Plectranthus amboinicus

scientific name: 
Plectranthus amboinicus (Lour.) Spreng.
Coleus amboinicus Lour.
Botanical family: 

Botanical description

Perennial herb, 60-100 cm high,with soft thick-stems, succulent, hairy, aromatic.  Leaves blades, 2.5-4.5 x 2.5-4 cm, thick and soft, broadly ovate, truncate-subcordate at the base, apex obtuse to rounded, margins crenate, both surfaces densely pubescent with glands; inflorescence a raceme 10-30 cm long; flowers bilabiate, corolla 7-9 mm long, lilac to whitish.





  leaf (half-roasted), infusion, orally1


fresh leaf, fried, orally17


fresh leaf, fried, orally17

The leaves ofPlectranthus amboinicus are widely used as a spice.

For asthma:

Prepare an infusion adding 1 liter (4 cups) of boiling water to 35 grams of half-roasted leaves (5-7 leaves).  Cover pot, let infusion settle for 5-10 minutes.  Filter, allow to cool and drink 1 cup as required by symptomatic indication, up to 3 times per day14.

Any medicinal preparation must be preserved cold and used within the 24 hours.

According to published and other information:

Use for asthma is classified as REC, based on the significant traditional use documented in the TRAMIL surveys, and on available published scientific information.

Due to the health risks involved with asthma, an initial medical evaluation is recommended.  The use of this resource can be considered complementary to medical treatment.

Should there be a notable worsening of the patient’s condition, or should asthma persist for more than 2 days, seek medical attention.

Not for use during pregnancy, during lactation or by children under 3 years old.

TRAMIL Research12

The leaf juice (0.5%) topically applied to rabbits (0.5 mL/5 cm2) for 72 hours did not induce any changes in skin.

TRAMIL Research15(will be translated in 3rd Ed.)

El extracto acuoso liofilizado, obtenido por decocción de hoja fresca, se administró por vía oral (1g/kg/día), a 10 ratones machos Swiss (21.33 ±0.64 g), 5 días consecutivos por semana durante 2 semanas, (10 administraciones). El control se realizó con agua destilada (0.3 mL) a otros 10 ratones de la misma cepa y características. Tuvieron un período de observación de 7 días más al terminar la administración del tratamiento. Durante el ensayo, no se presentó mortalidad ni signos de toxicidad en los parámetros evaluados. La autopsia macroscópica no evidenció alteraciones internas.

The ethanolic extract (70%) from the leaf (0.323-1.292 mg of total solids/mL) and the essential oil of the leaf (0.01-0.1%) in vitro in the somatic segregation model in Aspergillus nidulans D30 showed significant, dose-dependent cytotoxic and genotoxic activity.  The ethanolic extract administered orally to mice (195-773.2 mg/kg) in vivo in the bone marrow micronuclei induction assay did not cause genotoxic effects13.

There was no mortality and no toxicity signs were observed following the oral administration of the aqueous extract from the lyophilized leaf to mice (2 g/kg)9.

There is no available information documenting the safety of medicinal use in children or in pregnant or lactating women.

The leaf contains essential oil : tert-butylanisole, caryophyllene, p-cymene, 4-terpineol, thymol and verbenone2, carvacrol, cineol, ß-caryophyllene, humulene, α-terpinene, ß-terpineol, terpinolene, ethyl salicylate3; flavonoids : apigenin, chrysoeriol, chrysimaritin, eriodictyol, luteolin, quercetin, salvigenin, taxifolin; triterpenes: euscafic, maslinic, oleanolic, dihydroxy-oleanolic, pomolic, tormentic and ursolic acids4-5.

All plant parts contain tannins6.

TRAMIL Research16(will be translated in 3rd Ed.)

El zumo de hoja obtenido por maceración, no mostró actividad antimicrobiana in vitro a una concentración de 426 µg/mL contra Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Proteus vulgaris ni el hongo Candida albicans.

The leaf saline extract in vitro was not active againstEscherichia coli, Pasteurella pestis nor Staphylococcus aureus7.

The decoction of the lyophilized fresh leaf (1-3 mg/mL) in vitro on isolated guinea pig ileum caused spasmolytic effects by competitive muscarinic antagonism.  On the isolated deferent duct of rats (3 mg/mL), it enhanced the effects of exogenous adrenaline (0.1-30 ng/mL), while on the isolated and stimulated deferent duct of rats, it inhibited intra-neuronal recapture of catecholamines (reserpine 30 mg/mL; adrenaline 45 mg/mL)8.

The aqueous and ethanolic extracts (30%) from the leaf, in the test of experimental cough induced by ammonium spray in guinea pigs (20 mg/kg), had an antitussive effect similar to that of codeine9.

The decoction of the fresh leaf (1, 5 and 30 g/100 mL) administered to mice in the hot plate test and in the acetic acid-induced peritoneal irritation test did not show analgesic activity.  Using Irwin’s pharmacological sieving, exploratory behavior and amphetamine-induced stereotypy tests, effects similar to those of anti-depressants were observed10.

The essential oil of the leaf is claimed to have antibacterial properties3.

