Plectranthus amboinicus

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Plectranthus amboinicus
Leaf -pani koorkka.JPG
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 semi-succulent perennial plant in the family Lamiaceae with a pungent oregano-like flavor and odor. It is native to Southern and Eastern Africa. It is widely cultivated and naturalized elsewhere in the tropics, where it is used as a medicine, spice and ornamental.


Plectranthus amboinicus is an up to 1 meter tall, much branched, highly aromatic, semi-succulent herb. The stem is fleshy, about 30–90 cm, either with long rigid hairs (hispidly villous) or densely covered with soft, short and erect hairs (tomentose). Old stems are smooth (glabrescent). Leaves are 5-7 by 4–6 cm, fleshy, undivided (simple), broad, egg/oval-shaped with a tapering tip (ovate). The margins are coarsely crenate to dentate-crenate except in the base. They are thickly studded with hairs (pubescent), with the lower surface possessing the most numerous glandular hairs, giving a frosted appearance. The petiole is 2-4.5 cm. Flowers are on a short stem (shortly pedicelled), pale purplish in dense, 10-20 (or more) flowered dense whorls (cymes) at distant intervals in a long slender spike-like raceme. Rachis 10–20 cm, fleshy and pubescent. The bracts are broadly ovate, 3–4 cm long, acute. The calyx is campanulate, 2–4 mm long, hirsute and glandular, subequally 5-toothed, upper tooth broadly ovate-oblong, obtuse, abruptly acute, lateral and lower teeth acute. Corolla blue, curved and declinate, 8–12 mm long, tube 3–4 mm long. Trumpet-like widened; limb 2-lipped, upper lip short, erect, puberulent, lower lip long, concave. Filaments are fused below into a tube around the style. The seeds (nutlets) are smooth, pale-brown, roundish flattened, c. 0.7 by 0.5 mm.[1]

The aroma of the leaves can be described as a pungent combination of the aromas of oregano, thyme and turpentine.[2] The taste of the leaves is described as being similar to the one of oregano but with a sharp mintlike pepperiness.[3]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

It is native to Southern and Eastern Africa, from South Africa (KwaZulu-Natal) and Swaziland to Angola and Mozambique and north to Kenya and Tanzania, where it grows in woodland or coastal bush, on rocky slopes and loamy or sandy flats at low elevations.[4][5][6] From Southern Africa it would have been carried by Arabs and other traders to Arabia, India and Southeast Asia along the Indian Ocean maritime trade routes. The plant was later brought to Europe, and then from Spain to the Americas, whence the name Spanish Thyme.[7][4]

Medicinal uses[edit]

Plectranthus amboinicus is attributed to have antiseptic, antimicrobial, appetizing, digestive, carminative, stomachic, anthelmintic, binding, deodorant, diuretic and tonic properties.[8] It is commonly used in respiratory tract disorders as a bronchodilator, antitussive, and expectorant.[9] The antiseptic and antimicrobial properties of the plant have been attributed to the presence of compounds such as carvacrol, thymol, flavones, phenols, tannins and aromatic acids.[10] The leaves are traditionally used 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,[11] Shenoy and others[12] 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.[13] In Cambodia[14] two 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.[15] Just to the north, in Paraiba of the same country, the plant is commonly used in home medication.[16]

Culinary uses[edit]

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[14] and South Africa[6] It is also used as a vegetable, for example in South East Asia.[6] The herb is used as a substitute for oregano, and is used to mask the strong odors and flavors of fish, mutton and goat.[7] In the food trade, food labelled "oregano-flavour" may well contain this herb.[17]

Other uses[edit]

Essential is a mosquito and insect repellent.[18] Crushed leaves are rubbed on the skin as an mosquito and insect repellent, and fresh leaves are used to scent laundry and hair.[19] It is also grown as an ornamental plant. Especially the variegated cultivar is used for this purpose.[20]

Variegated Cuban Oregano (Plectranthus amboinicus 'Variegatus')

Phytochemical Constituents[edit]

