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Musk Okra

Scientific Name(s): Abelmoschus moschatus Medik.
Common Name(s): Ambrette, Gumbo musque, Musk mallow, Musk okra

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Dec 25, 2020.

Clinical Overview


The plant, especially the seeds, has been used traditionally for multiple purposes; however, there is no clinical evidence to support any applications. Animal studies suggest a role for the constituent myricetin in the management of diabetes.


There is no clinical evidence to provide guidance.


Contraindications have not yet been identified.


Avoid use. Documented adverse reactions have occurred with a related species.


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Photosensitivity and dermatitis is possible in sensitive individuals, although case reports of contact dermatitis are lacking. Dizziness and headache have been associated with doses greater than 3 drams (2.25 teaspoons) of musk okra seed.


Research reveals little information regarding the toxicity of A. moschatus.

Scientific Family

  • Malvaceae (mallow)


Musk okra is indigenous to India, southern China, and tropical Asia, and is cultivated throughout the tropics. The evergreen shrub grows to about 1 m and has yellow flowers with crimson or purple centers. The fruit is a green-brown capsule containing many kidney-shaped seeds. The plant is cultivated for these seeds, which have a characteristic musky odor, and are the source of ambrette, an aromatic oil used in perfumery.Leung 2003, Molfetta 2013, USDA 2014 A synonym for musk okra is Hibiscus abelmoschus L.


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. The tender leaves and shoots are eaten as vegetables and used in soups, and the plant is often grown ornamentally.

Decoctions of musk okra have been traditionally used to treat stomach cancer. Extracts of the plant have been used to treat such diverse ailments as hysteria, gonorrhea, and respiratory disorders; they have also been used for antispasmodic, cardiotonic, and aphrodisiac effects.Duke 2003, Gul 2011, Leung 2003, Molfetta 2013


Distillation of the plant yields farnesol and furfural. The volatile seed oil is high in fatty acids, including palmitic, oleic, and myristic acids. Together with tetra-decen-14-olide, the ketone ambrettolide, a lactone of ambrettolic acid, is the main constituent of musk okra seed oil. Ambrettolide is responsible for the plant's characteristic musky odor. A variety of other related compounds, including myricetin, have been identified in smaller quantities. Analytical methods have been described.Cavalheiro 2013, Du 2008, Jarret 2011, Leung 2003, Liu 2005, Molfetta 2013

Uses and Pharmacology


Weak activity against bacterial pathogens, varying according to extraction method, has been demonstrated. Musk okra also exhibits moderate activity against Candida albicans,Gul 2011 and activity against Trichosporon species has been shown in vitro.Uniyal 2013


The radical-scavenging and antioxidant activity of farnesol and total antioxidant content have been demonstrated in mice and by chemical assay.Gul 2011, Jahangir 2005


Antiproliferative activity against colorectal and retinoblastoma cell lines has been demonstrated for musk okra extracts.Gul 2011 Anticlastogenic properties have also been described for farnesol extracted from the seeds.Jahangir 2005


Animal data

A limited number of researchers have evaluated the potential application of the hexahydroxyflavone myricetin in diabetes. Improved glucose metabolism and decreased insulin resistance in rats have been demonstrated in a dose-dependent manner. The magnitude of these results are similar to that rosiglitazone.Liu 2005, Liu 2006, Liu 2010

Clinical data

There are no clinical data regarding the use of A. moschatus in diabetes.


There is no clinical evidence to support dosage. Tinctures of powdered musk okra seeds in ethanol have been used.Duke 2003

Pregnancy / Lactation

Avoid use. Documented adverse reactions have occurred with benzene extractives from the flowers of the related species Hibiscus rosa-sinensis.Lans 2007 A. moschatus is used as a traditional medicine for infertility and childbirth in the Caribbean.Zietz 2008 Musk xylene has been found in breast milk.Pal 1985


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Musk okra ambrette and musk okra ketone, both found in cosmetics and aftershave lotions, have been shown to cause photosensitivity and dermatitis in sensitive individuals, although case reports of contact dermatitis are lacking.Chuah 2013 Dizziness and headache have been associated with doses greater than 3 drams (2.25 teaspoons) of musk okra seed.Duke 2003


Information regarding the toxicity of A. moschatus is limited. Ambrettolide is reported to be nontoxic.Leung 2003

Index Terms

  • Hibiscus abelmoschus L.


Abelmoschus moschatus Medik. USDA, NRCS. 2006. The PLANTS Database. (, 7 February 2014). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA. Accessed May 15, 2014.
Cavalheiro J, Prieto A, Monperrus M, Etxebarria N, Zuloaga O. Determination of polycyclic and nitro musks in environmental water samples by means of microextraction by packed sorbents coupled to large volume injection-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry analysis. Anal Chim Acta. 2013;773:68-75.23561908
Chuah SY, Leow YH, Goon AT, Theng CT, Chong WS. Photopatch testing in Asians: a 5-year experience in Singapore. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed. 2013;29(3):116-120.23651271
Du Z, Clery RA, Hammond CJ. Volatile organic nitrogen-containing constituents in ambrette seed Abelmoschus moschatus Medik (Malvaceae). J Agric Food Chem. 2008;56(16):7388-7392.18656937
Duke JA. Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. 2nd Edition. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2003.
Gul MZ, Bhakshu LM, Ahmad F, Kondapi AK, Qureshi IA, Ghazi IA. Evaluation of Abelmoschus moschatus extracts for antioxidant, free radical scavenging, antimicrobial and antiproliferative activities using in vitro assays. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2011;11:64.21849051
Jahangir T, Khan TH, Prasad L, Sultana S. Alleviation of free radical mediated oxidative and genotoxic effects of cadmium by farnesol in Swiss albino mice. Redox Rep. 2005;10(6):303-310.16438802
Jarret RL, Wang ML, Levy IJ. Seed oil and fatty acid content in okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) and related species. J Agric Food Chem. 2011;59(8):4019-4024.21413797
Lans C. Ethnomedicines used in Trinidad and Tobago for reproductive problems. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2007;3:13.17362507
Leung AY, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics. 2nd ed. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Interscience; 2003.
Liu IM, Liou SS, Cheng JT. Mediation of beta-endorphin by myricetin to lower plasma glucose in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2006;104(1-2):199-206.16203117
Liu IM, Liou SS, Lan TW, Hsu FL, Cheng JT. Myricetin as the active principle of Abelmoschus moschatus to lower plasma glucose in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. Planta Med. 2005;71(7):617-621.16041646
Liu IM, Tzeng TF, Liou SS. Abelmoschus moschatus (Malvaceae), an aromatic plant, suitable for medical or food uses to improve insulin sensitivity. Phytother Res. 2010;24(2):233-239.19610024
Molfetta I, Ceccarini L, Macchia M, Flamini G, Cioni PL. Abelmoschus esculentus (L.) Moench. and Abelmoschus moschatus Medik: seeds production and analysis of the volatile compounds. Food Chem. 2013;141(1):34-40.23768323
Pal AK, Bhattacharya K, Kabir SN, Pakrashi A. Flowers of Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, a potential source of contragestative agent: II. Possible mode of action with reference to anti-implantation effect of the benzene extract. Contraception. 1985;32(5):517-529.4085250
Uniyal V, Saxena S, Bhatt RP. Screening of some essential oils against Trichosporon species. J Environ Biol. 2013;34(1):17-22.24006802
Zietz BP, Hoopmann M, Funcke M, Huppmann 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):624-638.18550430

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