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What is Patchouli?

Patchouli Leaves
Patchouli Leaves
Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin) Leaves

FAQs

What is Patchouli?

Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin) is actually classified as a perennial, bushy herb that is from the mint family.  It has erect stems, grows approximately 2 – 3 feet high and produces small pale white-pink flowers. Patchouli is native to the tropical regions of Asia, particularly Indonesia and the Philippines.  It is now extensively cultivated in those areas as well as the Caribbean, India, China and Malaysia.

What does Patchouli smell like?

Patchouli has a deep, earthy fragrance that became extremely popular in the 1960’s and 1970’s with the “hippie generation”.  Patchouli essential oil is heavy and strong, qualities that make it wonderful for perfumes as well as for soap. 

What are the benefits of Patchouli essential oil?

It is useful in repelling insects, helpful in calming and reducing stress. Patchouli is also good for skin care. Robert Tisserand lists is as one of his 6 soothing skin care oils. As such it is considered beneficial for eczema, dermatitis, wrinkles and cracked and dry skin.

Where does Patchouli come from?

I get that question a lot from various customers at shows.  Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin) is actually classified as a perennial, bushy herb that is from the mint family.  It has erect stems, grows approximately 2 – 3 feet high and produces small pale white-pink flowers.

The plant is native to the tropical regions of Asia, particularly Indonesia and the Philippines.  It is now extensively cultivated in those areas as well as the Caribbean, India, China and Malaysia.  During the 18th and 19th century silk from China and shawls from India were packed with dried patchouli leaves to keep the moths and insects out.   In fact, for a time that was how many Europeans judged the authenticity of Indian shawls was by the scent of patchouli.  Historians have thought that these associations with exotic eastern goods is why patchouli was considered by Europeans of that era to be a luxurious scent. It is said that the linen chests of Queen Victoria contained dried leaves of the plant to protect them from infestations.

The word  patchouli derives from the Tamil patchai (Tamil: பச்சை) (green), ellai (Tamil: இலை) (leaf). In Assamese it is known as xukloti.

What does it smell like?

Patchouli Soap

Patchouli is cultivated for its oils which are produced by steam distillation from either the fresh or dried leaves.  There is actually a difference of opinion whether fresh or dried leaves produces the better oil.

This essential oil is heavy and strong, qualities that make it wonderful for perfumes as well as for soap.  It is essential component in any perfumer’s array of scents. It also provides an excellent grounding note in many blends as well as acting as a fixative of the scent.

This oil has a deep, earthy fragrance that became extremely popular in the 1960’s and 1970’s with the “hippie generation”.   Perhaps part of it’s popularity during this time was due to it’s reputed ability to combat frigidity.  Today I consider it one of those “love it or hate it” scents as people usually have a strong reaction to it one way or the other.

What are the benefits of patchouli essential oil?

Regardless of how you feel about the scent of this essential oil, it is considered to be useful in many respects.

  • Useful as an insect repellent
  • May be used as a conditioner for dreadlocks
  • In Japan and Malaysia it is used as an antidote for venomous snakebites
  • It is an important ingredient in incense and along with that is considered to beneficial for nervous exhaustion and stress related complaints

Robert Tisserand listed patchouli as one his 6 skin soothing oils n his presentation at the HSMG Soap Conference in Denver I attended.   As such it is considered beneficial for eczema, dermatitis, wrinkles and cracked and dry skin.

Recap

Patchouli is one of my personal favorites of the essential oils I work with for several reasons: it is soothing to the skin and to the emotions, it blends well with a wide number of other essential oils and I personally love the way it smells.  I hope I have answered the question of “What is Patchouli?”  As a quick recap it is a herb that is cultivated for its wonderful oil which is valued in perfumery and aromatherapy.  That is Patchouli and if you haven’t tried it I urge you to take a closer sniff.

We make a number of products that use patchouli essential oil either straight or as part of a blend. For example it is in all of our Lavender Sage scented products as well as Walk in the Woods soap. If you are looking for the single note scent we have our bar soap as well as a lotion bar. We also offer a 3 bar set of Patchouli soaps on our Amazon store.

Soap Bar

Lotion Bar

Amazon 3 Bar Set

References:

Wikipedia:    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patchouli

The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils by Julia Lawless

0 thoughts on “What is Patchouli?

  1. Hello Susan, thank you for this article. I have ever loved patchouli smell and now I have some other reasons to keep loving this herb. Can you extract its essential oil by yourself?

  2. Great clarifying article. I didn’t know it could be used both to repell insects and for treating snake bites. And it is excellent in soap. Talk about versatility!

    1. I am glad you enjoyed the article. I consider Patchouli indispensable, but of course not everybody likes it as much as I do.

  3. Thanks for the tip about patchouli and moths! Now I’m wondering if I should get some dried patchouli leaves to protect my wool yarn stash. 🙂

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