While wellness trends are always evolving, one thing’s still a given. Most of us are all looking for ways to take care of ourselves in the best possible way, with many of us regularly trying out new self-care activities or reverting back to tried-and-tested remedies.1,2
Essential oils are certainly not a new phenomenon. In fact, it’s thought that the ancient Messapotamians used them as far back as 5000 BC.3
Nevertheless, recent reports suggest there has been an essential oil revival, as more of us look for natural healthcare products and plant-based solutions. 4
One of our most-loved essential oils is patchouli. It’s used to fragrance many of our favourite perfumes, beauty products and cosmetics.
Are you now wondering if it’s worth adding patchouli to your wellness toolbox? Keep reading…
Patchouli is a type of aromatic, flowering plant. It’s related to the mint family, and its official name is ‘pogostemon cablin.’
The oil comes from the plant leaves, which are shade-dried and then distilled.5
There are three species of patchouli - Pogostemon Cablin, Pogostemon Heyneanus and Pogostemon Hortensis.
The Cablin species is the most popular and most-commonly cultivated for its essential oil because of its stronger therapeutic properties. 6
Patchouli is native to tropical Asia, and is widely cultivated in regions, such as Brazil and Hawaii, and Asian regions, including China, India, Malaysia and Indonesia.7
A shrubby perennial plant, patchouli can grow up to one metre tall and has large, oval-shaped fragrant leaves. Both the stems and the leaves are extremely hairy.
Meanwhile, the flowers are small and pale purple/white in colour. They look like thick woolly spikes and have long stamens.8
Patchouli oil has an intense smell, which is often described as strong, sweet, and intoxicating.
It’s quite earthy, which is why it’s often used as a base note in fragrances. It blends well with other essential oils and ingredients, making it ideal for a wide range of products.9
Historically, it was used to scent Indian fabrics, such as fine silks and shawls to get rid of moths and other insects in the 1800s.
As a result, patchouli oil is believed to have been given its name from the Hindi word ‘pacholi’, which means ‘to scent.’ 10
As the name suggests, patchouli essential oil is an oil that’s extracted from the leaves of the patchouli plant, using a process known as steam distillation.11
Due to its musky, non-overpowering scent, it’s widely used in soaps, perfumes, detergents, cosmetics and deodorants.
It’s also used in aromatherapy, and as a common fragrance for incense and candles.
Interestingly, the patchouli plant doesn’t smell of anything; it’s odourless. It’s the distillation process that gives patchouli essential oil its distinctive scent.12
Patchouli oil is used for all sorts of different things.
Note – ingesting or consuming patchouli oil can have serious side effects.18
Patchouli oil has been used for centuries and has a range of reported benefits. We’ve listed some of them below:19
A preliminary study published in the Journal of Natural Medicines in 2011 found that patchouli essential oil may help promote relaxation.
In tests on mice, the study found that inhaling the aroma of patchouli essential oil may have soothing effects that could be useful for managing sleep issues.20
A 2005 Phytotherapy Research report concluded that patchouli essential oil may help protect against mosquito bites by acting as an insect repellent. 21
Some test tube studies have found patchouli oil to be an effective natural pesticide, particularly when it comes to these insects, cigar beetle, rice/maize weevil, flour beetle and formosan subterranean termites.
One review study suggested patchouli oil may be calming, relaxing and uplifting. The patchouli oil aroma seemed to improve mood when inhaled. Larger trials are yet to be carried out.
Meanwhile, in a separate piece of research involving 43 women, it was concluded fragrances can affect the fight-or-flight response.
When activated, the fight-or-flight response increases blood pressure and heart rate. By inhaling patchouli oil, the women’s flight-or-flight responses reduced by 40%, which had a relaxing effect on them.
In a study of 100 people, an essential oil containing 12% patchouli oil, amongst other oils, helped to manage symptoms of skin infections and reduced the healing time of the skin.
However, patchouli oil’s actual impact on the overall results is unknown, as a combination of oils were used at the same time.
A study of UV-damaged mice found patchouli oil prevented aging and helped maintain skin integrity.
Meanwhile, separate studies are being conducted to explore whether patchouli oil can scavenge reactive oxidative species (ROS) in cells. If this is the case, it may have antioxidant properties.
Patchouli oil’s antibacterial qualities were put to the test in one research study against 10 other essential oils. It was concluded patchouli oil was the most active against the following types of bacteria:
Patchouli oil has been referenced in research as having antifungal properties however, they are yet to be clinically proven.
It’s worth bearing in mind that natural remedies aren’t always effective and can be harmful if misused.22
Patchouli oil is generally thought to be safe for use on the skin or inhaled when diluted.23
Remember, though, never apply pure essential oils directly to your skin without a carrier oil and never consume essential oils. This could cause skin irritation or other serious side effects.24
Patchouli oil can potentially affect blood clotting; therefore you should avoid using it if you:25
Patchouli oil may be toxic if you drink it. As is the case with using all essential oils, pregnant women and children shouldn’t use patchouli oil unless advised to by a medical professional.
Patchouli essential oil is a highly popular oil that’s steeped in history, with so many reported benefits and uses.
There’s patchouli scent, which most of us all know and love, but aside from the fragrance, there’s an additional layer of benefits associated with patchouli oil, some that have been proven many times over, and some that are yet to be proven in humans.
There are plenty of reasons to add some patchouli to your life, whether that’s by enjoying a relaxing patchouli oil hot soak, making it your signature scent or diffusing it in your home.
Now that you’ve read this article, do you like the idea of a patchouli diffuser or vaporiser? This article explores how you can use essential oils, including patchouli, in your home, ‘Finding the best essential oils for your home.’
Last updated: 8 June 2021
Joined Holland & Barrett: May 2019
BSc Hons in Pharmaceutical & Cosmetic Science
Manisha started her career at a Cosmetics distributor as a Regulatory Technologist followed by a Regulatory Affairs Officer, ensuring the regulatory compliance of cosmetic products from colour cosmetics to skincare.
After 3 and half years in this role, Manisha joined Holland & Barrett as a Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate in 2019.
Manisha specialises in Cosmetic products, both own-label and branded lines, ensuring that these products and all relating marketing material comply to the EU Cosmetics Regulation.