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Scientific Name(s): Abelmoschus moschatus L. (Medik.)
Common Name(s): Ambrette, Musk ambrette, Musk mallow, Musk okra, Muskdana

Clinical Overview


Ambrette has traditionally been used as a stimulant and a treatment for a variety of conditions. It has been investigated in vitro and in animal models for its potential antidiabetic, antioxidant, antimicrobial, and renoprotective effects. The seed oil is commonly used to scent cosmetics and to flavor foods and drinks. However, no clinical trials exist to support use for any indication.


Clinical evidence is lacking to provide dosing recommendations for ambrette.


Contraindications have not been identified.


Avoid use. Adverse effects have been documented.


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

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


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

Scientific Family

  • Malvaceae (mallow)


The A. moschatus 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 approximately 0.9 m and has showy yellow flowers with crimson centers. The plant is indigenous to India and is cultivated throughout the tropics.(Leung 1996)


Several parts of the plant have been used historically, most notably the seed oil, which is valued for its fragrant smell. The oil is used in cosmetics and to flavor alcoholic beverages, especially bitters, and coffee.(Duke 1985) The tender leaves and shoots are eaten as vegetables, and the plant is often grown as an ornamental.

Philippine natives have used decoctions of the plant to treat stomach cancer, and extracts of the plant have been used to treat diverse conditions, such as hysteria, gonorrhea, and menstrual and respiratory disorders; the seeds have been used to treat headaches, cramps, muscle aches and pains, and nervous system disorders, including depression.(Duke 1985, Lans 2007) Alcoholic and aqueous extracts of the leaves and seeds have been used to treat a variety of bacterial infections.(Arokiyaraj 2015)


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. Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry revealed 35 compounds in the oil, with farnesol acetate (51.45%) and ambrettolide (12.96%) being the major components.(Arokiyaraj 2015) A. moschatus seeds contain 4 stable trypsin inhibitors.(Dokka 2015) A variety of other related compounds have also been identified, most of which were present in quantities of less than 1%.(Arokiyaraj 2015, Leung 1996)

The bark yields a fiber that is used to produce tough cloths.(Duke 1985)

Uses and Pharmacology

Ambrette has traditionally been used as a stimulant and as treatment for a variety of conditions, including headaches, cramps, muscle aches and pains, nervous system disorders (including depression), bacterial infections, and hysteria. The seed oil is commonly used to scent cosmetics and to flavor foods and drinks.(Arokiyaraj 2015, Duke 1985, Lans 2007) The pharmacologic activity of the A. moschatus plant is not well established.

Antidiabetic activity

Animal data

Myricetin, a compound isolated from A. moschatus,was found to inhibit rat intestinal alpha-glucosidase and porcine alpha-amylase.(Alam 2019)

Antimicrobial activity

In vitro data

Antibacterial assays of ambrette seed oil against gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria support earlier studies by demonstrating an inhibitory effect on Bacillus subtilis, Staphylococcus aureus, and Enterococcus faecalis, with less activity against Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Farnesol acetate and ambrettolide were observed to have sufficient binding energy towards the beta-lactamase TEM-72 and dihydrofolate reductase protein.(Arokiyaraj 2015)

Two of the trypsin inhibitors identified in ambrette seeds have been found to have significant antifungal activity against Candida albicans, Candida tropicalis, Aspergillus flavus, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Candida glabrata, and Aspergillus niger, but not strains of Fusarium, Alternaria, Mucor, or Penicillium.(Dokka 2015)

In a study evaluating various activities of A. moschatus extracts, the plant was found to possess moderate antibacterial activity against bacterial strains studied.(Gul 2011)

Antioxidant activity

In vitro data

In a study evaluating various activities of A. moschatus extracts, the plant was found to possess significant antioxidant activity and could serve as a free radical inhibitor or scavenger.(Gul 2011)

Renal effects

Animal data

The related species Abelmoschus manihot has been shown to limit the development of renal injury in rabbits with immune complex−induced glomerulonephritis.(Yu 1992)

The lyophilized powder of A. moschatus was found to exert nephroprotective effects against adriamycin-induced nephrotoxicity in Wistar rats.(Amarasiri 2020)

In a zinc-induced model of urolithiasis in rats, antiurolithiatic activity was demonstrated with doses of 100 mg/kg, 200 mg/kg, and 400 mg/kg of a methanolic A. moschatus seed extract and 400 mg/kg of a chloroform A. moschatus seed extract.(Pawar 2016)


Clinical evidence is lacking to provide dosing recommendations.