The flavonoid extract from the leaf, in the test of lipidic peroxidation of brain tissue to demonstrate antioxidant effects, inhibited the formation of lipid peroxides reactive to thiobarbituric acid (IC50 estimated at 10 mg/mL) and (IC50 of a-tocopherol = 40-50 mg/mL).  The fluid extract from the leaf evidenced inhibition with IC = 70 mg/mL.  The flavonoid extract reached 100% inhibition at 90 mg/mL while the fluid extract, at 400 mg/mL11.


1 MENDEZ M, MEDINA ML, DURAN R, 1996 Encuesta TRAMIL. Unidad de recursos naturales, Centro de Investigación Científica de Yucatán CICY, Mérida, México.

2 HAQUE I, 1988 Analysis of volatile constituents of PakistaniColeus aromaticus plant oil by capillary gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. J Chem Soc Pak 10(3):369-371.

3 TIMOR CE, MANZINI ME, FERNANDEZ A, GONZALEZ ML, 1992 Physicochemical assessment of the essential oil from the leaves of Plectranthus amboinicus (Lour) Spreng. growing in Cuba. Rev Cubana Farm 25(1):63-68.

4 BRIESKORN CH, RIEDEL W, 1977 Flavonoids fromColeus amboinicus. Planta Med 31:308.

5 BRIESKORN CH, RIEDEL W, 1977 Triterpene acids fromColeus amboinicus. Arch Pharm (Weinheim) 310(11):910-916.

6 ATAL CK, SRIVASTAVA JB, WALI BK, CHAKRAVARTY RB, DHAWAN BN, ROSTOGI RP, 1978 Screening of Indian plants for biological activity. Part. VIII. Indian J Exp Biol 16(3):330-349.

7 COLLIER WA, VAN DE PIJI L, 1949 The antibiotic actions of plants, especially the higher plants,with results with Indonesian plants. Chron Nat 105:8-22.

8 LLANIO M, PEREZ-SAAD H, FERNANDEZ MD, GARRIGA E, MENENDEZ R, BUZNEGO MT, 1999 Plectranthus amboinicus (Lour.) Spreng. (orégano francés): efecto antimuscarínico y potenciación de la adrenalina. Rev Cubana Planta Med 1(4):29-32.

9 MENENDEZ RA, PAVON V, 1999 Plectranthus amboinicus (Lour.) Spreng. Rev Cubana planta Med 3(3):110-115.


Perfil neurofarmacológico del Plectranthus amboinicus (Lour.) Spreng. (orégano francés). Potenciación de las estereotipias inducidas por anfetamina. Rev Cubana Planta Med 1(4):15-17.

11 GARCIA J, GARCIA T, MENENDEZ R, BUZNEGO M, 1996 Efecto antioxidante de los extractos fluídos y de flavonoides del Plectranthus amboinicus (Lour.) Spreng. (orégano francés). Rev Cubana Planta Med 1(2):27-30.

12 Solis PN, Olmedo D, Buitrago de Tello RE, Gupta MP, 2000 Estudio fitoquímico y toxicológico de algunas plantas TRAMIL. Informe TRAMIL. Centro de Investigaciones Farmacognósticas de la Flora Panameña CIFLORPAN, Facultad de Farmacia, Universidad de Panamá, Panamá, Panamá.

13 VIZOSO A, RAMOS A, EDREIRA A, BETANCOURT J, DECALO M, 1999 Plectranthus amboinicus (Lour.) Spreng. (orégano francés). Estudio toxicogenético de un extracto fluido y del aceite esencial. Rev Cubana Plant Med 3(2):68-73.

14 ALBORNOZ A, 1993 Medicina Tradicional Herbaria. Caracas, Venezuela: Editorial Instituto Farmacoterápico Latino S.A. p102.

15 GarcIa-GONZÁLEZ M, fallas L.V. 2005 Toxicidad aguda dosis repetida, en ratones, del extracto acuoso (decocción) de las hojas frescas de Plectrantus amboinicus . Informe TRAMIL.PRONAPLAMED. Depto de Fisiología, Escuela de Medicina, Universidad de Costa Rica, San Pedro, Costa Rica.

16 LUCIANO-MONTALVO C, GAVILLAN-SUAREZ J, 2009 Actividades antimicrobianas de partes de plantas con usos significativos en encuestas etnofarmacológicas TRAMIL. Informe TRAMIL, Instituto de Investigaciones Interdisciplinarias, Cayey, Universidad de Puerto Rico.

17 MOREJON Z, LOPEZ M, GARCIA MJ, BOUCOURT E, VICTORIA M, FUENTES V, MORON F, BOULOGNE I, ROBINEAU L, 2009 Encuesta TRAMIL preliminar a grupos de vecinos en los municipios 10 de Octubre, Lisa, Marianao, Habana del Este (Cojímar) en la Ciudad de la Habana. Laboratorio Central de Farmacología, Universidad de Ciencias Médicas de La Habana, Ciudad de La Habana, Cuba.


The information provided is for educational purposes only for the benefit of the general public and health professionals. It is not intended to take the place of either the written law or regulations. Since some parts of plants could be toxic, might induce side effects, or might have interactions with certain drugs, anyone intending to use them or their products must first consult with a physician or another qualified health care professional. TRAMIL has no responsibility whatsoever towards the user for any decision, action or omission made in relation to the information contained in this Pharmacopoeia.