Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin (Blanco) Benth; also patchouly or pachouli) is a species from the genus Pogostemon and a bushy herb of the mintfamily, 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, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Philippines, West Africa andVietnam.
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 Tamilpatchai (Tamil: பச்சை) (green), ellai (Tamil: இலை) (leaf). In Assamese it is known as xukloti.
Extraction of the essential oil
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, while others claim baling the dried leaves and allowing them to ferment a little is best.
Conditioner and repellent
In several Asian countries, such as Japan and Malaysia, Patchouli is also used as an antidote for venomous snakebites. The plant and oil have a number of claimed health benefits in herbal folk-lore, and its scent is used with the aim of inducing 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.
Patchouli is also in widespread use in modern industry. It is a popular component in perfumes, including more than half of perfumes for men. 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 ispatchoulol and norpatchoulenol.
During the 18th and 19th century silk traders from China travelling to the Middle East packed their silk cloth with dried patchouli leaves to prevent moths from laying their eggs on the cloth. 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..
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 once 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 further plants.