The main chemical compounds found in the essential oil of Plectranthus amboinicus according to one analysis are carvacrol (28.65%), thymol (21.66%), α-humulene (9.67%), undecanal (8.29%), γ-terpinene (7.76%), ρ-cymene (6.46%), caryophyllene oxide (5.85%), α-terpineol (3.28%) and β-selinene (2.01%).[21] Another analysis obtained thymol (41.3%), carvacrol (13.25%), 1,8-cineole (5.45%), eugenol (4.40%), caryophyllene (4.20%), terpinolene (3.75%), α-pinene (3.20%), β-pinene (2.50%), methyl eugenol (2.10%), and β-phellandrene (1.90%). Other studies showed carvacrol as the main constituent of P. amboinicus oil, and at even higher concentrations than in the first analysis shown above. The variations can be attributed to the methodology used in the extraction process, seasonal variations, soil type, climate, genetic and geographical variations of the plant.[9]

Scientific studies[edit]

An overview of the results of various pharmacological and medical studies on the plant was published in 2010 by Roshan P. et al as “Plectranthus Amboinicus (Lour) Spreng: An Overview”.[8] Since then other studies have been published.[22]


Plectranthus amboinicus is a fast-growing plant commonly grown in gardens and indoor in pots. Propagation is by stem cuttings, but it can also be grown from seeds. In dry climates the herb grows easily in a well-drained, semi-shaded position. It is frost tender (USDA hardiness zones 10-11) [23] 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. In Hawaii and other humid tropical locations, the plant is not to be grown in the shade or part shade, where it will become straggly and unattractive, but rather in the full sun.[2]

Common English names[edit]

  • Cuban oregano [24]
  • Country borage (India,[11] South Africa,[6] US[25])
  • French thyme (South Africa,[6] US[25])
  • Indian borage (India[11])
  • Indian mint (South Africa,[6] US[25])
  • Mexican mint (US,[25] favored common name[26])
  • Soup mint (South Africa,[6] US[25])
  • Spanish thyme (US[25])[24]
  • 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,[26] Cuban oregano;[26] Mexican thyme, queen of herbs, three-in-one herb, allherb, mother of herbs

Names in other languages[edit]

  • Sanskrit: Karpuravalli (कर्पूरवल्ली), Sugandhavalakam
  • Hindi: Patharchur (पत्थरचूर), Patta ajwain (पत्ता अजवाइन)
  • Marathi: Pathurchur (पत्थरचूर)
  • Malayalam: Panikkurkka, Kannikkurkka
  • Telugu: Sugandhavalkam (కర్పూరవల్లీ), Karpooravalli, karuvaeru, vamu aaku
  • Kannada: Karpurahalli, Dodda pathre, Dodda pathre soppu, Karpooravalli
  • Tamil: Omavalli, Karpuravalli (கர்பூரவல்லீ), Muttainari[27]
  • Sinhala: Kapparawalliya.[28]
  • Karhada language: Sykkilo
  • Chinese: Dàoshǒuxiāng/到手香 or zuǒshǒuxiāng/左手香 (Taiwan[29])
  • Trinidad & Tobago Pudina
  • Puerto Rico: Orégano brujo
  • Indonesia at North Sumatera province (tobanese) : Bangun-bangun / Torbangun



Some published literature on the plant includes:[6][26]

