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Muskdana or Ambrette (Abelmoschus moschatus): Aromatic and Medicinal

Pankaj Oudhia
Society for Parthenium Management (SOPAM)
28-A, Geeta Nagar, Raipur - 492001 India

Copyright © 2001. All Rights Reserved. Quotation from this document should cite and acknowledge the contributor.

Abelmoschus moschatus (L.) Medic, Malvaceae (Syn. Hibiscus abelmoschus L.) is a tropical weedy shrub native to India valued for its scented seed. Ambrette is a close relative to Okra, a popular horticultural crop. The genus Abelmoschus has six species distributed in the South and South East Asia and in North Australia. Abelmoschus moschatus Medic., A. manihot (L.) Medic., and A. esculentus (L.) Moench, contain wild and cultivated forms, and A. ficulneus, A. crinitus, and A. angulosus, are only wild. Abelmoschus manihot, A. moschatus and A. esculentus are compared in Table 1. In Hindi, it is popularly known as mushkdana, kasturi bhendi (kasturi = musk; bhendi = lady’s finger). In other Indian languages it is known as gukhia korai (Assamese), kasturi bhenda (Telgu), kattukasturi (Malylam), varttilai kasturi (Tamil), lalkasturika (Sanskrit) (Krishnamurty 1993). The area under ambrette is presently low in India but is increasing rapidly (Oudhia and Tripathi 2000) with seed exports to France, Germany, Japan, Singapore, Spain for its use as an aromatic oil. Indian drug manufacturers are introducing new herbal drugs containing ambrette for medicinal use.

Table 1. Comparison of A. esculentus, A. manihot and A. moschatus.


A. esculentus

A. manihot

A. moschatus

English name

Okra, Gumbo



Place of origin

Old world tropics

East Asia


Life cycle


Annual or perennial

Annual or biennial


Large often 12 inch or more across; cordate-ovate.

Leaves large ovate to nearly orbicular in outline 6-12 inch or more. Manihot probably suggests the resemblance of leaves to those of cassava or manihot

With variously 3-9 lobed or divided. Margins coarsely toothed

Floral characteristics

Calyx large and spathe-like; bracts of involucre linear; pod 4-5 inch or more long.

Calyx large and spathe-like; bracts ovate to oblong.

Calyx large and spathe-like; Bracts of involucre linear; pod 3 inch or less long.

Flower colour

Yellow with a reddish center

Yellow or whitish with a dark brown center.

Yellow with a crimson center.


Erect hispid herbs or undershrubs, 0.5-2.5 meters high, with a long slender tap root. Leave extremely variable, lower suborbicular in outline, cordate, lower or palmately 3-7 lobed, upper narrower, hastate or sagittate at the base with linear-oblong or triangular lobes. Flowers regular, bisexual, involucral bracts 8-12, hairy yellow with purple centre. Fruits capsule fulvous hairy, oblong lanceolate, acute. Seeds subreniform and blackish (Verma et al. 1993; Agharkar 1991; Lindley 1985).


Ambrette oil obtained from seeds possess an odor similar to that of musk and its aromatic constitents have long been used in perfumery industry. Different grades of essential, or aromatic absolute, are marked in Europe as high-grade perfumes (Singh et al. 1996 ) The seeds are valued for the volatile oil present in the seed coat. Seed analysis report 11.1% moisture, 31.5% crude fiber; 14.5% lipids, 13.4% starch, 2.3% protein, volatile oil (0.2-0.6% ) and ca/ 5% resin (Srivastava 1995).

Analysis of volatiles report myricetin-3-glucoside and a glycoside of cyanidin in flowers, an aromatic constituent in seeds, beta-sitosteral and its beta-D-glucoside, myricetin and its glucoside in leaves and petals and beta-sitosterol from dry fruit husk (Rastogi and Mehrotra 1991a,b).

In India, roots, leaves (rarely), and seeds of ambrette are considered valuable traditional medicines. The bitter, sweet, acrid, aromatic seeds are used as a tonic and are considered "cooling, aphrodisiac, opthalmic, cardiotonic, digestive, stomachic, constipating, carminative, pectoral, diuretic, stimulant, antispasmodic, deodorant, and effective against "kapha" and "vata," intestinal complaints, stomatitis; and diseases of the heart, allays thirst and checks vomiting. According to Unani system of medicine seeds allay thirst, cure stomatitis, dyspepsia, urinary discharge, gonorrhea, leucoderma and itch. Roots and leaves are cures for gonorrhea (Agharkar 1991). Even use against venomous reptiles has been reported (Lindley 1985).


Ambrette is cultivated as pre-kharif crop in India. It is usually sown in March–April but as late as the first week of July in Central India (Oudhia 2001a). Seed rates of 41g/kg are optimum (Oudhia 2000b). Application of dried Neem leaves (500Kg/ha) at last ploughing increased oil content and quality. April sown crop start flowering in September; fruits ripen from November to January and are harvested when fully mature. Applications of fertilizers improves growth of plant and seed yields (Krishnamurty 1993) but studies conducted by SOPAM indicate the use of chemical inputs resulted in negative impact on oil content and quality. Harvested capsules are sun dried and seeds dehisce when the capsules burst. The oil for perfumery is extracted by steam distillation of crushed seeds.


Agharkar, S.P. 1991. Medicinal plants of Bombay presidency. Scientific Publ. Jodhpur, India. First reprint p. 1-2

Krishanamurty, T. 1993. Minor forest products of India. Oxford and IBH Publishing Co. Pvt. Ltd. New Delhi.

Lindley, J. 1985. Flora medica.. Ajay Book Service, New Delhi.

Oudhia, P. 2001a. My experiences with world’s top ten Indian medicinal plants: Glimpses of research at farmer’s field in Chhattisgarh (India). In: Abstract. Workshop cum Seminar on Sustainable Agriculture for 21st Century, IGAU, Raipur, India, 20-21 Jan.

Oudhia, P. and R.S. Tripathi. 2001. The possibilities of commercial cultivation of rare medicinal plant’s in Chhattisgarh (India) In : Abstract. VII National Science Conference, Directorate of Cropping System Research, Meerut, India, 12-14 April .

Rastogi, R.P. and B.N. Mehrotra. 1991a. Compendium of Indian Medicinal Plants. Vol. I (1960-1969). Central Drug Research Institute, Lucknow and Publications and Information Directorate, New Delhi.

Rastogi, R.P. and B.N. Mehrotra. 1991. Compendium of Indian Medicinal Plants. Vol. II. (1970-1979). Central Drug Research Institute, Luckhnow and Publ. and Information Directorate, New Delhi.

Singh, U., A.M. Wadhwani, and B.M. Johri. 1996. Dictionary of economic plants in India. Indian Council of Agricultural Research, New Delhi.

Srivastava, U.C. 1995. Ambrette seed. p. 887-897. In: K.L. Chadha and Rajendra Gupta (eds.), Advances in Horticulture Vol. 11-Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (1995). Malhotra Publ. House, New Delhi.

Verma, D.M., R.R. Balakrishnan, and R.D. Dixit. 1993. Flora of Madhya Pradesh. Botanical Survey f India, Lucknow, India p. 90–191.

Warrier, P.K., V.P.K. Nambiar, and C. Ramankutty. 1996. Indian medicinal plants. Orient Longman, Chennai, India p. 4-6.

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