Quassia amara takes its name from a slave of Surinam, named Quassi (see article Quassia Amara, J. U. Lloyd, Western Druggist, Chicago, Jan., 1897), who used the plant as a secret remedy, with great success, in the treatment of malignant fevers common to his locality and climate. Daniel Rolander, a Swede, became interested in the drug, and "in consequence of a valuable consideration" purchased from the slave Quassi a knowledge of the drug composing his remedy. Rolander returned to Stockholm in 1756, when he introduced the drug to Europe. In 1760 (or according to another reference, 1761) Carol. Gust. Dahlberg, an officer of the Dutch army and an eminent botanist, a pupil of Linnaeus (385), returned to Sweden from Surinam, where he too had become acquainted with the slave Quassi, and through kindness to him had so gained his affection that he revealed not only the composition of his secret remedy, but even showed to him the tree from which the drug was derived. Dahlberg procured specimens of the root, flowers, and leaves of the tree, preserving them in alcohol, and presented them to Linnaeus, who named the wood Lignum quassiae, in honor of the slave, and established a new genus for the plant, which he named Quassia amara. The drug was brought to the notice of the medical profession by Linnaeus' lectures on materia medica, as well as through a dissertation written under his direction, in 1763 (385), by one of his pupils, Carolus M. Blom. Be it known, however, that more than a little questioning exists as to the exact plant employed by the slave Quassi. As pointed out by Dr. Wright, the leaves pictured in the Linnaean Dissertation belonged to another species than the Quassia amara, an error corrected by the younger Linnaeus.

In this connection it may be stated that Philippe Fermin, a French physician and traveler in Surinam, spelled the name of the slave Coissi, questioning somewhat the fact of his having discovered the uses of the remedy, which Fermin states had been used in Surinam as early as 1714. In this connection it may be noted that, according to Murray, a spice dealer of Amsterdam, Albert Seba, is said to have had in his collection a specimen of a bark of a tree named quasci as early as 1730. Be this as it may, the drug known as quassia under the empirical introduction given by the natives of Dutch Guiana became known to European civilization, and in 1788 became official in the London Pharmacopeia. Concerning the origin of the drug, the German Pharmacopeia, 1872, demanded that it be the wood of Quassia amara. In the second edition, 1882, the Picraena excelsa was admitted concurrently therewith, the latter being the official quassia of the present Pharmacopeia of the United States.

The History of the Vegetable Drugs of the U.S.P., 1911, was written by John Uri Lloyd.