Pregnancy / Lactation

Avoid use. Information is limited. Ambrette has traditionally been used for menstrual pain and unspecified female reproductive complaints.(Lans 2007)

The related species Abelmoschus ficulneus may contain substances that inhibit the development of the fetal sheep brain and that may impair the health of the ewe.(Walker 1992)

Ambrette and related "nitro musks" are highly lipophilic and have been shown to persist in human milk, presumably following absorption through the skin from dermally applied cosmetics.(Zietz 2008)


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.(Gardeazábal 1992, Machet 1992) A case of "consort" dermatitis has been documented, in which a woman had recurring facial dermatitis that resulted from a reaction to her husband's English Leather Cologne and the 2% musk ambrette in alcohol.(Fisher 1995)


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 U.S. Food and Drug Administration.(Duke 1985) However, the seed extracts are classified as generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for use in baked goods, candies, and alcoholic beverages. Ambrettolide is reported to be nontoxic.(FDA 2020, Leung 1996)

The acute and 28-day repeated-dose oral toxic effects of hexane (55 mg/kg), ethyl acetate (75 mg/kg), butanol (60 mg/kg), and aqueous (140 mg/kg) extracts of A. moschatus were evaluated in Wistar rats. No toxic effects were noted in the acute phase arm of the study with any of the extracts. In the 28-day arm of the study, the hexane and aqueous extracts did not exert any toxic effects; however, the butanol and ethyl acetate extracts produced an increase in hemoglobin and red blood cell levels.(Amarasiri 2020)

Index Terms

  • Abelmoschus ficulneus
  • Abelmoschus manihot



This information relates to an herbal, vitamin, mineral or other dietary supplement. This product has not been reviewed by the FDA to determine whether it is safe or effective and is not subject to the quality standards and safety information collection standards that are applicable to most prescription drugs. This information should not be used to decide whether or not to take this product. This information does not endorse this product as safe, effective, or approved for treating any patient or health condition. This is only a brief summary of general information about this product. It does NOT include all information about the possible uses, directions, warnings, precautions, interactions, adverse effects, or risks that may apply to this product. This information is not specific medical advice and does not replace information you receive from your health care provider. You should talk with your health care provider for complete information about the risks and benefits of using this product.

This product may adversely interact with certain health and medical conditions, other prescription and over-the-counter drugs, foods, or other dietary supplements. This product may be unsafe when used before surgery or other medical procedures. It is important to fully inform your doctor about the herbal, vitamins, mineral or any other supplements you are taking before any kind of surgery or medical procedure. With the exception of certain products that are generally recognized as safe in normal quantities, including use of folic acid and prenatal vitamins during pregnancy, this product has not been sufficiently studied to determine whether it is safe to use during pregnancy or nursing or by persons younger than 2 years of age.

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Amarasiri SS, Attanayake AP, Arawwawala LDAM, Jayatilaka KAPW, Mudduwa LKB. Acute and 28-day repeated-dose oral toxicity assessment of Abelmoschus moschatus Medik. in healthy Wistar rats. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2020;1359050. doi:10.1155/2020/135905032655655
Amarasiri SS, Attanayake AP, Arawwawala LDAM, Jayatilaka KAPW, Mudduwa LKB. Protective effects of three selected standardized medicinal plant extracts used in Sri Lankan traditional medicine in adriamycin induced nephrotoxic Wistar rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2020;259:112933. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2020.11293332428654
Arokiyaraj S, Choi SH, Lee Y, et al. Characterization of ambrette seed oil and its mode of action in bacteria. Molecules. 2015;20(1):384-395. doi:10.3390/molecules2001038425551188
Code of Federal Regulations Title 21: Subchapter B: food for human consumption. Updated April 1, 2020. Accessed August 25, 2021.
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Lans C. Ethnomedicines used in Trinidad and Tobago for reproductive problems. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2007;3:13. doi:10.1186/1746-4269-3-1317362507
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Pawar AT, Vyawahare NS. Antiurolithiatic activity of Abelmoschus moschatus seed extracts against zinc disc implantation-induced urolithiasis in rats. J Basic Clin Pharm. 2016;7(2):32-38. doi:10.4103/0976-0105.17770427057124
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Yu JY, Xiong NN. Pathogenic factor (Dampness-heat) of glomerulopathy. Article in Chinese. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 1992;12(8):458-460, 451.1477499
Zietz BP, Hoopmann M, Funcke M, Huppman R, Suchenwirth R, Gierden E. Long-term biomonitoring of polychlorinated biphenyls and organochlorine pesticides in human milk from mothers living in northern Germany. Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2008;211(5-6):624-638. doi:10.1016/j.ijheh.2008.04.00118550430

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