What is Patchouli Essential Oil?
Patchouli essential oil is the substance obtained by steam distillation of the shade dried leaves of Pogostemon Cablin Benth, a plant from Lamiaceae family, which is well known for its medicinal and aromatic properties.
The essential oil is found in all parts of the patchouli plant including the root, but studies have shown that the top leaves and tender twigs contain the highest quality oil. It is steam distilled from dried young leaves without stems.
Patchouli oil is viscous in consistency and its color is dark yellow to orange, often with a green tint to a dark-brown color. It has a sweet, earthy, rich and musky aroma that improves with age.
The amazing patchouli oil is an indispensable classic, widely used as a “base” ingredient in perfumery industry. Patchouli oil is perfume by itself. There is no synthetic chemical substitute for patchouli oil, which increases its value and demand in the perfumery market.
It blends well with many essential oils including clary sage, cinnamon, cassia, clove, geranium, lemongrass, mandarin, spikenard, tangerine, vetiver, rosemary, sandalwood, lavender, neroli, orange, lemon, oakmoss, rose, jasmine, palmarosa, ylang ylang, frankincense, bergamot, cedarwood and myrrh.
Patchouli stains the perfume blotter a deep yellow, and it has a silky feel when rubbed between the fingers. It is frequently adulterated with cedarwood oil. To test for this adulterant, leave patchouli oil to evaporate for a few days on a perfume blotter, and a faint cedarwood note will become apparent.
Origin of Patchouli
The patchouli plant was first described by botanist Pelletier-Sautelet in Philippines in 1845, and was named Pogostemon patchouli. It is believed to be a native to the Philippines.
It grows wild in several parts of the world such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. Patchouli was introduced to India during the year 1941 mainly in Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka.
In India, it is cultivated in coastal areas of South India, West Bengal, Assam, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and coastal regions of Gujarat.
The shrub grows wild in Sumatra and Java between the altitudes of 3.000 an 6.000 ft. Patchouli is a perennial, fragrant herb with a height of 2-3 ft. Its axillary and terminal stems are sturdy and have furry leaves, and small white flowers tinged with mauve.
It is highly appreciated for its characteristic pleasant and long lasting woody, earthy and camphoraceous aroma. Internationally, patchouli essential oil is very important and valuable, principally for the aromatherapy, perfumery, cosmetics, incense stick production and food flavoring industries.
Patchouli Essential Oil in History
The name “Patchouli” is said to be derived from the ancient Tamil words “patchai” and “ellai”, which means “green leaf”. Others say that it comes from the word “pacholi”, meaning “smell” in Hindustan, referring to its use as a fragrance.
Patchouli, from the Hindustan “pacholi”, was used extensively in India to scent fabrics. During Victorian times, the English had a passion for cashmere shawls imported from India that were permeated with the scent of patchouli.
It has been predominant in traditional Chinese, Indian, Malaysian and Japanese medicine for various purposes. Because of its primary antiseptic properties, it is used to treat athlete’s foot, dandruff, wounds and scars. Also, it has been used since antiquity as an effective insecticide and stomachic remedy.
Indian inks were distinguished by the scent of patchouli. The patchouli scented the ink, fixed the color and the alcohol patchoulol aided the ink to dry more quickly.
Nowadays, in aromatherapy it relieves anxiety, stress and depression. Its soothing action is perfect for relaxation and meditation therapies.
Active Principles of Patchouli Essential Oil
Literature survey established the fact that patchouli oil has more than 70 chemical compounds. Among them:
Sesquiterpenes: δ-elemene, β-patchoulene, β-elemene, cis-thujopsene, trans-caryophyllene, α-guaiene, γ-patchoulene, α-humulene, α-patchoulene, Seychellene, Valencene, β-selinene, α-selinene, Viridiflorene, Germacrene A, α-bulnesene and 7-epi-α-selinene.
Oxygenated sesquiterpenes: Longipinanol, Globulol and Patchoulol or Patchouli alcohol.
The composition of patchouli essential oil is complex, like many essential oils; but unique, because it consists of over 24 different sesquiterpenes, rather than a blend of different mono, sesqui and di-terpene compounds. The sesquiterpene patchouli alcohol is the major constituent and is the primary component responsible for the typical patchouli note.
