Looking down at red and white  flowers of patchouli plant in backyard garden.

Ah, Patchouli oil – people seem to love it or hate it. This well know essential oil has a somewhat deserved reputation as the scent of the Hippy generation (according to one source, it’s use began as a mask for the odor of a particularly cherished herb), though it’s traditional use dates back hundreds, perhaps thousands of years.

Patchouli’s History

Today, Patchouli oil has a well-deserved reputation in aromatherapy, with it’s deep, musky, and sweet odor, and Earth and Fire balancing energy. It is an exotic aroma that may forever leave an imprint on the olfactory memory.

Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin) is a perennial herb native to Southeast Asia, growing wild in Sumatra and Java at elevations between 3,000 and 6,000 ft – although it is cultivation is much more pervasive in reduced tropical jungles. This bushy plant grows to the height of 3 feet, using a strong stem and soft, hairy leaves.

For essential oil production, the plant is cut two or three times annually, with the highest quality oil derived from leaves harvested in the wet season. The leaves are hand selected, bundled or baled, and allowed to partially dry in the shade and simmer for a couple of days until the oil is extracted through steam distillation (Patchouli oil is now becoming available as a CO2 extract in limited quantities). The fermentation process softens the plant’s cell walls, easing the extraction of this oil.

The relative simplicity of it is cultivation, and it is high oil return keeps the purchase price of authentic Patchouli essential oils comparatively low. It is important to note however, Patchouli is one of the few essential oils that improve with age (others being Frankincense, Cedarwood, Sandalwood and Vetiver), and that a properly aged Patchouli oil is a lot more desirable than a new one.

Over time, the oil looses a harshness that many find distasteful, and provides a sweet top note. As it ages, the oil turns from light yellow to a deep amber, with the scent becoming smoother and more wealthy.

Perhaps first because of it’s power as a moth repellent, the scent of Patchouli was pervasive in cloth and clothing exported from India from the 19th century. The odor became a sign of true ‘Oriental’ fabric, so much so that English and French garment manufacturers were not able to scent their fake products with Patchouli to make sure their acceptance in the domestic market.

Beyond its use for preventing holes from being consumed in one’s cloting, Patchouli oil has been used for centuries in traditional medicine in Malaysia, China and Japan. Primarily indicated for skin conditions, Patchouli may be of benefit in cases of dermatitis, eczema, acne, dry chapped skin, and other irritating conditions, together with dandruff and oily scalp conditions.

As a cell rejuvenator, it might assist in healing wounds and reducing the appearance of scars. It is considered an excellent treatment for snake and insect bites, and has been used as a fumigant and rubbing oil to stop the spread of fevers and to fortify the immune system.

Aromatherapy Uses of Patchouli Oil

Patchouli oil is known as a superb base note and fixative in perfumery, being part in several famous perfumes. As a fixative, it slows the evaporation of other, more volatile oils so that their odor could be released over a longer time period.

A little patchouli may be utilised in natural perfume blends, including that particular deep and earthy odor. It blends well with many essential oils, with nearly all common oils being cited across an assortment of sources – these include Vetiver, Rosemary, Sandalwood, Frankincense, Bergamot, Cedarwood, Myrrh, Jasmine, Rose, Citrus oils, Clary Sage, Lemongrass, Geranium and Ginger.

In Aromatherapy, Patchouli is regarded as a fantastic balancer, relaxing yet stimulating, especially applicable for conditions of weak immunity where overwork and anxiety have abandoned the individual in a vulnerable state. It is believed to bring the three main forces at work inside the body – the Creative in the navel, the Heart centre, and transcendental wisdom a the crown – to harmony.

Patchouli oil can also alleviate the strain of people who have excessive mental activity who might feel’out of touch’ with their own body and sensuality. It has been considered a relaxing aphrodisiac, also can be great for those who have impotence, frigidity, and sexual anxiety that are products of mental anguish. Patchouli unites this aphrodisiac effect with an antidepressant one, uplifting the mind with it’s sweet, warm, spicy scent.

As if that weren’t sufficient, Patchouli is believed to be a bringer of wealth and abundance. Perhaps by permitting one to open to those possibilities , the oil is used in ceremonies and prayers by people in need of financial or other kind of infusion in their own lives. One may simply close their eyes, imagine the abundance they want, and inhale the oil’s aroma for a couple of seconds.

A few simple blends


For the sensually insecure, try 1 part Geranium, 1 part Patchouli and one part Bergamot. A beautiful yet simple blend for becoming comfortable in one’s own skin.


3 parts Patchouli and one part Rosemary Cineol. This is a wonderfully uplifting blend combining the deep earthiness of Patchouli with the invigorating aroma of Rosemary. This can definitely be worn as a cologne, or used in a diffuser.

Uplift the spirits

When the going gets dull, try brightening with 3 parts Coriander, 2 parts Patchouli and one part Bergamot. This may uplift the spirits and remind you of the joy to be found in life.


It may take a little education, but many who claim to have a dislike for Patchouli may really like it when finally getting to sample a properly aged or delightfully mixed oil.