Ambrette is a bristly plant of the mallow family that is said to be native to India. Its scientific name is Abelmoschus moschatus and its other common names include musk mallow and musk okra. The seeds of Ambrette have a flowery, sweet, heavy fragrance that resembles that of musk. The flowers are yellow and hibiscus-like. The seedpods or angular fruits are hairy and the leaves are lobed.
In India, Ambrette grows wild around the mountainous areas of Karnataka and the Deccan regions. It can also be found all over the foothills of the Himalayas and is cultivated in other tropical areas. It is propagated by planting semi-ripe cuttings during summer, or seeds during spring.
Ambrette needs rich, well-drained soil and must be located in a sunny area. For maximum growth young plants must have their growing tips pinched back. In the spring they must be cut back to six inches if grown in a pot.
The pods and foliage are harvested when tender and young; the roots and bark when needed to extract mucilage and fiber; the flowers when they open (usually used fresh); the fruits when they start to ripen (dried until they shed their seeds). The seeds are normally stored separately so that the strong mush will not permeate other surfaces or items.
Throughout history, several parts of the Ambrette plant have been used, such as the leaves, flowers, seeds, pods, bark, roots, and oil. The most notable use is of the seed oil, which is considered valuable because of its fragrant smell and medicinal uses.
- Powerful adrenal stimulant
- Balances hormones
- Helps in detoxifying the body from any kind of drug
- Treatment for depression and anxiety
- Treatment for hysteria
- Treatment for stomach cancer
- Treatment for gonorrhea
- Treatment for respiratory disorders
Stimulating and relaxing powers are attributed to the seeds of Ambrette, which is why the herb is known as both a stimulant and relaxant for mild, nervous behavior. The seeds are also used to relieve dryness of the throat and hoarseness. Emulsion from the seeds of the plant is also used as an anti-spasmodic. The seeds are commonly made into an emulsion with milk to relieve itching. Because of the musk-like aroma of their oil, the seeds are also used as an aphrodisiac.
The seed oil of Ambrette is considered to be an adrenal gland stimulator and can relax spasms, particularly in the digestive tract. It has been used externally for aching joints, cramps, and poor circulation.
Ambrette is also used to treat nervousness, depression, anxiety, and conditions caused by stress. The seed oil can be inhaled through diffusion, used topically in massage, steam baths, and compression. It can relieve headaches or mental fatigue, and nausea caused by motion or morning sickness.
In India, the seeds and roots are known to be valuable traditional medicines. In Egypt, the seeds are used as a breath freshener and to treat digestive difficulty. In the Philippines, the leaves and roots of the plant are used as a soothing treatment for rheumatism, gonorrhea, and other venereal diseases. In traditional Vietnamese medicine, Ambrette is used as a diuretic and anti-venom. In Indonesia, the powdered seeds provide a powerful treatment for prickly heat.
The new shoots, unripe seedpods, and tender leaves are cooked and eaten as vegetables. The seedpods are also pickled, as well as used in soups. In some Arab countries the mature seeds of the plant are added to coffee. It is expensive to produce the distilled oil, yet it is still used to flavor soft drinks, candy, and baked goods, though some only do it in small amounts. The dried seeds of the plant, or the essences of the seeds, are also used to flavor alcoholic beverages. In the East, many use it as a spice.
The seed oil of the Ambrette plant is commonly used in cosmetics and perfumery. The root mucilage is also used to provide sizing for paper. The flowers and seeds are sometimes used to flavor tobacco. Ambrette is also often grown as an ornament. In Africa and Asia, the seeds are worn as jewelry, and crushed seeds are rubbed all over the body and hair as an insect repellant or perfume. The seeds can also be used as a fixative for potpourri and can be burned as incense or used to make incense sticks. The bark of the plant is processed into fiber.