Properties of Patchouli Essential Oil
The properties of patchouli oil are :
Antibacterial, antidepressant, antiemetic, anti-infectious, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiphlogistic, antiseptic, astringent, antiviral, carminative, decongestant, deodorant, aphrodisiac, cytophylactic, diuretic, febrifuge, fungicide, insecticide, sedative, tonic, cicatrisant, stimulant and euphoric.
In aromatherapy, patchouli is used to calm nerves, control appetite and relieve depression and stress.
In high dose it can stimulate, and in lower dose, it is a sedative. Additionally, It is used to sharpen intelligence and improve concentration.
Uses of Patchouli Essential Oil
Patchouli oil is considered as an excellent base note in perfumery. It does much more than just providing a distinct and robust fragrance. The perfume industry has used patchouli in a number of the world’s finest perfumes, using the oil for its warm soul feeling and sensual, woody and voluptuous notes.
It is found as an ingredient in many famous perfumes such as Arpege, Tabu, Miss Dior, Opium, Paloma, Picasso, Ysatis and Angel.
As we mention above, there is no synthetic chemical to replace the oil of patchouli. That further enhances its value and unique position in the perfumery market, and there is a great demand for it in soaps, scents, body lotions, detergents, tobacco and incense manufacturing factories.
Also, patchouli is widely used in modern perfumery, and modern scented industrial products such as paper towels, laundry detergents, and air fresheners, among others.
Patchouli is an important ingredient in East Asian incense. Both, patchouli oil and incense gained popularity during 1960s and 1970s in the US and Europe, mainly due to the hippie movement during those decades.
There is a potential for utilizing patchouli spent charge in incense stick manufacture after drying and pulverizing it into suitable particle size powder. The powder may replace sawdust powder up to 10% level which is currently used at 15% level, a raw material in incense stick production.
Patchouli oil is extensively used as a flavor ingredient in major food products including alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages. In very low concentrations, the oil is used to flavor foods, beverages, candy, baked products, frozen dry desserts, gelatin, and meat products. Also, in combination with sandal wood oil, it is used in blending of tobacco.
The leaves and oil of patchouli are used for potpourri and to scent fabrics. In Asia and South America it is often blended with anise and clove as a breath sweetener.
On the other hand, patchouli oil repels insects and especially the patchouli plant, it is claimed to be a potent repellent against the Formosan subterranean termite.
Patchouli oil is helpful for both, repellent for linens and wool. This was one of its main uses during the Victorian era.
In Chinese medicine, decoction from the leaves is used with other drugs to treat nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cold and headaches. A related species Pogostemon heyneaxhus is reported to contain principles possessing anticancer activity.
Patchouli oil, in Japan and Malaysia, is used as an antidote for venomous snakebites, and fresh leaves are used to heal burn. Also, it is effective for fungal and bacterial infections and is a great help against insect bites.
On the skin, patchouli oil works excellent and is an amazing tissue regenerator, which helps to stimulate the growth of new skin cells. In wound healing, it not only promotes faster healing, but also helps to prevent unaesthetic scarring.
Although patchouli oil is probably best known for its antiseptic qualities, it is also famous for its use to treat scalp and skin problems such as oily scalp, dandruff and skin conditions such as acne, allergies, dermatitis, eczema and inflamed, burned, cracked, chapped and irritated skin.
Other common uses for patchouli oil are: to control excessive appetite, relieve bed sores, colitis, sinus congestion, constipation, athlete’s foot, fatigue, hemorrhoids, herpes, impetigo, indigestion, vaginal infections, seborrhea, viral infections, varicose veins, lethargy and menopausal sweats, among others.
In the nervous system, patchouli essential oil helps to reduce tension, insomnia and anxiety. It is also known as a stimulating fragrance that helps soothe and cause a feeling of fullness.
Benefits of Patchouli Essential Oil
It is known that patchouli oil has neuroprotective, anti-influenza and anti-inflammatory properties.
On the skin, it can help prevent wrinkles and cellulite, soothe cuts and inhibit the growth of fungi. It can strengthen your immune system against colds and fever.
