Plectranthus amboinicus

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Plectranthus amboinicus
Leaf -pani koorkka.JPG
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Lamiales
Family: Lamiaceae
Genus: Plectranthus
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[1] 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 traditional medicine, spice, and ornamental plant.[1]


A member of the mint family Lamiaceae,[1] Plectranthus amboinicus grows up to 1 m (3.3 ft) tall. The stem is fleshy, about 30–90 cm (12–35 in), 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 cm (2.0–2.8 in) by 4–6 cm (1.6–2.4 in), 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 (0.79–1.77 in). 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 (3.9–7.9 in), fleshy and pubescent. The bracts are broadly ovate, 3–4 cm (1.2–1.6 in) long, acute. The calyx is campanulate, 2–4 mm (0.079–0.157 in) 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 (0.31–0.47 in) long, tube 3–4 mm (0.12–0.16 in) 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 (0.028 by 0.020 in).[2]

The aroma of the leaves can be described as a pungent combination of the aromas of oregano, thyme, and turpentine.[3] The taste of the leaves is described as being similar to the one of oregano, but with a sharp mint-like flavor.[4]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Plectranthus amboinicus 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.[5][6][7] 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 also currently grows in mainland India. The plant was later brought to Europe, and then from Spain to the Americas, hence the name Spanish thyme.[5][8]

Traditional medicine and research[edit]

In traditional medicine, Plectranthus amboinicus is thought to have medicinal properties,[citation needed] but there is no evidence from clinical research to support such claims.[citation needed] In basic research, the effects of the essential oil were tested with other plant essential oils for possible use as a mosquito repellant.[1][9]

Culinary uses[edit]

The leaves are strongly flavoured and used for stuffings of meat and poultry, beef, lamb and game.[7] The herb is used as a substitute for oregano to mask the strong odors and flavors of fish, mutton, and goat.[8] Its leaves are used to make fritters in Telugu cuisine and consumed occasionally as snacks.

Other uses[edit]

Fresh leaves are used to scent laundry and hair.[1] It is also grown as an ornamental plant.[1][10]

Variegated Cuban Oregano (Plectranthus amboinicus 'Variegatus')


The main chemical compounds found in the essential oil of Plectranthus amboinicus are carvacrol (28.65%), thymol (21.66%), α-humulene (9.67%), undecanal (8.29%), γ-terpinene (7.76%), p-cymene (6.46%), caryophyllene oxide (5.85%), α-terpineol (3.28%), and β-selinene (2.01%).[11] 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%). 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.[12]


Plectranthus amboinicus is a fast-growing plant commonly grown in gardens and indoors 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)[13] 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. In Hawaii and other humid tropical locations, the plant requires full sun.[3]

Common names[edit]

  • Cuban oregano[14]
  • Country borage[7][15]
  • French thyme[7]
  • Indian borage[7]
  • Indian mint[7]
  • Mexican mint (US,[15] favored common name[16])
  • Orégano francés (in Cuba and other Spanish language sources)[17]
  • Soup mint[7]
  • Spanish thyme[15]
  • Thick leaf thyme or broad leaf thyme[16]



  1. ^ a b c d e f "Plectranthus amboinicus (Indian borage), Datasheet, Invasive Species Compendium". Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International. 23 November 2017. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
  2. ^ 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
  3. ^ a b Culinary herbs, by Ernest Small, National Research Council of Canada NRC Research Press, 1997, p. 488.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ 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
  6. ^ 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
  7. ^ a b c d e f g "Plectranthus amboinicus". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 21 August 2012.
  8. ^ a b George Staples, Michael S. Kristiansen (1999). Ethnic Culinary Herbs: A Guide to Identification and Cultivation in Hawaii; page 88. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 978-0824820947.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  9. ^ Lalthazuali; Mathew, N (2017). "Mosquito repellent activity of volatile oils from selected aromatic plants". Parasitology Research. 116 (2): 821–825. doi:10.1007/s00436-016-5351-4. PMID 28013374.
  10. ^ The Herbalist in the Kitchen, by Gary Allen, University of Illinois Press, 2010, p. 198.
  11. ^ Senthilkumar, A; Venkatesalu, V (2010). "Chemical composition and larvicidal activity of the essential oil of Plectranthus amboinicus (Lour.) Spreng against Anopheles stephensi: A malarial vector mosquito". Parasitology Research. 107 (5): 1275–8. doi:10.1007/s00436-010-1996-6. PMID 20668876.
  12. ^ Lopes, P. Q; Carneiro, F. B; De Sousa, A. L; Santos, S. G; Oliveira, E. E; Soares, L. A (2017). "Technological Evaluation of Emulsions Containing the Volatile Oil from Leaves of Plectranthus Amboinicus Lour". Pharmacognosy Magazine. 13 (49): 159–167. doi:10.4103/0973-1296.197646 (inactive 2020-01-22). PMC 5307902. PMID 28216901.
  13. ^ "Plectranthus amboinicus". Fine Gardening. Retrieved 2017-07-18.
  14. ^ Gary Allen, The Herbalist in the Kitchen, University of Illinois Press, 2010, p. 198.
  15. ^ a b c Tropicos,, accessed 21 August 2012
  16. ^ a b Encyclopedia of Life,, accessed 21 August 2012
  17. ^ [1] and [2] (both in Spanish)

External links[edit]