Ambrette(Abelmoschus moschatus) Profile

The seeds of Abelmoschus moschatus have an odour somewhat between musk and amber, and are employed as a substitute for animal musk. Its generic name is derived from the Arabic hub-ool-moosk. The plant is now cultivated in Martinique, whence the seed is largely exported to France, where it is employed by perfumers in the preparation of pomatums, powders, and perfumes; by them it is called Ambrette and Graine d'Ambrette. Under the name of musk-seed, parcels are occasionally imported and sold at the drug sales in London, being worth about 4s. per pound. In Egypt and Arabia the natives bruise this seed, and, mixing it with their coffee, regard it as a cordial and stomachic.
The Technologist, Volume 1

Abelmoschus moschatus (Abelmoskambretteannual hibiscusBamia MoschataGalu Gasturimuskdanamusk mallow,[2] musk okra,[2] ornamental okrarose mallowtropical jewel hibiscus,[2] Yorka okra) is an aromatic and medicinal plant in the family Malvaceae native to Asia and Australia.[2]

Abelmoschus moschatus (L.) Medic, Malvaceae (Syn. Hibiscus abelmoschus L.) is a tropical weedy shrub native to India valued for its scented seed. Ambrette is a close relative to Okra, a popular horticultural crop. The genus Abelmoschus has six species distributed in the South and South East Asia and in North Australia. Abelmoschus moschatus Medic., A. manihot (L.) Medic., and A. esculentus (L.) Moench, contain wild and cultivated forms, and A. ficulneus, A. crinitus, and A. angulosus, are only wild. Abelmoschus manihot, A. moschatus and A. esculentus are compared in Table 1. In Hindi, it is popularly known as mushkdanakasturi bhendi (kasturi = musk; bhendi = lady’s finger). In other Indian languages it is known as gukhia korai (Assamese), kasturi bhenda (Telgu), kattukasturi (Malylam), varttilai kasturi (Tamil), lalkasturika (Sanskrit) (Krishnamurty 1993). The area under ambrette is presently low in India but is increasing rapidly (Oudhia and Tripathi 2000) with seed exports to France, Germany, Japan, Singapore, Spain for its use as an aromatic oil. Indian drug manufacturers are introducing new herbal drugs containing ambrette for medicinal use.

Erect hispid herbs or undershrubs, 0.5-2.5 meters high, with a long slender tap root. Leave extremely variable, lower suborbicular in outline, cordate, lower or palmately 3-7 lobed, upper narrower, hastate or sagittate at the base with linear-oblong or triangular lobes. Flowers regular, bisexual, involucral bracts 8-12, hairy yellow with purple centre. Fruits capsule fulvous hairy, oblong lanceolate, acute. Seeds subreniform and blackish (Verma et al. 1993; Agharkar 1991; Lindley 1985).

Ambrette is cultivated as pre-kharif crop in India. It is usually sown in March–April but as late as the first week of July in Central India (Oudhia 2001a). Seed rates of 41g/kg are optimum (Oudhia 2000b). Application of dried Neem leaves (500Kg/ha) at last ploughing increased oil content and quality. April sown crop start flowering in September; fruits ripen from November to January and are harvested when fully mature. Applications of fertilizers improves growth of plant and seed yields (Krishnamurty 1993) but studies conducted by SOPAM indicate the use of chemical inputs resulted in negative impact on oil content and quality. Harvested capsules are sun dried and seeds dehisce when the capsules burst. The oil for perfumery is extracted by steam distillation of crushed seeds.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Abelmoschus moschatus is a PERENNIAL growing to 2 m (6ft) by 1 m (3ft 3in) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 9 and is frost tender. It is in flower from July to September, and the seeds ripen from August to October. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Insects. 
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves  Oil  Root  Seed  Seedpod
Edible Uses: Condiment  Oil

Young leaves and shoots - cooked in soups[183, 272]. Used as a vegetable[238]. The leaves are also used to clarify sugar[183]. Unripe seedpods - cooked as a vegetable in much the same way as okra (A. esculentus)[183, 238, 272]. Seed - cooked[272]. It is fried or roasted and has a flavour similar to sesame seeds[272]. The seed is also used as a flavouring for liqueurs or to scent coffee[183, 238]. An essential oil is obtained from the plant and is used to flavour baked goods, ice cream, sweets and soft drinks[183]. Root[183]. No more details are given, though the root is likely to have a bland flavour and a fibrous texture.