In addition, one study investigated cases in which it can be considered a natural treatment for colonrectal cancer. Below, we will review some of the best known benefits of patchouli essential oil:
In 2013, researchers conducted an in vitro study to analyze whether patchouli oil affects cancer cells from human colorectal infection, and to define their potential molecular mechanisms.
The data suggest that patchouli oil suppressed cell growth and induced apoptosis, meaning that the cells were no longer a threat.
In addition, patchouli oil reduced the enzymatic activity, that is to say the reactions that the cancer can have in the body.
These surprising and optimistic results suggest that patchouli oil exerts an anti-cancer activity by decreasing the growth of cancer cells, and increasing apoptosis in human colorectal cancer cells.
Patchouli oil is commonly used in aromatherapy due to its antidepressant properties. Inhaling patchouli oil causes our hormones to stimulate the release of serotonin and dopamine, which calms feelings of anger and anxiety.
This is the reason why patchouli oil is commonly used during prayer and meditation, creating an atmosphere of tranquility.
An easy way to experience this benefit is by adding five drops of patchouli oil to a diffuser or, 10 drops in a hot bath.
Because patchouli oil is a sedative, it helps us achieve a good night’s sleep. This is an excellent natural remedy for insomnia, when used regularly.
Simply rub 2-3 drops of patchouli oil on the palm of your hands and inhale from them. Just by inhaling the sweet aroma of patchouli oil, it is possible to experience the benefits of its sedative properties. It can also be applied on the temples, neck and chest after rubbing the oil on the hands.
Patchouli oil has the power to stimulate hormones and increase libido or sexual desire. It can be considered as one of the best natural remedies for impotence and erectile dysfunction. Patchouli oil has been used as an aphrodisiac for centuries, since it increases testosterone and estrogen levels, and this can have a huge impact on intimate relationships.
Helps metabolic system
Patchouli oil is a tonic that helps tone the liver, stomach and intestines. This increases our ability to break down food and absorb nutrients adequately, which stimulates a proper functioning of the digestive system.
Due to these metabolic benefits, patchouli oil will give us more energy and help our body to function fluidly and correctly.
Fights influenza A (H2N2)
The anti-influenza A (H2N2) virus activity of patchouli alcohol, contained in the essential oil, was studied in vitro, in vivo and in silico. Patchouli alcohol could inhibit influenza virus.
In the influenza mouse model, patchouli alcohol showed obvious protection against the viral infection at a dose of 5 mg-1 kg-1/day.
The methanol extract from the leaves of Pogostemon cablin, showed potent in vitro antiviral activity (99.8% inhibition at a concentration of 10 µgmL-1), against influenza virus A/PR/8/34 (H1N1).
However, patchouli alcohol did not show anti-influenza virus activity against A/Guizhou/54/89 (H3N2).
Eliminates Candida and other harmful fungus
The anti fungal activity of Patchouli oil inhibited the mycelial growth of Candida albicans, as well as Aspergillus niger and Aspergillus flavus, with MICs (minimal inhibitory concentrations) in the range of 0.78 to 12.5 mg mL-1.
Oral and Vaginal thrush, can be treated with patchouli essential oil. However, studies show that Chinese patchouli oil, is better than the oil from Indonesia and India against the following fungal infections:
- Candida Albicans,
- Candida krusei,
- Candida parapsilosis,
- Aspergillus fumigatus,
- Aspegillus flavus and
- Cryptococcus neoformans.
Patchouli essential oil has antiphlogistic properties, which means it has the ability to calm inflammation in the body, since this is the basis of numerous diseases.
The Patchouli oil can treat internal inflammation, and help in the treatment of diseases such as arthritis and gout. Likewise, it can combat the external inflammation that can occur in infections or skin irritations.
To get this benefit, rub five drops of patchouli oil on your hands and massage your feet, stomach, lower back or any other affected area that requires it. You can repeat the routine when you feel discomfort, or during the morning and night.
Detoxifies the body naturally
Patchouli oil increases the frequency of urination, which is beneficial to health in several aspects. This promotes the elimination of excess salt, water and uric acid, which improves the functioning of the gallbladder, kidneys and even the liver.
