Benefits and Uses of Patchouli Oil

What is Patchouli and where does it come from?

Patchouli oil is derived from a large evergreen perennial belonging to the Labiatae family, and is closely related to mint, lavender and sage.  For some people, the scent of patchouli brings back memories from the 1960’s and 1970’s.1   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,"while others say it comes from the Hindustan word "pacholi."

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 leaves6and 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

One of the biggest things that set 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

What are some of the 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 

The following 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

What is the 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

Due to the composition of Patchouli Oil it has unique health benefits that are attributed to its antifungal, antidepressant, antiseptic, astringent, diuretic and cytophylactic properties. It also works as a deodorant, insecticide and sedative.35

Therefore, Patchouli Oil may help alleviate the following conditions:

  • Inflammation— Patchouli oil can help alleviate inflammation-related conditions such as 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

Patchouli oil can be inhaled, diffused in a vaporizer or applied directly to your skin.47 Doing so helps transmit messages to the limbic system, a brain region that helps control emotions and influence the nervous system.48 However, I advise using this oil in moderation49 because copious amounts can lead to a strong and overwhelming odor.50

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.51,52




1 “The Encyclopedia of Crystals, Herbs, and New Age Elements: An A to Z Guide to New Age Elements and How to Use Them,” 2016

2, 39, 46 "Essential Oils in Food Preservation, Flavor and Safety," September 28, 2015

3 "The Complete Technology Book of Essential Oils (Aromatic Chemicals)," February 9, 2011

4, 19 “The Healing Art of Essential Oils: A Guide to 50 Oils for Remedy, Ritual, and Everyday Use,” 2017

5, 7, 13, 22, 42, 44, 45 "Aromatherapy: Essential Oils for Vibrant Health and Beauty," June 3, 2002

6, 15, 20, 29, 38, 43 “Rodale's 21st-Century Herbal: A Practical Guide for Healthy Living Using Nature's Most Powerful Plants,” April 29, 2014

8, 10 “Essential Oils: All-Natural Remedies and Recipes for Your Mind, Body and Home,” October 11, 2016

9 "Quintessentially Perfume," 2010

11 "Cultivation and Utilization of Aromatic Plants," October 5, 2005

12, 14, 41, 50, 51 "The Essential Oils Complete Reference Guide: Over 250 Recipes for Natural Wholesome Aromatherapy," January 31, 2017

16 “95 Surprisingly Effective Natural Ways to Fight Acne,” August 31, 2011

17, 24, 47 “Natural Beauty: Natural Makeup, Soothing Therapies, Homemade Preparations,” February 2, 2015

18 "Simple and Natural Herbal Living - An Earth Lodge Guide to Holistic Herbs for Health," May 13, 2016

21, 27, 36 "Leafy Medicinal Herbs: Botany, Chemistry, Postharvest Technology and Uses," July 25, 2016

23 “From Cancer to Wellness: The Forgotten Secrets,” December 16, 2011

25 “Coconut Oil: The Ultimate Collection,” August 16, 2014

28 “Essential Oils for Beginners: The Guide to Get Started With Essential Oils and Aromatherapy,” October 4, 2013

30, 32 Acta Trop. 2013 Sep;127(3):181-6

31 “Essential Oils for Your Health and Beauty, Part 2,” October 21, 2017

33 Iran J Pharm Res. 2013 Summer; 12(3): 307–316

34 International Immunopharmacology, Volume 16, Issue 2, 2013, Pages 184-190

35 "Essential Oils for Healing: Over 400 All-Natural Recipes for Everyday Ailments," July 5, 2016

37 “Llewellyn's Complete Formulary of Magical Oils: Over 1200 Recipes, Potions & Tinctures for Everyday Use,” September 8, 2012

40 “Your Yin Yang Body Type: The Korean Tradition of Sasang Medicine,” December 29, 2014

48 VeryWellHealth, October 7, 2018

49 “The Secret Benefits of Aromatherapy,” July 26, 2010

52 “Aromatic Plants,” 2007