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Patchouli: Wikis


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Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Lamiales
Family: Lamiaceae
Genus: Pogostemon
Species: P. cablin
Binomial name
Pogostemon cablin
  • patchouli
  • patchouly
  • pachouli

Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin (Blanco) Benth; also patchouly or pachouli) is a species from the genus Pogostemon and a bushy herb of the mint family, with erect stems, reaching two or three feet (about 0.75 metre) in height and bearing small pale pink-white flowers. The plant is native to tropical regions of Asia and is now extensively cultivated in Caribbean countries, China, India, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Philippines, West Africa and Vietnam.

The scent of patchouli is heavy and strong. It has been used for centuries in perfumes and continues to be so today. The word derives from the Tamil patchai (Tamil: பச்சை) (green), ellai (Tamil: இலை) (leaf). In Assamese it is known as xukloti.

Pogostemon cablin, P. commosum, P. hortensis, P. heyneasus and P. plectranthoides are all cultivated for their oils and all are known as 'patchouli' oil, but P. cablin is considered superior.


Extraction of the essential oil

Extraction of the essential oil is by steam distillation, requiring the cell walls of the leaves to be first ruptured. This can be achieved by steam scalding, light fermentation, or by drying.

Leaves are harvested several times a year, and where dried may be exported for distillation of the oil. Sources disagree over how to obtain the best quality oil. Some claim the highest quality oil is usually produced from fresh leaves, distilled close to the plantation,[1] while others claim baling the dried leaves and allowing them to ferment a little is best.[2]


Patchouli oil and incense underwent a surge in popularity in the 1960s and 1970s in the US and Europe, mainly due to the hippie movement of those decades. As with other incense flavors, it was frequently used to cover up the smell of burning marijuana. During those same decades it also became popular as a result of interest in the Transcendental Meditation movement.

Conditioner and repellent

Patchouli oil has also been used as a hair conditioner for dreadlocks. One study suggests patchouli oil may serve as an all-purpose insect repellent.[3]

Medicinal uses

In several Asian countries, such as Japan and Malaysia, patchouli is also used as an antidote for venomous snakebites? The plant and oil have many claimed health benefits in herbal folk-lore and the scent is used to induce relaxation. Chinese medicine uses the herb to treat headaches, colds, nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Patchouli oil can be purchased from mainstream Western pharmacies and alternative therapy sources as an aromatherapy oil.

Perfume uses

Patchouli is also in widespread use in modern industry. It is a popular component in perfumes, including more than half of perfumes for men.[citation needed] Patchouli is also an important ingredient in East Asian incense. It is also used as a scent in products like paper towels, laundry detergents, and air fresheners. Two important components of the essential oil are patchoulol and norpatchoulenol.

During the 18th and 19th century silk traders from China traveling to the Middle East packed their silk cloth with dried patchouli leaves to prevent moths from laying their eggs on the cloth.[citation needed] Many historians speculate that this association with opulent eastern goods is why patchouli was considered by Europeans of that era to be a luxurious scent. It is said that patchouli was used in the linen chests of Queen Victoria in this way.[citation needed]


Patchouli grows well in warm to tropical climates. It thrives in hot weather but not direct sunlight. If the plant withers due to lack of watering, it will recover well and quickly after it has been watered. The seed-bearing flowers are very fragrant and bloom in late fall. The tiny seeds may be harvested for planting, but they are very delicate and easily crushed. Cuttings from the mother plant can also be rooted in water to produce additional plants.

Aroma profile


It was reported that the plant is of a repellent potent against Coptotermes formosanus.[4]

Cultural references

Notes and references

  1. ^ Grieve, Maude(1995) A Modern Herbal [1]. 2007
  2. ^ Leung A, Foster S Encyclopedia of common natural ingredients used in food, drugs and cosmetics John Wiley and Sons 1996
  3. ^ Phytotherapy Research 2005, vol 19, pp 303–9.
  4. ^ a b Hasegawa, Yoshihiro et al. (1992). "An additional constituent occurring in the oil from a patchouli cultivar". Flavour and Fragrance Journal 7 (6): 333–335. doi:10.1002/ffj.2730070608. 
  5. ^ Weyerstahl, Peter et al. (1993). "Structure-odour correlation. Part XVIII. Partial structures of patchoulol with bicyclo[2.2.2]octane skeleton". Flavour and Fragrance Journal 8 (6): 297–306. doi:10.1002/ffj.2730080603. 
  6. ^ Hybertson, Brooks M. (2007). "Solubility of the Sesquiterpene Alcohol Patchoulol in Supercritical Carbon Dioxide". Journal of Chemical Engineering Data 52 (1): 235 – 238. doi:10.1021/je060358w. Retrieved 25 July 2009. 
  7. ^ a b Nikiforov, Alexej et. al (1988). "GC-FTIR and GC-MS in odour analysis of essential oils". Microchimica Acta 95 (1 - 6): 193–198. doi:10.1007/BF01349751. 

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