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Cuban Oregano Plectranthus amboinicus

From An Herbalist in the Kitchen

Other Common or Ethnic Names

  • Country Borage, Greek Oregano, False Oregano, Spanish Thyme, Stygian Thyme
  • Australia: Five-in-One
  • East Timor: Soldar
  • Indonesia: Daun Kucing, Daun Kambing
  • Malaysia: Daun Bangun-bangun
  • Philippines: Oregano, Suganda
  • Portugal: Oregano
  • Vietnam: Can Day La, Rau Cang, Rau Thom Lun
  • West Indies: French Tobago Thyme, Spanish Thyme



Related Species

  • Coleus amboinicus: Country Borage, Indian Borage, Spanish Thyme. (sometimes listed in old botanical texts as Coleus aromaticus. -- see Caveat below)
  • Coleus barbatus: (no common name found)
  • Plectranthus madagascariensis: (no common name found) Edible tubers used in Madagascar.
  • Plectranthus purpuratus: Vick’s Plant

Growth Habits

Perennial (in the Tropics)
Origin: East Indies, possibly Africa
Range: Wild in Malaysia. Caribbean Islands, cultivated from India to Southeast Asia, grown in Tropical Americas as well.

Culinary Uses

The fresh leaves are used to season fish and cabrito (young goat) in the islands. They are sometimes chopped in chile pastes (something like Jerk Seasoning, but without the strong Onion and Ginger presence). The leaves are the primary seasoning in the Cuban black bean soup, Frijoles Negros. A kind of salsa, made by mincing the leaves together with various unripe fruits, is served as an accompaniment to rice.

In Java and Malaysia, it is used in curries -- especially with goat or strong-smelling fish.
The leaves are sometimes used to flavor beers and wines in India. They have been brewed as herbal tea, and been cooked as potherbs.

Roots and young plants (Coleus amboinicus) eaten in South America. The fragrant leaves are eaten as potherbs in India

The roots of Coleus barbatus are pickled in India.

This powerful smelling herb seems to contain large amounts of Thymol, which would account for some of its misleading common names.


This species is not listed in Hortus Third. A possible reason is that "Country Borage" is also used as a name for the related Coleus amboinicus.

Plectranthus is closely related to Coleus, as might be guessed by some the common names borne by the members of the Genus grown for their flowers: Brazilian Coleus, Prostrate Coleus, Swedish Begonia, Swedish Ivy and Spur Flower.

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