The Musk Mallow is known by many names, but as it is known mainly for its seeds which contain a musky smelling oil in their covering, we’ll call it this. It used to be classed as a hibiscus and was formerly called Hibiscus abelmoschus, but it has now been classed separately along with okra and several other species formerly called Hibiscus. The name abelmoschus comes from the Arabic, abu-l-mosk which means father of musk.
    This trailing plant can grow to a height of 4 metres although it may only be ½ a metre tall, and it is distinguished by its yellow flowers which have a crimson centre, but the flowers can also be white. It is native to the Indian subcontinent where it has been used in traditional medicine for centuries. It is naturalized in Puerto Rico and parts of Australia; although it grows in many other countries too. It is part of the folk medicine of Trinidad and Tobago where the seeds are used in childbirth, to cure infertility and to ease menstrual cramps and other “female” complaints.
  In the Indian subcontinent it is used for a multitude of ailments and is said to be a cure for snake bites. Apart from curing such bites the seeds are used as an aphrodisiac there and in Egypt, and the seeds are chewed to aid digestion and sweeten the breath. They are made into a paste with milk and used to stop itching and as a poultice are applied to the skin for any skin problems including psoriasis.
Seed pod
   It is said to stop vomiting, and stomach spasms and to cure STDs and is believed to be good for the eyes, heart, diarrhoea, and is used as a deodorant and diuretic. It is one of those plants that seem to be a cure-all.
   In Malaysia the oil from the seeds is mixed into cosmetics and used to perfume the hair. It was and is much-prized in perfumery, although it can cause photosensitivity (abnormal sensitivity to sunlight) and was used instead of animal musk. However synthetic musk is generally used these days, but the musk seeds are still used at the upper end of the perfumery industry.
  The flowers are sometimes used to flavour tobacco, and the seeds hare used in some alcoholic drinks, such as vermouths and herbal liqueurs. The pods and leaves are used as vegetables along with the young shoots, as they are similar to okra. The sees have also been used traditionally as insecticide.
  In Ayurvedic medicine it is regarded as having cooling properties as well as being a stimulant and it is touted as being good for erectile dysfunction (hence its reputation as an aphrodisiac). The seeds are also used as an anti-spasmodic as they are in Trinidad.
 As far as modern medical research goes, the phenolic flavonoids contained in the plant have been found to be “potentially useful adjuvant therapy for patients with insulin resistance and/or the subjects wishing to increase insulin sensitivity.” (24th Feb 2010, Liu I.M et al in “Abelmoschus moschata (Malvaceae), an aromatic plant, suitable for medical and food uses to improve insulin sensitivity”)
  It also contains the bioflavonoid myricetin which is also found in grapes, walnuts, fruit, vegetables and herbs and which is believed to have antioxidant and cholesterol lowering properties and to help reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
  Once again it seems that the ancients knew perhaps more than we sophisticated mortals do about the efficacy of herbs in the treatment of ailments.

1 comment:

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