Plectranthus amboinicus

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Plectranthus amboinicus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Lamiales
Family: Lamiaceae
Genus: Plectranthus
Species: P. amboinicus
Binomial name
Plectranthus amboinicus
(Lour.) Spreng.

Syst. veg. 2:690. 1825


Coleus amboinicus Lour.
Coleus aromaticus Benth.

Plectranthus amboinicus, once identified as Coleus amboinicus, is a tender fleshy perennial plant in the family Lamiaceae with an oregano-like flavor and odor, native to Southern and Eastern Africa, from South Africa (KwaZulu-Natal) and Swaziland to Angola and Mozambique and north to Kenya and Tanzania.[1] It is widely cultivated and naturalised elsewhere in the Old and New World tropics. It is grown and used as a medicinal herb in South India. Kashayam made from its leaves are given to children and adults to alleviate cold and cough.


Plectranthus amboinicus is a large succulent herb, fleshy and highly aromatic, much branched, possessing short soft erect hairs, with distinctive smelling leaves.[2] The stem is fleshy, about 30–90 cm, either with long rigid hairs (hispidly villous) or tomentose (densely covered with soft, short and erect hairs, pubescent). Leaves are undivided (simple), broad, egg/oval-shaped with a tapering tip (ovate) and very thick, they are pubescent (thickly studded with hairs), with the lower surface possessing the most numerous glandular hairs, giving a frosted appearance. The taste of this leaf is pleasantly aromatic with agreeable and refreshing odour. Flowers are on a short stem (shortly pedicelled), pale purplish in dense whorls at distant intervals in a long slender raceme.


The leaves are strongly flavoured and make an excellent addition to stuffings for meat and poultry. Finely chopped, they can also be used to flavour meat dishes, especially beef, lamb and game. Such use as a flavouring and its geographic spread is indicated by some of the common names, and documented for Cambodia[3] and South Africa[1] It is also used as a vegetable, for example in South East Asia.[1] The herb is used as a substitute for oregano in the food trade and food labelled "oregano-flavour" may well contain this herb.

The leaves have also had many traditional medicinal uses, especially for the treatment of coughs, sore throats and nasal congestion, but also for a range of other problems such as infections, rheumatism and flatulence. The plant is cultivated in home-gardens throughout India for use in traditional medicine, being used to treat malarial fever, hepatopathy, renal and vesical calculi, cough, chronic asthma, hiccup, bronchitis, helminthiasis, colic, convulsions, and epilepsy,[2] Shenoy and others[4] refer to further Indian traditional medicinal uses such as for skin ulcerations, scorpion bite, skin allergy, wounds, diarrhoea, with emphasis on the leaves being used as a hepatoprotective, to promote liver health. In Indonesia Plectranthus amboinicus is a traditional food used in soup to stimulate lactation for the month or so following childbirth. In Cambodia[3] 2 uses are recorded: juice from the leaves is sweetened and then given to children as protection from colds; and leaves are applied to the lips. In Bahia, Brasil, people use the plant to treat skin lesions caused by Leishmania braziliensis.[5] Just to the north, in Paraiba of the same country, the plant was extremely commonly known for use in home medication.[6] As noted above, medicinal use also occurs in Southern India, it also documented[1] in other parts of South East Asia and South Africa.

Other uses[1] include as an ornamental, and for its essential oils.


Indian borage is very commonly grown as a potted plant; it is a fast-growing plant. Propagation is by stem cuttings. It can also be grown from seeds.

The herb grows easily in a well-drained, semi-shaded position. It is frost tender (USDA hardiness zones 10-11) [7] and grows well in subtropical and tropical locations, but will do well in cooler climates if grown in a pot and brought indoors, or moved to a warm, sheltered position in winter. The plant should be watered only sparingly.

Common names[edit]

  • Country borage (India,[2] South Africa,[1] US[8])
  • French thyme (South Africa,[1] US[8])
  • Omavalli/Karpooravalli (India, Tamil Nadu, Tamil Name)
  • Indian borage (India[2])
  • Indian mint (South Africa,[1] US[8])
  • Mexican mint (US,[8] favored common name[9])
  • Soup mint (South Africa,[1] US[8])
  • Spanish thyme (US[8])
  • Big thyme (St. Vincent, Grenada, and other English-speaking Caribbean Islands)
  • Thick leaf thyme or broad leaf thyme (Guyana)
  • Poor man pork or broad leaf thyme (Barbados)
  • Broadleaf thyme,[9] Cuban oregano;[9] Mexican thyme, queen of herbs, three-in-one herb, allherb, mother of herbs
  • Pudina and/or Spanish Thyme (Trinidad & Tobago)
  • Orégano brujo (Puerto Rico)
  • Dodda Pathre (India, Karnataka, Kannada Name)
  • Sykkilo (karhada language)



Some published literature on the plant includes:[1][9]

