Definition of quassia
: a drug from the heartwood and bark of various tropical trees of the ailanthus family used especially as a bitter tonic and remedy for roundworms in children and as an insecticide
Origin of quassia
New Latin, genus name of a South American tree, from Quassi 18th century Surinam slave who discovered the medicinal value of quassia
First Known Use: 1770
Medical Definition of quassia
1 capitalized : a genus of shrubs and trees (family Simaroubaceae) with clusters of scarlet flowers—compare simarouba
2: a drug derived from the heartwood and bark of various tropical trees (family Simaroubaceae) and used especially as a bitter tonic and remedy for roundworms in children and as an insecticide
Biographical Note for quassia
Quassi \ˈkwäs-ē\play , Graman (flourished 1730), Suriname slave. Quassi was a black slave who obtained his freedom and practiced as a medicine man. Around 1730 he discovered the medicinal value of the bark and heartwood of certain trees in the treatment of malignant fevers common in Suriname. According to tradition, a traveling Swede bought the secret of the cures and brought specimens of the plants back to Sweden. Linnaeus examined the plants and named the genus Quassia. Later, the name quassia was applied to the drug as well.
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