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Coleus amboinicus


Coleus amboinicus Lour.

Family Name: Lamiaceae (Labiatae)
Synonyms: Plectranthus amboinicus (Lour.) SprengColeus aromaticus Benth.
Common Name: Indian Borage, Cuban Oregano, Mexican Mint, Spanish Thyme, 左手香, 到手香, 印度薄荷


Family Name
Genus Epithet
Species Epithet
Name Authority
Name Status (botanical)
Common Names

Classifications and Characteristics

Plant Division Angiosperms (Flowering Seed Plants) (Dicotyledon)
Plant Growth Form Herbaceous Plant, Succulent Plant
Lifespan (in Singapore) Perennial
Mode of Nutrition Autotrophic
Plant Shape Columnar
Maximum Height 0.3 m to 1 m


Native Distribution Kenya to South Africa, Arabian Peninsula, India
Native Habitat Terrestrial (Grassland / Savannah/ Scrubland, Disturbed Area / Open Ground)
Preferred Climate Zone Tropical
Local Conservation Status Non-native (Horticultural / Cultivated Only)

Description and Ethnobotany

Growth Form Perennial herb with a climbing or creeping growth habit. It typically grows up to 0.7 m tall, but can be more than 1 m in the wild. 
Foliage Leaves simple, thick and fleshy, light green with opposite leaf arrangement (2.5 – 3 cm long, 2.5 – 3 cm wide). Leaves are broadly ovate or triangular in shape (truncate leaf base and a broadly acute apex). Leaf margin is crenate. Lower surface contains numerous glandular hairs, giving a frosty appearance. 
Stems Round to approximately 4-sided stems are covered with hairs that are either long and stiff or short and soft. Young, green stem turns brown as it matures. 
Flowers 10 – 20 flowers are arranged in a verticil inflorescence (10 – 20 cm long). The flowers encircle the floral stalk at several points along the floral stalk, with points closer together at the tip than at the base. Flower has bell shaped calyx. 
Fruit Fruits are smooth nutlets, pale brown n colour. In Singapore, this plant rarely flowers and fruits. 
Habitat In Fiji, naturalized plants occur at low altitudes (0 – 250 m) in forests or brush where soil is rocky or sandy. In Tonga, naturalized plants occur in abandoned lands or near roads. It is considered an invasive plant in the Virgin Islands.
Cultivation Plant individuals 40 - 45 cm apart. Requires sandy soil that drains well. It has a fast growth rate. Stems are susceptible to breakage. 
Etymology The specific epithet 'amboinicus' is derived from Ambon, an island in the East Indies where Rumphius, a well-known botanist, is from.
Ethnobotanical Uses Food (Herb and Spice): The leaves are used to add flavor to meat and bean dishes, especially in Caribbean cuisine. The flavor is described as being a combination of thyme and oregano. 

Scientific Evidence of Medicinal Properties

In pre-clinical trials, Indian Borage showed anti-inflammation properties in animals that may have potential to treat rheumatoid arthritis. <2>

Traditional Medicinal Uses

In Taiwan, the plant is used in traditional medicine to treat inflammation or swelling.  In Indonesia, Philippines and India, the plant is used as a treatment for coughing. Indonesian women that have given birth sometimes drink soups made with the leaves to promote lactation. Other traditional uses include treating cold, fever, cough, asthma, headache, constipation and skin disease. <1>

It is important to note that some therapeutic effects from traditional medicinal uses of plants are not currently supported or verified by scientific research.

Others: Volatile oils extracted from the plant have antifungal properties that could potentially protect stored foods from fungal contamination <3>. The essential oils are toxic to some insects.

Landscaping Features

Landscaping Sometimes used as a ground cover. Can be grown in pots or hanging containers. Prized for its ornamental foliage.
Desirable Plant Features Fragrant (Foliage)
Landscape Uses Container Planting, Interiorscape/ Indoor Plant
Thematic Landscaping Economic Garden
Plant & Rootzone Preference or Tolerance Remarks Sandy soil is ideal.

Plant Care and Propagation

Light Preference Semi-Shade
Water Preference Moderate Water
Plant Growth Rate Fast
Rootzone Tolerance Well-Drained Soils
Propagation Method Seed, Stem Cutting, Leaf Cutting
Planting Distance 0 to 0


Foliage Retention Evergreen
Mature Foliage Colour(s) Green
Mature Foliage Texture(s) Hairy / Hirsute, Thick
Prominent Young Flush Colour(s) Green, Green - Light Green
Young Flush Texture(s) Hairy / Hirsute
Foliar Type Simple / Unifoliate
Foliar Arrangement Along Stem Opposite
Foliar Attachment to Stem Petiolate
Foliar Shape(s) Non-Palm Foliage (Ovate)
Foliar Venation Pinnate / Net
Foliar Margin Crenate
Foliar Apex - Tip Acute
Foliar Base Truncate / Square
Typical Foliar Area Microphyll ( 2.25cm2 - 20.25 cm2 )
Typical Foliar Size 3.5 cm to 5 cm

Non - Foliar and Storage

Stem Type & Modification Herbaceous
Root Type Underground (Tap Root)

Floral (Angiosperm)

Flower Colour(s) Blue, Pink, Purple
Flower Grouping Cluster / Inflorescence
Flower Symmetry Bilateral
Individual Flower Shape Labiate / Lipped, Campaulate / Bell-shaped
Inflorescence Type Verticel
Flowering Period Rarely

Fruit, Seed and Spore

Mature Fruit Colour(s) Brown
Fruit Classification Simple Fruit
Fruit Type Indehiscent Dry Fruit , Nut / Nutlet



<1> Arumugam, G., Swamy, M.K. & Sinniah, U.R. (2016). Plectranthus amboinicus (Lour.) Spreng: Botanical, Phytochemical, Pharmacological and Nutritional Significance. Molecules.  21(4):369-395.

<2> Chang, J.M., Cheng, C.M., Hung, L.M., Chung, Y.S. & Wu, R.Y. (2010). Potential Use of Plectranthus amboinicus in the Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 7(1):115-20.

<3> Murthy, P.S., Ramalakshmi, K. & Srinivas, P. (2009). Fungitoxic activity of Indian borage (Plectranthus amboinicus) volatiles. Food Chemistry 114(3): 1014-1018.

Image Repository



Master ID 29408
Species ID 3717
Flora Disclaimer The information in this website has been compiled from reliable sources, such as reference works on medicinal plants. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment and NParks does not purport to provide any medical advice. Readers should always consult his/her physician before using or consuming a plant for medicinal purposes.
Species record last updated on: 30 September 2023.