Quassia (1692-1787) was an obeah (healer) from the Guinea region of West Africa who was enslaved and taken to Surinam, a Dutch sugar colony on the Caribbean coast of South America. While investigating local plants with medicinal properties, Quassia learned of a tree that when, when made into an infusion, promoted appetite and assisted digestion. Daniel Rolander, a Swedish botanist who visited Surinam in the 1750s, met Quassia and acquired some samples of this tree. These samples eventually reached Carl Linnaeus, in Stockholm, and that noted botanist named the tree Quassia. Nineteenth century medical texts touted the benefits of water drunk from quassia cups.
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