Medicinal Uses

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Antihalitosis  Antispasmodic  Aphrodisiac  Appetizer  Aromatherapy  Digestive  Nervine  Stomachic  

An emulsion made from the seed is antispasmodic and is especially effective in the digestive system[4, 238]. The seeds are also chewed as a nervine, stomachic and to sweeten the breath[4, 238]. They are also said to be aphrodisiac[4, 238]. The seeds are valued medicinally for their diuretic, demulcent and stomachic properties. They are also said to be stimulant, antiseptic, cooling, tonic, carminative and aphrodisiac. A paste of the bark is applied to cuts, wounds and sprains[272]. The essential oil is used in aromatherapy for the treatment of depression and anxiety[238]. It is also applied externally to treat cramp, poor circulation and aching joints[238].

Ambrette oil obtained from seeds possess an odor similar to that of musk and its aromatic constitents have long been used in perfumery industry. Different grades of essential, or aromatic absolute, are marked in Europe as high-grade perfumes (Singh et al. 1996 ) The seeds are valued for the volatile oil present in the seed coat. Seed analysis report 11.1% moisture, 31.5% crude fiber; 14.5% lipids, 13.4% starch, 2.3% protein, volatile oil (0.2-0.6% ) and ca/ 5% resin (Srivastava 1995). 
Analysis of volatiles report myricetin-3-glucoside and a glycoside of cyanidin in flowers, an aromatic constituent in seeds, beta-sitosteral and its beta-D-glucoside, myricetin and its glucoside in leaves and petals and beta-sitosterol from dry fruit husk (Rastogi and Mehrotra 1991a,b). 
In India, roots, leaves (rarely), and seeds of ambrette are considered valuable traditional medicines. The bitter, sweet, acrid, aromatic seeds are used as a tonic and are considered "cooling, aphrodisiac, opthalmic, cardiotonic, digestive, stomachic, constipating, carminative, pectoral, diuretic, stimulant, antispasmodic, deodorant, and effective against "kapha" and "vata," intestinal complaints, stomatitis; and diseases of the heart, allays thirst and checks vomiting. According to Unani system of medicine seeds allay thirst, cure stomatitis, dyspepsia, urinary discharge, gonorrhea, leucoderma and itch. Roots and leaves are cures for gonorrhea (Agharkar 1991). Even use against venomous reptiles has been reported (Lindley 1985).

The seeds of this medicinal herb are valued for their demulcent, diuretic and stomachic properties. They also serve well as an antiseptic, a stimulant, a tonic, an aphrodisiac, and are cooling and carminative agents too.
The infusion, decoction or the tincture of the seeds are used in cases of hysteria, nervous debility and nervous disorders. The leaves and roots are used as medication for venereal diseases. The stem bark has high fibrecontent, and could be substituted for jute. The yellow portion of the petals is used in myricetin, flavonoids and cannabiscitrin. The seeds are used as insect-repellant in sachet powders.
In Ayurvedic treatments, the plant is considered to pacify aggravated pitta, kapha, bronchitis, asthma, nausea, dyspepsia, colic, calculi, diarrhea, flatulence, burning sensation, vomiting, and nervous system disorders.

