We depend on donations from users of our database of over 8000 edible and useful plants to keep making it available free of charge and to further extend and improve it. In recent months donations are down, and we are spending more than we receive. Please give what you can to keep PFAF properly funded. More >>>

Follow Us:


Picrasma excelsa - (Sw.) Planch.

Common Name Jamaican Quassia
Family Simaroubaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards Some care needs to be exercised when ingesting this plant since excess doses can lead to gastric irritation and vomiting[254 ].
Habitats Hill pastures, relict woodland and along the sides of roads at elevations from 90 - 825 metres[426 ]. Tropical forests and near water[254 ].
Range Northern S. America to Central America and the Caribbean.
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (4 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Full sun
Picrasma excelsa Jamaican Quassia

Picrasma excelsa Jamaican Quassia


Translate this page:


A tropical plant growing up to 25 m in height, Picrasma excelsa or commonly known as Jamaican Quassia can be found in Northern South America to Central America and the Caribbean. It is primarily cultivated for medicinal uses. The bark is used to reduce fever, improve appetite and digestion. It is also used against malaria and anorexia. Externally, it is used against lice, threadworms, and other parasites. Extract from the bark is also used as flavoring in food and drinks. Another use of the bark is for insect control for it has insecticide properties. The wood of Jamaican Quassia is soft, light, and easily split.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of lolypop
Picrasma excelsa is a deciduous Tree growing to 20 m (65ft) by 15 m (49ft) at a medium rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Picraena excelsa (Sw.) Lindl. Quassia excelsa Sw.


Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Inner bark
Edible Uses:

The bitter extract of the bark is used as a flavouring in drinks, baked goods, candy etc[238 , 301 ].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Appetizer  Bitter  Febrifuge  Malaria  Parasiticide

Jamaican quassia bark contains several medically active constituents including quassinoid bitter principles (including quassin); alkaloids; a coumarin, scopoletin; and vitamin B1[254 ]. It is an intensely bitter, non-astringent, odourless herb that lowers fever, stimulates appetite and improves digestion[238 ]. It is an effective parasiticide and is reputedly antileukaemic[238 ]. Some of the quassinoids have been shown to have cytotoxic and antileukaemic actions[254 ]. The strongly bitter principle in the bark supports and strengthens weak digestive systems, increasing bile flow plus the secretion of salivary juices and stomach acids[254 ]. It is used internally in the treatment of a wide range of illnesses where digestion is a contributory factor, particularly convalescent debility, poor appetite and anorexia[238 , 254 ]. Its bitterness has led to it being used in the treatment of malaria and other fevers[238 , 254 ]. It is also used to rid the body of nematode worms[238 ]. Used externally, it is a good lotion to get rid of parasites such as lice[238 ]. It is also used in an enema to rid the body of threadworms and other parasites[238 , 254 ]. The bark can be harvested as required throughout the year, and can be dried for later use[254 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

Now available: PLANTS FOR YOUR FOOD FOREST: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests and Permaculture Gardens.

An important new book from PFAF. It focuses on the attributes of plants suitable for food forests, what each can contribute to a food forest ecosystem, including carbon sequestration, and the kinds of foods they yield. The book suggests that community and small-scale food forests can provide a real alternative to intensive industrialised agriculture, and help to combat the many inter-related environmental crises that threaten the very future of life on Earth.

Read More


Other Uses

Insecticide  Parasiticide  Repellent

Other Uses: The decocted bark is an effective insecticide against flies, red spider mites, aphids and woolly aphids[238 ]. It is used as an insect repellent[254 ]. The white to yellowish-white wood is soft, light, loosely grained, easily split[46 ].

Special Uses

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Prefers a fertile, humus-rich, moisture-retentive sandy loam[238 ].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

Type a value in the Celsius field to convert the value to Fahrenheit:



The PFAF Bookshop

Plants For A Future have a number of books available in paperback and digital form. Book titles include Edible Plants, Edible Perennials, Edible Trees, and Woodland Gardening. Our new book to be released soon is Edible Shrubs.

Shop Now


Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe. Semi-ripe cuttings.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

bitter wood, bitter-ash, bitterved, bitterwood, bois noyer, jamaica quassia, jamaica quassiawood, jamaika-bitterholz, peste à poux, quassia, quassia amara, quassia da jamaica, quassia de la jamaique, quassia de surinam, quassie, simaroube officinale, simaruba, simarubabaum, surinam quassia.

Native Plant Search

Search over 900 plants ideal for food forests and permaculture gardens. Filter to search native plants to your area. The plants selected are the plants in our book 'Plants For Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests and Permaculture Gardens, as well as plants chosen for our forthcoming related books for Tropical/Hot Wet Climates and Mediterranean/Hot Dry Climates. Native Plant Search

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Cuba; Dominican Republic; Haiti; Jamaica; Puerto Rico; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of, Africa, Central America*, Cuba, Dominican Republic, East Africa, Guiana, Haiti, Jamaica, Lesser Antilles, Mozambique, Puerto Rico, South America, Venezuela, Virgin Islands, West Indies,

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : Status: Vulnerable A1cd

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Picrasma quassioidesNigakiTree10.0 5-9  LMHSNM123

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


Print Friendly and PDF

Expert comment


(Sw.) Planch.

Botanical References

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

Readers comment

Add a comment

If you have important information about this plant that may help other users please add a comment or link below. Only comments or links that are felt to be directly relevant to a plant will be included. If you think a comment/link or information contained on this page is inaccurate or misleading we would welcome your feedback at [email protected]. If you have questions about a plant please use the Forum on this website as we do not have the resources to answer questions ourselves.

* Please note: the comments by website users are not necessarily those held by PFAF and may give misleading or inaccurate information.

To leave a comment please Register or login here All comments need to be approved so will not appear immediately.

Subject : Picrasma excelsa  
© 2010, Plants For A Future. Plants For A Future is a charitable company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales. Charity No. 1057719, Company No. 3204567.