Ambrette Seed (Abelmoschus moschatus)

Ambrette Seed is also known as Musk Ambrette, and is derived from the seeds of the musk mallow plant. It is a relative of hibiscus sometimes known as Hibiscus abelmoschus and is indigenous to India.The genus Abelmoschus has six species distributed in the South and South East Asia and in North Australia.

Botanical Description

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. Ambrette seed oil has been used in Chinese medicine for treatment of headaches, and the seeds have been used in Egypt for breath fresheners. The oil is used in high-grade perfumery. The main constituent is a sesquiterpene alcohol, fornesol. The seeds are valued medicinally for their diuretic, demulcent and stomachic properties.

Musk Mallow is a soft, herbaceous trailing plant to 2 m in length, with soft hairy stems. It has an underground tuber and dies back to this tuber in the dry season, emerging again with the first substantial rains of the wet season. Leaves are extremely variable in shape and size, in outline mostly circular to transversally elliptic, at base usually heart-shaped, angular, or 3-7-palmately lobed. Upper leaves are usually narrower and often arrow-shaped, coarsely toothed, rarely entire, at base 5-9-nerved. Flowers occur singly in leaf axils. Sepal cup is velvety outside. Petals are obovate, rounded at the tip, fleshy at the base and fringed by simple hairs. Stamen column is mostly yellow, at base dark purple, hairless. It is a relative of the edible okra and tubers and foliage formed a source of food for aborigines.

Uses

The flowers are used for making zarda, an indigenous flavoured tobacco. The yellow portion of the petals found in plants growing in Muvattupuzha (Kerala) have flavonoids, myricetin and cannabiscitrin. The seeds are used as sachet powders as an insect-repellent.

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.

Cultivation

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. 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 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.



Note: Market Price for Herbs and Essential Oils is volatile and the economics may vary.