfer to a percolator, set aside for three days, then percolate with 100 of the alcohol, which should be added in ten equal portions, at intervals of twelve hours; finally percolate with sufficient of the alcohol to produce the required volume. This preparation is less satisfactory than Infusion Quassiae Concentratum. Dose.—2 to 4 mils (1/2 to 1 fluid drachm).
- Tinctura Quassiae, B.P.—TINCTURE OF QUASSIA.
- Quassia wood, rasped, 10; alcohol (45 per cent.), 100. Macerate for seven clays and complete the maceration process. Tincture of quassia is used as a bitter. It is compatible with the salts of iron. Dose.—2 to 4 mils (1/2 to 1 fluid drachm).
- Tinctura Quassiae, U.S.P.—TINCTURE OF QUASSIA.
- Quassia, in No 50 powder, 20; alcohol (32 per cent.), sufficient to produce 100. Average dose.—2 mils (30 minims)
The British Pharmaceutical Codex, 1911, was published by direction of the Council of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain.