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What Benefits Can You Derive From Patchouli Oil?

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patchouli oil

Story at-a-glance -

  • Patchouli oil has long been used in traditional Asian medicine, especially in Malaysia, China, India and Japan
  • It is used to help treat skin and hair problems, such as psoriasis, eczema, acne, dry chapped skin, dandruff and oily scalp
  • Patchouli oil is touted for its wound-healing and scar-reducing properties, as well as aphrodisiac and stress-relieving effects

For many people, a whiff of patchouli oil evokes memories of the hippie movement of the '60s and '70s.1 But beyond this oil's unique association with the "flower children" are a wealth of benefits that can soothe and heal you both inside and out. Discover more interesting facts about patchouli oil below.

What Is Patchouli Oil?

Patchouli oil is derived from a large evergreen perennial belonging to the Labiatae family, and a close relative of mint, lavender and sage. The name "patchouli" (Pogostemon cablin or Pogostemon patchouli) is said to be derived from the ancient Tamil words "patchai" and "ellai" that collectively mean "green leaf,"2 while others say it comes from the Hindustan word "pacholi."3

Patchouli originates from Southeast Asia,4 and is cultivated in Malaysia, India, Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines.5 Patchouli oil is extracted from the plant’s lightly fragrant leaves6 and the white, violet-marked flowers.7 The resulting oil is light yellow or green, with a strong, spicy, woody and musky aroma,8 reminiscent of wet soil.9 For some, the potent fragrance is an acquired smell.10

What sets patchouli oil apart from other herbal oils is that it gets better with age. Its light yellow color turns into a deep amber, and the scent becomes smoother and richer.11

Uses of Patchouli Oil

Patchouli has been utilized for thousands of years. The Romans, for example, used it as an appetite stimulant. In Egypt, it was said that the pharaoh Tutankhamun — also known as King Tut — arranged to have gallons of patchouli oil buried with him in his tomb.12

Patchouli oil has long been used in traditional Asian medicine, especially in Malaysia, China, India and Japan.13 It is used to help address skin and hair problems, such as psoriasis, eczema, acne, dry chapped skin, dandruff14 and oily scalp.15

It also has wound-healing and scar-reducing properties,16 as well as aphrodisiac effects.17 The link to sexual desire likely originated from India, where it was used in Tantric sexual practices.18

Patchouli oil is also popularly used as a fabric fragrance, as manufacturers used it as a moth repellent for fabrics exported to other countries. The scent was so prevalent that it became an indicator of authentic Oriental fabric. English and French garment makers even added patchouli oil to their imitation products to make them acceptable in the market.19

Nowadays, patchouli oil is used as a fragrance in skin and personal care products, potpourri, insect repellents,20 detergents and incense.21 In aromatherapy, patchouli oil is said to help relieve anxiety, stress and depression.22 You may benefit from its calming effect23 by simply adding a few drops in a diffuser or vaporizer for when you’re relaxing or meditating. You can also mix it into your face cream, serum, lotion24 or shampoo, or even your bathwater.25 Here are other ways to use patchouli oil:

  • Massage it on your skin to help address tension and anxiety, and improve digestion.26
  • Dab a small amount of diluted essential oil on your skin to soothe cuts, scrapes, burns and sores,27 as well as insect bites.28
  • Apply a few drops on your wrists or onto your sheets to keep moths,29 ants, bedbugs and other pests away.30
  • Put two to three drops on a cotton ball and dab it on your underarms to prevent body odor.
  • Mix a couple of drops into your shampoo or conditioner to treat dandruff and oily hair. Leave it on for a few minutes before rinsing.31

Composition of Patchouli Oil

The beneficial properties of patchouli oil come from its many components, such as patchoulol, alpha-bulnesene, alpha-guaiene,32 alpha-patchoulene, beta-patchoulene, trans-beta-caryophyllene, norpatchoulenol, seychellene, norpatchoulenol and pogostol.33 It also contains patchouli alcohol (PA), an important compound with neuroprotective, anti-influenza and anti-inflammatory activities.34

5 Conditions That May Be Alleviated by Patchouli Oil

Patchouli oil's health benefits are attributed to its antifungal, antidepressant, antiseptic, astringent, diuretic and cytophylactic properties. It also works as a deodorant, insecticide and sedative.35 Patchouli oil may help address health conditions like:

