Patchouli essential oil has been used for centuries in perfumes. The strong scent of patchouli oil has that polarizing type of aroma. Basically, you either love it or it absolutely repulses you.
The hippy generation of the 1960s and ‘70s, such as musicians, artists, and others living an alternative lifestyle, was drawn to its rich and earthy smell. However, bugs tend to hate patchouli oil—a natural insect repellent. Besides its wonderful smell, there are many other fantastic uses and health benefits of patchouli essential oil. It is also used in incense, and as an alternative medicine.
Patchouli oil has become very popular but effective as a natural skin care treatment. As a result, it is one of the better essential oils for inflammation, acne, eczema, scars, and irritated, chapped, or cracked skin. Just a few drops could also clear dandruff, boost immunity, enhance your mood, and fight fevers, infections, and depression. The following article will help you learn more about patchouli essential oil, and its many other great uses and benefits.
What Is Patchouli Essential Oil?
Patchouli essential oil comes from the leaves of the large evergreen perennial patchouli plant, which is also called Pogostemon cablin or Pogostemon patchouli. The cablin species is often considered the superior of the two. Patchouli essential oil is extracted through steam distillation of the leaves, which can be harvested several times yearly. In this process, the cell walls of the leaves must be broken through steam scalding, drying, or light fermentation.
It is also a member of the Lamiaceae family, and is closely related to sage, lavender, and mint. The name patchouli is thought to be derived from the ancient Tamil words pachai and ellai, which translates as “green leaf.” Others believe it comes from the Hindustan word patchoi, which means “to scent,” and refers to its fragrance. What sets patchouli oil apart from other essential oils is that it gets better with age—just like a fine wine. The scent becomes smoother and richer as its light yellow color turns into deep amber.
The bushy herb has rigid stems, small and pale pink flowers, and reaches around two to three feet in height. The plant is native to tropical Southeast Asia, and today is cultivated throughout India, Malaysia, China, Philippines, Indonesia, Maldives, Cambodia, Myanmar, Mauritius, Taiwan, Seychelles, Vietnam, South America, Hawaii, Thailand, and the Caribbean.
Patchouli Oil in History
Patchouli oil also has an interesting history. Early European traders once valued one pound of patchouli for a pound of gold. In India, patchouli oil was used in clothing as a moth repellent. The patchouli oil scent even became an indicator of authentic Oriental fabric. French and English garment makers would also scent imitation products with patchouli to help sell their products. In Egypt, King Tut had arranged to have 10 gallons of patchouli oil buried with him. Romans once used it as an appetite stimulant, while its also long been used in traditional Asian medicines in Japan, Malaysia, and China.
Health Benefits of Patchouli Essential Oil
The many reported health benefits of patchouli essential oil make it truly unique. The main compounds of patchouli essential oil include alpha patchoulene, alpha bulnesene, alpha guaiene, beta patchoulene, norpatchoulenol, caryophyllene, seychellene, patchouli alcohol, and pogostol. These active ingredients may be responsible for the oil’s following properties:
As a tonic, patchouli oil could help tone your stomach, intestines, and liver. This impacts digestion as it increases the ability to break down food, and properly absorb nutrients. The antidepressant properties in patchouli oil might encourage the release of dopamine and serotonin, which eases feelings of depression, anxiety, anxiousness, and anger. The libido-boosting effects may also increase sex drive, and treat impotency and erectile dysfunction.
What are other key patchouli essential oil benefits? Here are other health-related reasons to use patchouli oil:
1. May Treat Cancer
An in vitro study published in the journal International Immunopharmacology in 2013 suggests that patchouli essential oil has an anti-cancer effect found by reducing cell growth and inducing cell death in human colorectal cancer cells.
2. Benefits Hair and Skin
The anti-inflammatory properties of patchouli oil may help regenerate new skin cells, prevent hair loss, and treat external inflammation due to skin irritations or infections. Its antiseptic effects could also protect sores or cuts on the skin from infection. It could also treat skin-related fungal infections like athlete’s foot, and minimize the effect of scars due to wounds, acne, measles, boils, or chicken pox. For your hair or skin, add a few drops of patchouli oil to your conditioner, face wash, or lotion, and apply it directly to your scalp or face.
3. Relieves Insomnia
Proper sleep is essential for the health of the entire body. Therefore, the sedative effect of patchouli oil may work as an insomnia treatment to allow you to get a good night’s sleep. Breathe in the patchouli oil scent before bed, or rub some on your chest, neck, or temples.