  • African Flowering Plants Database - Base de Donnees des Plantes a Fleurs D'Afrique (AFPD), 2008
  • Aldén, B., S. Ryman & M. Hjertson, 2009, Våra kulturväxters namn - ursprung och användning, Formas, Stockholm (Handbook on Swedish cultivated and utility plants, their names and origin)
  • Balick, M. J., M. Nee & D. E. Atha, 2000, 'Checklist of the vascular plants of Belize, Mem. New York Bot. Gard. 85: i–ix, 1–246
  • Brako, L., A.Y. Rossman & D.F. Farr, 1995, Scientific and Common Names of 7,000 Vascular Plants in the United States
  • CONABIO, 2009, Catálogo taxonómico de especies de México, 1. in Ca. nat. México. CONABIO, Mexico City
  • Davidse, G., M. Sousa Sánchez, S. Knapp & F. Chiang Cabrera, ed, 2012, 'Rubiaceae a Verbenaceae', Fl. Mesoamer. 4(2): in publication
  • Dyer, R. A., et al., eds, 1963–', Flora of southern Africa
  • Erhardt, W., et al., 2008, Der große Zander: Enzyklopädie der Pflanzennamen
  • Gibbs Russell, G. E., W. G. Welman, E. Reitief, K. L. Immelman, G. Germishuizen, B. J. Pienaar, M. v. Wyk & A. Nicholas, 1987, 'List of species of southern African plants', Mem. Bot. Surv. S. Africa, 2(1–2): 1–152(pt. 1), 1–270(pt. 2)
  • Hanelt, P., ed, 2001, Mansfeld's encyclopedia of agricultural and horticultural crops, Volumes 1-6
  • Hedge, I. C., R. A. Clement, A. J. Paton & P. B. Phillipson, 1998, 'Labiatae', Fl. Madagasc, 175: 1–293
  • Hokche, O., P. E. Berry & O. Huber, 2008, Nuev. Cat. Fl. Vas. Venezuela 1–860. Fundación Instituto Botánico de Venezuela, Caracas, Venezuela
  • Huxley, A., ed, 1992, The new Royal Horticultural Society dictionary of gardening
  • Markle, G. M., et al., eds, 1998, Food and feed crops of the United States, 2nd Ed.
  • McGuffin, M., J. T. Kartesz, A. Y. Leung, & A. O. Tucker, 2000, Herbs of commerce, 2nd Ed.
  • Molina Rosito, A., 1975, Enumeración de las plantas de Honduras, Ceiba 19(1): 1–118
  • Orrell, T., Custodian, 2012, ITIS Regional: The Integrated Taxonomic Information System (version Apr 2011), in: F. Bisby et al., ed,Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life, 25 June 2012, digital resource at species 2000, Reading, England
  • Padua, L. S. de, et al., eds, 1999, 'Medicinal and poisonous plants 1', in I. Faridah Hanum & L. J. G. van der Maesen, eds, Plant Resources of South-East Asia (PROSEA), 12(1):407
  • The PLANTS Database, 2000
  • Porcher, M. H., et al., Searchable World Wide Web Multilingual Multiscript Plant Name Database (MMPND)
  • Rehm, S., 1994, Multilingual dictionary of agronomic plants
  • Suddee, S., et al., 2004, 'A taxonomic revision of tribe Ocimeae Dumort. (Lamiaceae) in continental South East Asia II. Plectranthinae', Kew Bull. 59:391–393.
  • Turrill, W. B., et al., eds, 1952–, Flora of Tropical East Africa


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j United States Department of Agriculture Germplasm Resources Information Network: Plectranthus amboinicus,, accessed 21 August 2012
  2. ^ a b c d KALIAPPAN, Nirmala Devi, & Periyanayagam Kasi VISWANATHAN, 2008, 'Pharmacognostical studies on the leaves of Plectranthus amboinicus (Lour) Spreng', International Journal of Green Pharmacy, 2(3): 182-4,;year=2008;volume=2;issue=3;spage=182;epage=184;aulast=Kaliappan
  3. ^ a b DY PHON, Pauline, 2000, Plants Used In Cambodia, printed by Imprimerie Olympic, Phnom Penh
  4. ^ SHENOY, Smita, et al., 2012, 'Hepatoprotective activity of Plectranthus amboinicus against paracetamol hepatotoxicity in rats', International Journal of Pharmacology and Clinical Sciences, 1(2): 32-8,
  5. ^ FRANCA, F., et al., 'Plants used in the treatment of leishmanial ulcers due to Leishmania (Vannia) braziliensis in an endemic area of Bahia, Brazil', Revista da Sociedade Brasileira de Medicina Tropical, 29(3): 229-32
  6. ^ SOARES SOUSA, Luci Cleide Farias, et al., 2011, 'Ethnobotany knowledge of public school students in the city of Pombal-PB', Revista Verde, 6(3): 139-45,
  7. ^ Fine Gardening: Plectranthus amboinicus
  8. ^ a b c d e f Tropicos,, accessed 21 August 2012
  9. ^ a b c d Encyclopedia of Life,, accessed 21 August 2012


Coleus aromaticus [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]