Patchouli – Love It or Hate It

Pogostemon cablin leaves

Image courtesy of Forest and Kim Starr at

When you mention the essential oil of patchouli (Pogostemon cablin), people often say it was the oil of the 1960s hippies. This could be because they were beginning to explore Indian imports and patchouli was used in India to scent fabrics to protect them from insects. Or it could be that hippies preferred the earthy, rich, musky aroma to hide other smells. Either way the association has stuck. But the oil has so many other uses.

The myriad of properties that patchouli has are: antibacterial, antidepressant, antifungal, anti-infectious, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, astringent, antiviral, decongestant, deodorant, disinfectant, laxative, stimulant, and wound-healing. Traditional Chinese, Malaysian, and Japanese medicine rely on it as an antiseptic and stomachic.

Modern Aromatherapists look to patchouli to help with the following multitude of conditions: acne, allergies, burns, colitis, constipation, dandruff, dermatitis, eczema, edema, fatigue, indigestion, infections, lethargy, menopausal sweats, scars, sinus congestion, skin (cracked or dry), varicose veins, wounds, and wrinkles. It is also used in calming, meditative, or sensual perfumes.

Patchouli has proven in a study to be antibacterial and antifungal, especially against underarm and foot bacteria, making it useful in a deodorant. However, its odor tends to be an acquired scent making it somewhat difficult to add to preparations. It can be blended with myrrh and lavender to soften some of the harsh odor. Or it can be aged, a rare thing for essential oils, as its aroma improves over time. I have an 11-year-old patchouli that is smooth, soft, and beautiful, adjectives I would not have used to describe it when I first bought it.

So whether you love or hate its scent, give patchouli a try. It is a versatile essential oil for numerous healthy reasons.

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