When we remove toxins from the body, we can help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol naturally.
Fights flu, colds and its symptoms
Patchouli oil has a number of properties that allow it to fight fever and relieve colds easily. Because it reduces inflammation and fights infections, it simultaneously causes a decrease in body temperature and the pain associated with fever.
On the other hand, it also has cooling properties, so rubbing the oil on hands, neck and stomach will naturally reduce body temperature.
Prevents and treats infections
There is always the risk of small wounds becoming infected and this leads to a bigger problem, like tetanus, for example.
Patchouli oil is antiseptic, which means it protects cuts or sores on the skin from the possibility of infection. It also kills fungi, so it can help if you are fighting athlete’s foot or another fungal condition.
Simply, rub 2-3 drops of patchouli oil into the infected area (avoiding open wounds), or take a warm bath with 5-10 drops of this oil, to prevent infection.
Strengthens hair and skin
Patchouli oil stimulates muscle contractions and, therefore, prevents hair loss and sagging skin. In addition, the essential oil of patchouli regenerates skin cells, keeping it young, healthy and smooth.
This oil is ideal for all skin types, including: dry, cracked and oily skin or acne-prone skin. With its regular use, you will see the healing and anti-germ benefits quickly.
Try adding five drops of patchouli oil to your face cleaning product or face lotion. For the hair, massage five drops of patchouli oil on the scalp or add it to your conditioner.
Due to its efficient healing properties, patchouli oil minimizes the appearance of scars or marks left by acne, measles, smallpox or other wounds. It is even possible to cure insect bites with the properties contained in this essential oil.
To accelerate the healing process of unwanted marks on the skin, rub 2-3 drops of patchouli oil on the hands and then apply on the area to be treated. Repeat the process daily and you will begin to see how the scar fades.
Only a few drops of patchouli oil will give great results to keep the insects away. This repellent oil can be used in the form of spray, lotions and vaporizers. It repels flies, mosquitoes, fleas, ants, lice and moths.
Besides, patchouli oil main constituent, patchouli alcohol was found to be toxic and repellent against Formosan subterranean termites.
Great natural antibacterial
Patchouli oil obtained from P. cablin, was screened for its in vitro antibacterial activity against ten human pathogenic bacteria comparing to standard antibacterial antibiotic Ampicillin. It was observed that the essential oil was more effective against all the test organisms when compared with Ampicillin.
The bacteria under study were the following:
- Bacillus subtilis ,
- Bacillus cereus,
- Staphylococcus aureus,
- Salmonella typhi,
- Salmonella paratyphi,
- Pseudomonas aeruginosa,
- Shigella sonnei,
- Shigella dysenteriae,
- Vibrio cholera and
- Escherichia coli.
Warnings and precautions when using Patchouli Essential Oil
Despite there is not sufficient scientifically valid evidence to state that patchouli extract could be potentially harmful to human beings, some precautions must be taken in accounts to avoid unwanted effects:
- Avoid the use of patchouli oil with loss of appetite or anorexia, because it may reduce appetite.
- It can cause photosensitivity.
- Drug interaction, may inhibit blood clotting; avoid use in the case of anticoagulant medication, major surgery, peptic ulcer, hemophilia and other bleeding disorders.
- Dilute in a carrier oil before using.
- A patch test should be performed before use, especially for those with sensitive skin.
- There is not enough scientific evidence to support the safety of patchouli oil for children and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, so if you plan to use the oil, regulate the doses or consult a specialist.
- Because it works as a sedative, consumed in large quantities can alter energy levels.
Where to buy Patchouli Essential Oil?
In general, good quality oils, that is, 100% pure and not mixed with other substances, can be found in specialized natural herb stores.
If you can not reach a trusted naturist or herbalist shop near you, here are some recommendations:
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Tips for a better performance and duration of your oils:
- Store them in a dark glass bottle, never plastic, not even when blended with a carrier oil.
- Keep them in cool, dark places, away from sources of heat and light.
- Maintain the container that holds it tightly closed, since they are very volatile and also, their properties would be lost or modified.