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. 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, and is cultivated in Malaysia, India, Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines. Patchouli oil is extracted from the plant’s lightly fragrant leavesand the white, violet-marked flowers. The resulting oil is light yellow or green, with a strong, spicy, woody and musky aroma, reminiscent of wet soil. For some, the potent fragrance is an acquired smell.
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.
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.
Patchouli oil has long been used in traditional Asian medicine, especially in Malaysia, China, India and Japan. It is used to help address skin and hair problems, such as psoriasis, eczema, acne, dry chapped skin, dandruff and oily scalp.
It also has wound-healing and scar-reducing properties, as well as aphrodisiac effects. The link to sexual desire likely originated from India, where it was used in Tantric sexual practices.
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.
Nowadays, patchouli oil is used as a fragrance in skin and personal care products, potpourri, insect repellents, detergents and incense. In aromatherapy, patchouli oil is said to help relieve anxiety, stress and depression. You may benefit from its calming effect 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, lotion or shampoo, or even your bathwater.
The following are other ways to use patchouli oil:
- Massage it on your skin to help address tension and anxiety, and improve digestion.
- Dab a small amount of diluted essential oil on your skin to soothe cuts, scrapes, burns and sores, as well as insect bites.
- Apply a few drops on your wrists or onto your sheets to keep moths, ants, bedbugs and other pests away.
- 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.
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, alpha-patchoulene, beta-patchoulene, trans-beta-caryophyllene, norpatchoulenol, seychellene, norpatchoulenol and pogostol. It also contains patchouli alcohol (PA), an important compound with neuroprotective, anti-influenza and anti-inflammatory activities.
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.
Therefore, Patchouli Oil may help alleviate the following conditions:
- Inflammation— Patchouli oil can help alleviate inflammation-related conditions such as gout and arthritis.
- Fungal infection — It aids in inhibiting fungal growth and protecting against notorious infections such as athlete's foot.
- Colds and flu— Patchouli oil can bolster your immune system to lower your risk for colds, allergies and influenza.
- Fever — It may help ease fever-causing infections and reduce your body temperature.
- Sexual problems (men and women) — It may help boost your sex drive, and addresses impotence and sexual anxiety.
- 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 nervous and immune system health.
Patchouli oil can be inhaled, diffused in a vaporizer or applied directly to your skin. Doing so helps transmit messages to the limbic system, a brain region that helps control emotions and influence the nervous system. However, I advise using this oil in moderation because copious amounts can lead to a strong and overwhelming odor.
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.
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“The Healing Art of Essential Oils: A Guide to 50 Oils for Remedy, Ritual, and Everyday Use,” 2017
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