  • Inflammation Patchouli oil can help alleviate inflammation-related conditions like gout and arthritis.36
  • Fungal infection It aids in inhibiting fungal growth and protecting against notorious infections37 such as athlete's foot.38
  • Colds and flu Patchouli oil can bolster your immune system39 to lower your risk for colds, allergies40 and influenza.41
  • Fever It may help ease fever-causing infections and reduce your body temperature.42
  • Sexual problems (men and women) It may help boost your sex drive,43 and addresses impotence and sexual anxiety.44

Patchouli oil may also act as a tonic that may help promote overall well-being by toning your stomach, liver and intestines in order to optimize metabolic function. It also helps regulate your endocrinal secretions of hormones and enzymes, and boosts your nervous45 and immune system health.46

How to Make Your Own Patchouli Oil Infusion

The leaves of the patchouli plant are handpicked, fermented and partially dried for a few days,47 until the oil is derived using steam distillation,48 microwave air-hydrodistillation, solvent extraction, stem-hydrodistillation49 or CO2 extraction.50 However, you can make a patchouli oil infusion at home using fresh or dried patchouli leaves by following these methods:51

Patchouli Oil Infusion Recipe

Materials and Ingredients:

Large glass bowl

Sieve and cheesecloth

Sterilized dark jars

Dried patchouli leaves

Double boiler (for the hot oil infusion method only)

16 fl oz. (500 milliliters) of carrier oil like sweet almond, coconut, olive or jojoba

8 oz. (250 grams) of dry, organic and slightly crushed patchouli leaves or 16 oz. (500 g) fresh, organic and slightly bruised patchouli leaves that were washed and dried

Optional: 10 to 20 drops of other essential oils

For the hot oil infusion method

1. Place herbs and oil in the glass bowl, ensuring that the oil covers the herbs. Simmer them inside a double boiler for one hour at 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius). Avoid letting both ingredients boil. If you want a more concentrated infusion, repeat this step multiple times after allowing the oils to cool, and adding fresh herbs each time you re-simmer.

2. Strain mixture through the sieve and cheesecloth into clean and dark jars. Try to squeeze out as much oil as possible from the cheesecloth. You can add other essential oils, drop by drop into the product, until you get your preferred scent.

3. Label jars according to the manufacturing and expiry dates, herbs, and oils used. Store the infused oils in a cool and dark place, or inside your refrigerator. Use within three months.

For the cold oil infusion method

1. Place herbs and oil inside a large, clear glass jar, ensuring that the oil covers the herbs. Seal it and place in a spot that gets at least six hours of sunlight daily for two weeks. Shake the jar every day. If you want a more concentrated infusion, place the jar in the area for up to six weeks.

2. After infusion period, strain mixture through the sieve and cheesecloth into clean and dark jars. Try to squeeze out as much oil as possible from the cheesecloth. You can add other essential oils, drop by drop into the product, until you get your preferred scent.

3. Label jars according to the manufacturing and expiry dates, herbs, and oils used. Store the infused oils in a cool and dark place, or inside your refrigerator. Use within three months.

How Does Patchouli Oil Work?

Patchouli oil can be inhaled, diffused in a vaporizer or applied directly to your skin.52 Doing so helps transmit messages to the limbic system, a brain region that helps control emotions and influence the nervous system.53 However, I advise using this oil in moderation54 because copious amounts can lead to a strong and overwhelming odor.55

Is Patchouli Oil Safe?

Patchouli oil is safe when applied topically or inhaled. It can be used by itself, but can also be blended with in a carrier oil like coconut, sweet almond, olive or jojoba. Patchouli oil mixes well with frankincense, sandalwood, cedarwood, clove, vetiver, lavender, ylang-ylang, and citrus and spice oils.56,57

However, those with sensitive skin may have certain reactions to patchouli oil, so I recommend doing a skin patch test before using it. Talk to your doctor prior to using patchouli oil to see if your current health status allows you to utilize this very fragrant substance. Some say that using patchouli oil during a pregnant woman's second and third trimester is okay,58 but for your safety, consult a health care professional before using it at all during your pregnancy.

Side Effects of Patchouli Oil

Patchouli can cause overstimulation and may have strong sedative effects when used in large amounts.59 It can also cause appetite loss, insomnia, mucous membrane irritation, nausea, nervousness or vomiting.60 If you're suffering from an eating disorder61 or recovering from sickness, I advise you to not use this herbal oil.62

+ Sources and References