Ambrette seed oil, when nicely aged and preserved, can be described as musky/floral, rich and sweet with a wine-like component.  I find it to also have a slightly nutty aroma with a slight fatty aspect. It can also become rancid with an accompanying off note. A few years ago I was experimenting with musk notes and added ambrette seed CO2, ambergris tincture and African stone/hyraceum tincture in tiny amounts separately to a standard floral perfume I was working on.  All three musks had the effect of smoothing the edges of the perfume, adding just a touch of musk and making the base more interesting.   African stone made the perfume brighter and somehow lighter. I love its effect on light florals with citrus notes.  Ambergris, which I love deeply and unconditionally, has the effect of making a perfume more elegant, adding richness and longevity.  I actually add it to most anything, at least in small amounts. Ambrette seed has a creamy, sweet effect on a perfume when used in small amounts but I sense a definite nuttiness when I am too liberal with it.  To me it’s a perfect gourmand ingredient and I like it with spices and cocoa.  
This relative of the ornamental hibiscus is has a  beautiful large creamy yellow blossom with deep purple center and is cultivated for the seed that is used to make a musky base for perfumery.  The scientific name is given both as Hibiscus abelmoschus  or as Abelmoschus moschatus and may also be called musk mallow. Ambrette seed is available as a CO2 extract, an oleoresin, an absolute, a concrete, or you can make your own tincture in alcohol.  The absolute may be produced two ways according to Arctander, one is by solvent extraction of the seeds to produce a concrete that is then washed with alcohol to produce the absolute.  Ambrette seed absolute may also be produced by steam distillation of the extracted concrete with the goal of getting rid of the fatty acids that pose the risk of rancidity. It is also possible to make a tincture in high proof alcohol for use in some perfumery applications.  The tincture should be approximately 25% strength.  Since the seed coat, not the fatty endosperm, contains the essential oil, tincturing the entire seed is recommended. When I experimented with tincturing ambrette seed, I used crushed or ground seeds but I still have a lovely lightly-scented tincture that has a definite musky/floral aspect to it.  Next time I will just tincture the whole seed.  If you have an essential oil, it should be diluted with alcohol to prevent rancid notes from developing (this also according to Arctander, reference below).  Ambrettolide is the characteristic musk component and is an important macrocyclic musk in the perfume industry, although it is generally synthetically produced.  Ambrette seed oil is also used as a flavoring and one part in ten million parts of a sweetened liquid provides a distinctive taste.  

The absolute of Ambrette Seed is a pourable yellowish-brown liquid displaying a rich, deep, musky/floral odor with a dry leathery/fruity/hay-like undertone with good tenacity. In my opinion the absolute has more of a deep, rich, musky/animalic odor than the essential oil which has a distinctly sweeter aspect to it.

Blends well with agarwood eo and co2; agalia odorata seed abs; ambari attar; amber sweet melange; amyris eo;angelica root eo, co2 and abs; angelica seed eo, co2 and abs; beeswax abs; bois de rose/rosewood eo; bergamot eo; boronia abs; carrot seed eo, co2 and abs; bran abs; carrot seed eo, co2 and abs; cassie abs; cedarwood eo's and abs; cistus eo and abs; cities eo and abs; coconut melange; coriander see eo, co2 and abs; costus eo and co2; cypress eo and abs; fir balsam abs; frankincense eo, co2 and abs; galbanum eo, co2 and abs; gentian abs; guaicawood eo; gurjun balsam eo; helichrysum abs; ho wood eo; juniper berry eo, co2 and abs; labdanum eo and abs; lavandula eo and abs; lavender eo, co2 and abs; mastic eo and abs; mimosa abs; myrrh eo, co2 and abs; musk melange; oak moss abs; opoponax eo, resinoid and abs; orris root eo, co2 and abs; patchouli eo, co2 and abs; pine eo's aabs; rose eo's, co2's and abs; saffron co2 and abs; sandalwood eo, co2 and abs; sage clary eo and abs; seaweed abs; shamama attar; spruce eo's and abs; styrax eo and abs; tolu balsam abs; tonka bean abs; vetiver eo, co2 and abs

In natural perfumery used in musk bases; amber accords; high class florals; oriental bouquets, forest notes, leather notes, new mown hay, incense notes, precious woods notes

Ambrette seed(oil or absolute) are known for the "exalting" effect which they impart to perfumes, and flavors...
Steffen Arctander