Ambrette

Scientific Name(s): Abelmoschus moschatus Medic. Family: Malvaceae

Common Name(s): Ambrette , musk okra , muskmallow

Uses

Ambrette has been used as a stimulant and as treatment for a variety of ills, from stomach cancer to hysteria. It is commonly used to scent cosmetics and to flavor foods and drinks.

Dosing

There is no clinical evidence to support dosage of ambrette.

Contraindications

Contraindications have not yet been identified.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Documented adverse effects. Avoid use.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Ingestion or application of ambrette derivatives produces photosensitivity and dermatitis in some individuals.

Toxicology

With the possible exception of seed extracts, ingestion of small amounts is considered safe.

Botany

This plant is cultivated for its seeds, which have a characteristic musk-like odor. The seeds are the source of ambrette, an aromatic oil used in perfumery. The plant grows to about 3 feet with showy yellow flowers with crimson centers. The plant is indigenous to India and is cultivated throughout the tropics. 1

History

Several parts of the plant have been used throughout history, most notably the seed oil, which is valued for its fragrant smell. The oil is used in cosmetics and has been used to flavor alcoholic beverages, especially bitters, and coffee. 2 The tender leaves and shoots are eaten as vegetables and the plant is often grown as an ornamental.

Philippine native have used decoctions of the plant to treat stomach cancer, and extracts of the plant have bene used to treat such diverse ailments as hysteria, gonorrhea and respiratory disorders. 2

Chemistry

Distillation of the plant yields farnesol and furfural. The volatile oil is high in fatty acids, including palmitic and myristic acids. The ketone ambrettolide (a lactone of ambrettolic acid) is responsible for the characteristic musk-like odor. A variety of other related compounds have also been identified in quantities of less than 1% of the oil. 1

The bark yields a fiber that is used to produce tough cloths. 2

Uses and Pharmacology

Ambrette has been used as a stimulant and as treatment for a variety of ills, from stomach cancer to hysteria. It is commonly used to scent cosmetics and to flavor foods and drinks.

Mechanism of action

Little is known about the pharmacologic activity of this plant.

Animal data

The related species A. manihot has been shown to limit the development of renal injury in rabbits with immune complex-induced glomerulonephritis, and A. ficulneus may contain substances that inhibit the development of the fetal sheep brain and that may impair the health of the ewe. 3

Clinical data

Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of ambrette for its listed uses.

Dosage

There is no clinical evidence to support dosage of ambrette.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Documented adverse effects. Avoid use. 4

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Musk ambrette and musk ketone, both found in cosmetics and aftershaves, have been shown to cause photosensitivity and dermatitis in sensitive individuals. 5 , 6

Toxicology

Although the seeds were once considered to be stimulants with antispasmodic activity, the plant has been classified as an “Herb of Undefined Safety” by the FDA. 2 However, the extracts are classified as GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) for use in baked goods, candies and alcoholic beverages. Ambrettolide is reported to be nontoxic. 1

Ambrette and related “nitro musks” are highly lipophilic and have been shown to persist in human mother's milk, presumably following absorption through the skin from dermally applied cosmetics. 7

Bibliography

1. Leung AY, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs and Cosmetics . New York, NY: J Wiley and Sons; 1980.
2. Duke JA. Handbook of Medicinal Herbs . Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 1985.
3. Walker D, Bird A, Flora T, O'Sullivan B. Some effects of feeding Tribulus terrestris, Ipomoea lonchophylla and the seed of Abelmoschus ficulneus on fetal development and the outcome of pregnancy in sheep. Reprod Fertil Dev . 1992;4:135-144.
4. Wickersham RM, Novak KK, managing eds. Drug Facts and Comparisons . St. Louis, MO: Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc.; 2004.
5. Machet L, Vaillant L, Bensaid P, Muller C, Lorette G. Persistent photosensitivity: treatment with puvatherapy and prednisolone (corticopuvatherapy) [in French]. Ann Dermatol Venereol . 1992;119:737-743.
6. Gardeazabal J, Arregui MA, Gil N, Landa N, Raton JA, Diaz-Perez JL. Successful treatment of musk ketone-induced chronic actinic dermatitis with cyclosporine and PUVA. J Am Acad Dermatol . 1992;27(5 Pt 2):838-842.
7. Liebl B, Ehrenstorfer S. Nitro-musk compounds in breast milk. Gesundheitswesen . 1993;55:527.

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