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In current Brazilian herbal medicine systems, amargo is considered a tonic, digestion stimulant, blood cleanser, insecticide, and mild laxative.* It is also a well respected remedy for head lice.* To see photographs of amargo click here. For more information about amargo (Quassia amara), please refer to the Database File for Amargo in the Tropical Plant Database.
Traditional Uses:* for lice and skin parasites; for intestinal parasites and amebic infections; for malaria; for digestive problems (ulcers, dyspepsia, intestinal gas and bloating, sluggish digestion, anorexia); as a liver/gallbladder aid to increase bile and eliminate toxins and stones
Traditional Preparation:* The traditional remedy as a digestive aid is 1/2 teaspoon of wood powder infused in one cup of boiling water. This is taken 10-15 minutes before or with meals. Alternatively, 1g in tablets or capsules can be taken two or three times daily on an empty stomach for an internal parasite cleanse. Another remedy calls for 2 teaspoons of wood powder or chips to be soaked in 1 cup of cold water overnight (a cold maceration). This is drunk for internal parasites, gallstones, and digestive disorders, and used externally for lice. For more complete instructions on preparing herbs see the Methods for Preparing Herbal Remedies Page.
Drug Interactions: None reported.
- Amargo should not be used during pregnancy.
- Amargo has been documented to have an antifertility effect in studies with male rats. Men undergoing fertility treatment or those wishing to have children probably should avoid using amargo.
- Large amounts of amargo can irritate the mucous membrane of the stomach and can lead to nausea and vomiting. Do not exceed recommended dosages.
Third-Party Published Research*
All available third-party research on amargo can be found at PubMed. A partial listing of the research on amargo is shown below:
Bertani, S., et al. "New findings on Simalikalactone D, an antimalarial compound from Quassia amara L. (Simaroubaceae)." Exp Parasitol. 2012 Apr;130(4):341-7. Epub 2012 Feb 21.
Rasoanaivo, P., et al. "Whole plant extracts versus single compounds for the treatment of malaria: synergy and positive interactions." Malar J. 2011; 10(Suppl 1): S4. Published online 2011 March 15.
Deharo, E., et al. "Analysis of additivity and synergism in the anti-plasmodial effect of purified compounds from plant extracts" Malar J. 2011; 10(Suppl 1): S5.
Mishra, K., et al. "Plasmodium falciparum: in vitro interaction of quassin and neo-quassin with artesunate, a hemisuccinate derivative of artemisinin." Exp Parasitol. 2010 Apr;124(4):421-7.
Mishra, K., et al. "Plasmodium falciparum: In vitro interaction of quassin and neo-quassin with artesunate, a hemisuccinate derivative of artemisinin." Exp. Parasitol. 2009 Dec 29.
Cachet, N., et al. "Antimalarial activity of simalikalactone E, a new quassinoid from Quassia amara L. (Simaroubaceae)." Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 2009 Oct; 53(10): 4393-8.
Houel, E., et al. "Quassinoid constituents of Quassia amara L. leaf herbal tea. Impact on its antimalarial activity and cytotoxicity." J. Ethnopharmacol. 2009 Oct; 126(1): 114-8.
Bertani, S., et al. "Quassia amara L. (Simaroubaceae) leaf tea: Effect of the growing stage and desiccation status on the antimalarial activity of a traditional preparation." J. Ethnopharmacol. 2007 Apr 20; 111(1):40-2.
Botsaris, A. "Plants used traditionally to treat malaria in Brazil: the archives of Flora Medicinal." J Ethnobiol Ethnomedicine. 2007; 3: 18.
Bertani, S., et al. "Simalikalactone D is responsible for the antimalarial properties of an amazonian traditional remedy made with Quassia amara L. (Simaroubaceae)." J. Ethnopharmacol. 2006 Nov 3;108(1):155-7.
Vigneron, M., et al. “Antimalarial remedies in French Guiana: a knowledge attitudes and practices study.” J Ethnopharmacol. 2005 Apr; 98(3): 351-60.
Bertani, S., et al. “Evaluation of French Guiana traditional antimalarial remedies.” J. Ethnopharmacol. 2005 Apr; 98(1-2): 45-54.
Ajaiyeoba, E. O., et al. “In vivo antimalarial activities of Quassia amara and Quassia undulata plant extracts in mice.” J.
Ethnopharmacol. 1999; 67(3): 321–25.
O’Neill, M. J., et al. “Plants as sources of antimalarial drugs: in vitro antimalarial activities of some quassinoids.” Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 1986; 30(1): 101–4.
Trager, W., et al. “Antimalarial activity of quassinoids against chloroquine-resistant Plasmodium falciparum in vitro.” Am. J. Trop. Med. Hyg. 1981; 30(3): 531–37.
Anti-amebic & Anti-parasitic Actions:
Ninci, M. E. “Prophylaxis and treatment of pediculosis [lice] with Quassia amarga.” Rev. Fac. Cien. Med. Univ. Nac. Cordoba 1991; 49(2): 27–31.
Wright, C. W., et al. “Use of microdilution to assess in vitro antiamoebic activities of Brucea javanica fruits, Simarouba amara stem, and a number of quassinoids.” Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 1988; 32(11): 1725-9
Jensen, O. “Pediculosis capitis treated with Quassia tincture.” Acta. Derm. Venereol. 1978; 58(6): 557–59.
Jensen, O. “Treatment of head lice with Quassia tincture.” Ugeskr. Laeger. 1979; 141(4): 225–26.
