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Scientific Name(s): Abelmoschus moschatus L. (Medik.)
Common Name(s): Ambrette, Musk ambrette, Musk mallow, Musk okra, Muskdana
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.
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.
- 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.
Myricetin, a compound isolated from A. moschatus,was found to inhibit rat intestinal alpha-glucosidase and porcine alpha-amylase.(Alam 2019)
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)
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)
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.
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)
- Abelmoschus ficulneus
- Abelmoschus manihot
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