Plectranthus amboinicus

Plectranthus amboinicus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Angiosperms
(unranked): Asterids
Class: Eudicots
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 used as a decorative plant in many houses in south India.


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.

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



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


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 United States Department of Agriculture Germplasm Resources Information Network: Plectranthus amboinicus,, accessed 21 August 2012
  2. 1 2 3 4 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. 1 2 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. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Tropicos,, accessed 21 August 2012
  9. 1 2 3 4 Encyclopedia of Life,, accessed 21 August 2012


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Coleus aromaticus

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