4. Battles Fevers
Patchouli oil could help treat cold symptoms, especially a fever. Its cooling properties may reduce pain and bring down body temperature associated with a fever by rubbing the oil on your stomach, neck, and hands. Patchouli oil also is known to kill infections and decrease inflammation.
5. Increases Urination Frequency
Patchouli essential oil also purportedly increases urination frequency, which helps remove excess water, salt, and uric acid. This could potentially benefit and cleanse your kidneys, gallbladder, and liver.
How to Use Patchouli Essential Oil
Patchouli oil is so effective as an insect repellent that it actually has been studied as a natural pesticide and insecticide. Research published in the journal Pest Management Science in 2010 found that 17 essential oils, including patchouli oil, would decrease non-target exposure to hazardous insecticides. Using a few drops of patchouli oil may help repel fleas, ants, mosquitos, flies, moths, and lice.
Patchouli essential oil combines well with clary sage, bergamot, geranium, frankincense, lemongrass, myrrh, ginger, lavender, and lemongrass. Like most essential oils, patchouli essential oil can be inhaled with a diffuser, and sprayed in the air. Since some are sensitive to certain essential oils, a skin patch test can test your reaction to patchouli oil before widespread use. It can also be applied to the skin with carrier oils like jojoba oil or coconut oil. You can also ingest patchouli oil, and add a couple of drops to water or tea. The following are a number of specific ways you can utilize your patchouli essential oil:
1. Natural deodorant
For a natural deodorant, add one or two drops under your armpits, or add it to your body lotion. Remember that the scent is strong, so don’t use too much.
2. For relaxation
For a grounding effect, add a drop or two to your palm of your hand, and cup your mouth and nose, and breathe in the scent for several minutes. Alternatively, you can also massage the back of your neck, and soles of the feet.
3. For the bath
For an atmosphere of tranquility, add 10 drops of patchouli essential oil to a warm bath.
The following are a few patchouli essential oil recipes you may also benefit from:
1. Sensual Massage Blend for Women
- 2 tbsp of jojoba oil
- 8 drops of rose essential oil
- 4 drops of patchouli essential oil
- 2 drops of vetiver essential oil
- 2 drops of geranium essential oil
Directions: Combine all ingredients in a bowl and transfer to a sterilized dark-glass bottle. Seal with a dropper or cap. Store in a dark, cool place for up to three months. This blend soothes the nerves, and helps ground the emotions. As a result, it is a perfect blend for massaging your significant other.
2. Homemade Bug Spray
- 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup of witch hazel
- 40 drops of patchouli essential oil
Directions: Combine all ingredients in an eight-ounce spray bottle. When using, spray all over the body, but avoid the mouth and eyes.
3. Homemade Men’s Cologne
- 5 drops of cedarwood essential oil
- 2 drops of patchouli essential oil
- 2 drops of sandalwood essential oil
- 3 drops of bergamot essential oil
- 8 oz of 70% alcohol or vodka
Directions: Combine all ingredients and store in a glass cologne spray bottle.
Patchouli Essential Oil Precautions
As a dietary supplement, patchouli essential oil is generally safe when used in regulated amounts. That being said, it is not recommended for children under age 6. There is limited scientific evidence to support the safety of patchouli essential oil for pregnant or nursing women and children, so only use it regulated doses. It also should not be used for those with anorexia nervosa. Additionally, it is best to keep essential oils away from the nose, ears, or eyes. In large doses, it could cause skin sensitivity, appetite loss, and reduced energy levels.
Also, be aware that not all essential oils are created equal. Choose a high-quality patchouli essential oil that is 100% therapeutic grade, and purchased from a reputable company like doTERRA, Young Living, or Zayat Aroma, just to name a few.
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Machial, C.M., et al., “Evaluation of the toxicity of 17 essential oils against Choristoneura rosaceana (Lepidoptera: Torticidae) and Trichoplusa ni (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae),” Pest Management Science, October 2010; 66(10): 116-1121, doi: 10.1002/ps.1988.
Jeong, J.B., et al., “Patchouli alcohol, an essential oil of Pogostermon cablin, exhibits anti-tumorigenic activity in human colorectal cancer cells,” International Immunopharmacology, June 2013; 16(2): 184-190, doi: 10.1016/j.intimp.2013.04.006.