Patchouli Essential Oil: Benefits & Uses

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated -

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If there is one essential oil that is reminiscent of an age and a generation, it is the patchouli essential oil. Also, known as the ‘scent of the sixties’ the association comes from the swinging sixties and hippies who loved eastern fabrics. These fabrics were often scented with patchouli essential oil. So strong is the association that Madonna famously scented her album Like A Prayer with patchouli oil because she wanted to recreate the 60s.

What is Patchouli Essential Oil?

The essential oil of patchouli is extracted by steam distillation of the leaves of the patchouli plant, the botanical name is Pogostemon cablin or Pogostemon patchouli. It is used topically in a diluted form or in aromatherapy. Patchouli oil has a strong sweet musky smell, which can seem overpowering to some. This is why a little bit of the oil goes a long way. Apart from its health benefits, patchouli oil is also known for its pesticidal properties.

The basic components of patchouli essential oil are alpha patchoulene, beta patchoulene, alpha guaiane, alpha bulnesene, caryophyllene, norpatchoulenol, patchouli alcohol, seychellene, and pogostol.

Health Benefits of Patchouli Essential Oil

Much of the benefits associated with patchouli oil are anecdotal in nature. Many of these are practiced regularly in aromatherapy. Science is now discovering that there could be a deep relationship between the compounds present in essential oils and our health. These work topically and through inhalation.

Relieves Depression

Patchouli oil is used in aromatherapy to relax and relieve stress. A 2016 review of different studies on essential oil and their effect on psychophysiological activity revealed that inhalation of patchouli oil resulted in a 40 percent decrease in relative sympathetic activity. Add a few drops of the oil to your diffuser to improve your mood and to relax after a stressful day.
This is why patchouli essential oil is so frequently used in aromatherapy. It is believed to lift one’s mood, and induce relaxation.

Soothes Inflammation

Recent researches have indicated that patchouli oil could indeed help in reducing inflammation. In a 2017 study, published in the journal Mediators of Inflammation, scientists discovered that certain compounds present in patchouli oil suppress acute inflammation in animal subjects. The oil reduced inflammatory swelling in test mice.

Bottles of patchouli essential oil with patchouli leaves

Patchouli essential oil with the leaves Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Prevents Infections

In traditional Chinese medicine, it is believed that patchouli oil can cure a number of infections. Research has shown that it contains antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. Keep in mind that these were lab studies. You can use these antimicrobial properties by adding a few drops to your diffuser.

Inhibits Fungal Growth

Fungal infections are more common than you may realize and most remedies rely on conventional medicines. However, these are known for their undesirable side-effects. Hence, a 2018 study, published in the journal Molecules looked for an alternative in essential oils. Of the 60 commercially available essential oils, patchouli was among the 10 essential oils which showed significant results in lab tests. It was found most effective against a type of yeast infection.

Aphrodisiac

Patchouli oil is often used as an aphrodisiac. This reputation is more anecdotal, borne out of its association with tantric sex in the US, than any actual research-backed evidence. The musky-sweet perfume of patchouli has over the years become synonymous with sensuality. Some people use it for a massage with a carrier oil like jojoba, almond, or avocado oil. It can also help in setting up the mood through an aromatherapy diffuser. However, keep in mind that patchouli can be too strong for some people and may backfire!

Skin Care

Patchouli oil was traditionally used in some Asian cultures for its benefits for the skin. The anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties can protect our skin against rashes and other conditions. In one animal study, researchers found that the topical application of patchouli oil slowed down skin damage and photoaging in mice exposed to UV-radiation. This indicates that patchouli oil may have a strong protective effect on our skin. You can add a couple of drops to your regular face creams and lotions in your everyday skincare routine. It also pairs well with oils like jojoba and lavender.

Patchouli Essential Oil Uses

Patchouli oil is used topically as well as in aromatherapy. Its usage may differ according to your need. Here are a few ways you can use patchouli oil:

In Aromatherapy:

Patchouli oil is usually used in aromatherapy to induce relaxation and relieve stress. Make sure that you use a well-ventilated room for aromatherapy and take a break after half an hour. Patchouli oil blends well with other essential oils like rose, sandalwood, and cedarwood.

For Skin:

You can apply patchouli oil topically as well. Add a few drops to your moisturizer or body oil/lotion. For an all-natural skincare routine, you can also add it to carrier oils like jojoba and avocado oil. To check for allergies, we recommend that you do a patch test first. Just apply the diluted oil to a small patch on your skin and check for any adverse reactions. You can also use it in your bath water where the warm water will help your skin to soak in the oil. Remember to dilute the oil with carrier oils like avocado, jasmine, olive, and jojoba.

As a Pesticide

Patchouli oil is known for its pesticide properties. To use it, add a few drops to a spray bottle containing water. You can spray this solution in areas where you have a pest infestation.

As an Aphrodisiac

It is applied topically for its purported aphrodisiac properties. It can also be used in an aromatherapy diffuser. But make sure you are not in an unventilated space. While the musky smell may appeal to some, keep in mind that some people find it too strong and it may actually be unpleasant for them.

Where to Buy Patchouli Oil?

Patchouli oil is widely available. You can order it online or buy them from aromatherapy shops. Bigger stores like Target and Walmart also stock patchouli essential oil. Check the label when buying to see that it is not diluted. Check the country of origin as well. When it comes to essential oil, less is better than more. Keep in mind that you will use only a few drops at a time.

Word of Caution: The long-lasting aroma of patchouli essential oil, though sweet, could be too strong and unpleasant to some people. Be cautious about using or inhaling too much of it as its aroma can be irritating. Always dilute it with a carrier oil when applying topically. In vitro tests have shown that patchouli oil can affect blood clotting. Hence, it is not recommended for people with bleeding problems or on blood thinners.

Blending: Patchouli essential oil blends well with essential oils of bergamot, clary sage, geranium, lavender, and myrrh.

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About the Author

Meenakshi Nagdeve, Co-Founder, Organic Facts is a health and wellness enthusiast and is responsible for managing it. She has completed the Nutrition And Healthy Living Cornell Certificate Program, Cornell University, US. She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from IIM Bangalore and B. Tech in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science from IIT Bombay. Prior to this, she worked for a few years in IT and Financial services. An ardent follower of naturopathy, she believes in healing with foods. In her free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.

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