Patchouli oil is an essential oil derived from the leaves of the patchouli plant, a type of aromatic herb. The Patchouli plant belongs to a family of other well-known aromatic plants, including Lavender, Mint, and Sage.
Patchouli oil has a grounding, balancing, calming scent and provides numerous health benefits, making it ideal for therapeutic use in cosmetics, aromatherapy, and cleaning products. To produce patchouli oil, the leaves and stems of the plant are harvested and allowed to dry out. They then undergo a distillation process to extract the essential oil.
Patchouli is native to and cultivated in tropical regions such as Brazil, Hawaii, and Asian regions like China, India, Malaysia, and Indonesia. In the Asian countries, it was traditionally used in folk medicine to treat hair problems like dandruff and oily scalp, as well as skin irritations like dryness, acne, and eczema.
Although its use was widespread in the 1960s, it began to be used hundreds of years earlier; its high value inspired early European traders to exchange Patchouli for gold. It was also believed that the Pharaoh Tutankhamun, King Tut, was buried with 10 gallons of Patchouli oil inside his tomb.
Having been used to scent Indian fabrics such as fine silks and shawls to rid them of moths and other insects in the 1800s, Patchouli Oil is believed to have received its name from the Hindi word “pacholi”, meaning “to scent”. Another theory states that its name comes from the Ancient Tamil words “patchai” and “ellai”, meaning “green leaf”. The story goes that the scent of Patchouli oil became the standard by which fabrics would be judged as being true Oriental fabrics.
There are three species of Patchouli, which are called Pogostemon Cablin, Pogostemon Heyneanus, and Pogostemon Hortensis. Of these, the Cablin species is the most popular and is the one cultivated for its essential oil, as its therapeutic properties lend it a relative superiority over other species.
Patchouli’s active chemical components contribute to its therapeutic benefits that give it the reputation of being a grounding, soothing, and peace-inducing oil. These constituents make it ideal for use in cosmetics, aromatherapy, massage, and in home cleansing products to purify the air as well as surfaces. These healing benefits can be attributed to the oil’s anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, antiphlogistic, antiseptic, aphrodisiac, astringent, cicatrisant, cytophylactic, deodorant, diuretic, febrifuge, fungicide, sedative and tonic qualities, among other valuable properties.
Several studies have demonstrated that patchouli oil has an anti-inflammatory effect:
- Swelling is a large part of your body’s inflammatory response. A recent study in mice found that one component of patchouli oil decreased chemically induced swelling in their paws and ears.
- Immune cells produce a variety of chemicals associated with inflammation. A 2011 study reported that pretreating immune cells called macrophages with patchouli alcohol lowered the levels of these molecules produced by the cells when they were stimulated.
- Immune cells must also migrate to the site of inflammation. A 2016 study in cultured cells found that patchouli oil reduced migration of immune cells called neutrophils.
These findings are promising for the use of patchouli oil or its components in treating inflammatory conditions.
In fact, a recent study administered patchouli oil to rats with chemically induced inflammatory bowel disease. They found that rats treated with patchouli oil had less damage and immune cell accumulation in their colon.
Patchouli oil doesn’t often elicit irritation or an allergic response when applied to the skin. But you should still be careful when initially applying it in case a reaction occurs. Never apply undiluted patchouli essential oil to the skin. Because patchouli oil can affect blood clotting, the following people should avoid using patchouli oil:
- Those taking blood thinning medication
- Individuals who have recently had or will be undergoing major surgery
- Those with bleeding disorders, such as hemophilia.
As always, it’s important to remember that essential oils are very concentrated and should be properly diluted before using on the skin or for aromatherapy. Never eat or drink any essential oil without first consulting a qualified medical professional.