  • 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. ^ Flora Malesiana, Vol. 8, by Steenis, C. G. G. J. van (Cornelis Gijsbert Gerrit Jan); Steenis-Kruseman, M. J. van; Indonesia. Departemen Pertanian; Lembaga Ilmu Pengetahuan Indonesia; Kebun Raya Indonesia, Publication date 1950, p. 387. Available on
  2. ^ a b Culinary herbs, by Ernest Small, National Research Council of Canada NRC Research Press, 1997, p. 488.
  3. ^ Florida's Best Herbs and Spices: Native and Exotic Plants Grown for Scent and Flavor, by Charles R. Boning, Pineapple Press Inc, 2010 p. 75.
  4. ^ a b Codd, L. E. W. et al. Flora of Southern Africa : the Republic of South Africa, Basutoland, Swaziland and South West Africa. Vol. 28, part 4, 1981, page 148. Available on Biodiversity Heritage Library at
  5. ^ Flora Malesiana, Vol. 8, by Steenis, C. G. G. J. van (Cornelis Gijsbert Gerrit Jan); Steenis-Kruseman, M. J. van; Indonesia. Departemen Pertanian; Lembaga Ilmu Pengetahuan Indonesia; Kebun Raya Indonesia, Publication date 1950, p. 387. Available on
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h United States Department of Agriculture Germplasm Resources Information Network: Plectranthus amboinicus,, accessed 21 August 2012
  7. ^ a b Ethnic Culinary Herbs: A Guide to Identification and Cultivation in Hawaii, by George Staples, Michael S. Kristiansen, 1999, p. 88. Available at
  8. ^ a b “Plectranthus Amboinicus (Lour) Spreng: An Overview” Roshan P., Naveen M., Manjul PS, Gulzar A., Anita S., Sudarshan S The Pharma Research (T. Ph. Res.), (2010), 4; 01-15. ISSN 0975-8216. Accessed on, on 7.10.2017.
  9. ^ a b Technological Evaluation of Emulsions Containing theVolatile Oil from Leaves of P. amboinicus, PABLO QUEIROZ LOPES, et al., 2017. Accessed on on 7.12.2017.
  10. ^ Medicinal Plants of the Guianas (Guyana, Surinam, French Guiana) by Robert A. DeFilipps, Shirley L. Maina and Juliette Crepin, 2004, p. 150.
  11. ^ a b c 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
  12. ^ 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,
  13. ^ R Damanik; et al. "Consumption of bangun-bangun leaves ( Coleus amboinicus Lour) to increase breast milk production among Batakneese women in North Sumatra Island, Indonesia" (PDF). Proceedings of the Nutrition Society of Australia. 2001 (25). 
  14. ^ a b DY PHON, Pauline, 2000, Plants Used In Cambodia, printed by Imprimerie Olympic, Phnom Penh
  15. ^ 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
  16. ^ 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,
  17. ^ Template:Reference? areas.
  18. ^ Evaluation of the mosquito repellent action of cuban oregano (Plectranthus amboinicus) essential oil, by Soh, Wei Ing, 2010 at
  19. ^ Plectranthus amboinicus (Indian borage), Datasheet, Invasive Species Compendium, at Accessed on 12.7,2017.
  20. ^ The Herbalist in the Kitchen, by Gary Allen, University of Illinois Press, 2010, p. 198.
  21. ^ Chemical composition and larvicidal activity of the essential oil of Plectranthus amboinicus (Lour.) Spreng against Anopheles stephensi: A malarial vector mosquito. by Annadurai Senthilkumar & Venugopalan Venkatesalu. doi:10.1007/s00436-010-1996-6 · Source: PubMed. 2010. Available from: [accessed Jul 10, 2017].
  22. ^ E.g. “GC-MS Based Metabolite Profiling, Antioxidant and Antimicrobial Properties of Different Solvent Extracts of Malaysian Plectranthus amboinicus Leaves”, Mallappa Kumara Swamy, 1 , * Greetha Arumugam, 1 Ravinder Kaur, 1 Ali Ghasemzadeh, 1 Mazina Mohd. Yusoff, 2 and Uma Rani Sinniah 1 , Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2017; 2017: 1517683. Published online 2017 Mar 23. doi:10.1155/2017/1517683 PMC 5382359.
  23. ^ "Plectranthus amboinicus". Fine Gardening. Retrieved 2017-07-18. 
  24. ^ a b Gary Allen, The Herbalist in the Kitchen, University of Illinois Press, 2010, p. 198.
  25. ^ a b c d e f Tropicos,, accessed 21 August 2012
  26. ^ a b c d Encyclopedia of Life,, accessed 21 August 2012
  27. ^ Cuban Oregano, Flowers of India,
  28. ^ Botanical Names → Sinhala names උද්භිද නම් → සිංහල නම්,
  29. ^ "台北植物園資訊網--植物資料庫--植物詳細資料". Taipei Botanical Garden (in Chinese). Retrieved 2 July 2017. 


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