Ammi visnaga

Ammi visnaga

[span class=alert]In regards to the Traditional Use and Therapeutic Action sections of Essential Oils, the oils are rated as is standard practice in the French school of aromatherapy and others. The ratings ranked from one (+) to four (++++) with four indicating the highest value, indicate the oil’s therapeutic value from a practicing clinician’s point of view. The French rating system mentioned are obtained from this book reference entitle ‘Les Cahiers Pratiques D'Aromatherapie Selon L'Ecole Francaise’ (Authors: Francine Baudry, Pascal Debauche & Dominique Baudoux). However, further clarification might be required and will be updated once additional information of the rating system is obtained.[/span]

Family Name


Genus Name

Ammi L.

Vernacular Name

Khella seed, khella, khellin.

Original Habitat

Ammi visnaga originated in the Nile Delta is indigenous to the entire the Mediterranean area and is cultivated in North and South America. Presently, abundant commercial cultivation occurs in Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco. This herb is annual or biennial growing up to 30 inches in height with white flowers in large umbels. The plant grows well in sandy to heavy soils with adequate moisture. The plant’s dried umbels are long and woody and are sold in the Middle East as toothpicks, a use dating back throughout its history.

Plant Part Used

Seeds and/or fruits [1]


Available as essential oil, as an ingredient in soaps and as an ingredient in some essential oil formulas.


The oil is steam distilled from the dried seed or fruit, is light amber in color and has a bitter aroma.

Chemical Constituents

Furanochromones and Coumarin derivatives

Khellin (1%), visnagin, khellol, khellinol, ammiol, visammiol, khellinone, camphor, carvone, x-terpineol, terpinen-4-ol, linalool [1][2][3][4]

Medicinal Uses

Antispasmodic due to papaverinic-type relaxing action:

Coronary dilator, ++++
Bronchial dilator ++++
Ureteral dilator++++
Antimicrobial [5][6][7][8]

Traditional Use

Ammi visnaga was traditionally used in the Mediterranean for the treatment of heart conditions for thousands of years. It is thought that the mechanism of action is similar to calcium channel blocking drugs.[9]  

This oil from this herb was also used in the treatment of kidney stones. The main chemical, khellin, was first isolated in 1879 by Mustapha.[7] 

Intal, an asthma drug widely used with conventional medicine, is derived chemically from khellin, along with Nasal Chrom. Khellin is structurally similar to psoralen and may stimulate melanine synthesis.[7]

Contraindications and Precautions

Commission E Monographs reversed this herb in 1994 due to therapeutic risk and unproven efficacy.[10]

Side effects may include insomnia, nausea and dizziness.[10]

Do not apply directly onto the skin except as directed by a professional.

Khellin should not be used if any prescription or over the counter medications are being used.



[span class=alert]Keep out of reach of children as oils are highly concentrated.Essential oils are irritating to the eyes.  Avoid contact with eye area.Always dilute essential oils with carrier oil, lotion, cream or gel even when using in diffuser or bath.Essential oils are sometimes prescribed to be used internally, but should only be used internally under professional supervision.[/span]


1.     Grindley DN. Ammi visnaga: composition of the fatty acids present in the seed fat. J Food Sci Agric. Mar 1949;1(2):53-56.

2.     Bruneton J. Pharmacognosy: phytochemistry medicinal plants 2nd Edition. New York:Lavoisier; 1999.

3.     Günaydin K. The chemical investigations on the ripe fruits of Ammi visnaga (Lam.) Lamarck growing in Turkey. Nat Prod Res. Apr 2004;18(2):169-175.

4.     Wichtl M. Herbal drugs and phytopharmaceuticals. Stuttgart: Medpharm Scientific Publishers; 1994.

5.     Lis-Balchin M. Aromatherapy science. London: Pharmaceutical Press; 2006.

6.     Schnaubelt Phd. K. Advanced aromatherapy: the science of essential oil therapy. Healing Arts Press; 1995.

7.     Kennedy MCS, et al. The bronchodilator action of khellin. Thorax.1952;7:43-65.

8.     Abravesh Z. Antimicrobial effect of Ammi visnaga essential oil on the mouth microflora. Iranian Journal of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Research. [No Dates/Issue Information]

9.     Werbach MR, Murray MT. Botanical influences on illness: a sourcebook of clinical research. California:Third Line Press; 1994;70.

10.    Duke JA. Handbook of medicinal herbs. Boca Raton: CRC Press; 2002