Insecticidal & Larvicidal Actions:
Mac-Mary, S., et al. "Assessment of the efficacy and safety of a new treatment for head lice." ISRN Dermatol. 2012;Oct 2012:460467
Soto, F., et al. "Phagodeterrence by Quassia amara (Simaroubaceae) wood extract fractions on Hypsipyla grandella (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae) larvae." Rev Biol Trop. 2011 Mar;59(1):487-99.
Flores, G., et al. "Antifeedant activity of botanical crude extracts and their fractions on Bemisia tabaci (Homoptera: Aleyrodidae) adults: III. Quassia amara (Simaroubaceae)." Rev. Biol. Trop. 2008 Dec; 56(4): 2131-46.
Evans, D. A., et al. “Larvicidal efficacy of Quassin against Culex quinquefasciatus.” Indian J. Med. Res. 1991 Sep; 93: 324-7.
Evans, D. A., et al. “Extracts of Indian plants as mosquito larvicides.” Indian J. Med. Res. 1988; 88(1): 38–41.
Park, M. H., et al. “Acute insecticidal activity of quassin and its congeners against the American cockroach.” Chem. Pharm. Bull. 1987; 35(7): 3082-5.
Roark, R. C. “Some promising insecticidal plants.” Econ. Bot. 1947; 1: 437–45.
Raji, Y., et al. "Reproductive activities of female albino rats treated with quassin, a bioactive triterpenoid from stem bark extract of Quassia amara." Niger J Physiol Sci. 2010 Nov 24;25(2):95-102.
Parveen, S., et al. “A comprehensive evaluation of the reproductive toxicity of Quassia amara in male rats.” Reprod. Toxicol. 2003; 17(1): 45–50.
Raji, Y., et al. “Antifertility activity of Quassia amara in male rats - in vivo study.” Life Sci. 1997; 61(11): 1067-74.
Njar, V. C., et al. “Antifertility activity of Quassia amara: quassin inhibits the steroidogenesis in rat Leydig cells in vitro.” Planta Med. 1995 Apr; 61(2): 180-2.
Xu, Z., et al. “Anti-HIV agents 45(1) and antitumor agents 205. (2) Two new sesquiterpenes, leitneridanins A and B, andthe cytotoxic and anti-HIV principles from Leitneria floridana.” J. Nat. Prod. 2000; 63(12): 1712–15.
Abdel-Malek, S., et al. “Drug leads from the Kallawaya herbalists of Bolivia. 1. Background, rationale, protocol and anti-HIV activity.” J. Ethnopharmacol. 1996; 50: 157–66.
Ajaiyeoba, E.O., et al. “Antibacterial and antifungal activities of Quassia undulata and Quassia amara extracts in vitro.” Afr. J. Med. Med. Sci. 2003 Dec; 32(4): 353-6.
Apers, S., et al. “Antiviral activity of simalikalactone D, a quassinoid from Quassia africana.” Planta Med. 2002; 25(9): 1151–55.
Morre, D. J., et al. “Effect of the quassinoids glaucarubolone and simalikalactone D on growth of cells permanently infected with feline and human immunodeficiency viruses and on viral infections.” Life Sci. 1998; 62(3): 213-9.
Reynertson, K., et al "Induction of murine embryonic stem cell differentiation by medicinal plant extracts." Exp Cell Res. 2011 Jan 1;317(1):82-93.
Kupchan, S. M. “Quassimarin, a new antileukemic quassinoid from Quassia amara.” J. Org. Chem. 1976; 41(21):3481–82.
Husain, G., et al. "Antidiabetic activity of standardized extract of Quassia amara in nicotinamide-streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats." Phytother Res. 2011 Dec;25(12):1806-12.
Raji, Y. "Effects of bioactive principles from stem bark extract of Quassia amara, Quassin and 2-methoxycanthine-6-one, on haematological parameters in albino rats." Niger J Physiol Sci. 2010 Nov 28;25(2):103-6.
Gastric & Anti-ulcer Actions:
García-Barrantes, P., et al. "Anti-ulcerogenic properties of Quassia amara L. (Simaroubaceae) standardized extracts in rodent models." J Ethnopharmacol. 2011 Apr 12;134(3):904-10.
Sugimoto, N., et al. “Analysis of constituents in Jamaica quassia extract, a natural bittering agent.” Shokuhin Eiseigaku Zasshi. 2003 Dec; 44(6): 328-31.
Toma, W., et al. “Antiulcerogenic activity of four extracts obtained from the bark wood of Quassia amara L. (Simaroubaceae).” Planta Med. 2002; 68(1): 20–24.
Garcia Gonzalez, M., et al. “Pharmacologic activity of the aqueous wood extract from Quassia amara (Simarubaceae) on albino rats and mice.” Rev. Biol. Trop. 1997; 44–45: 47–50.
Tada, H., et al. “Novel anti-ulcer agents and quassinoids.” U.S. patent no. 4,731,459. 1988.
Anti-inflammatory & Pain-relieving Actions:
Ferrari, A., et al. "Evaluation of the efficacy and tolerance of a topical gel with 4% quassia extract in the treatment of rosacea." J Clin Pharmacol. 2012 Jan;52(1):84-8.
Verma, N., et al. "Evaluation of inhibitory activities of plant extracts on production of LPS-stimulated pro-inflammatory mediators in J774 murine macrophages." Mol Cell Biochem. 2010 Mar;336(1-2):127-35.
Toma, W., et al. “Evaluation of the analgesic and antiedematogenic activities of Quassia amara bark extract.” J. Ethnopharmacol. 2003; 85(1): 19–23.
Chemical Constituents Identified:
Tada, A., et al. "Examination of original plant of Jamaica quassia extract, a natural bittering agent, based on composition of the constituents." Shokuhin Eiseigaku Zasshi. 2009 Feb; 50(1): 16-21.
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Last updated 2-11-2013