Patchouli is a bushy herb of the mint family, native to the tropical regions of Asia and now extensively cultivated in China, India, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Philippines, West Africa and Vietnam. The plant has a very strong scent and it is used for centuries in perfumes. Patchouli is used widely in modern perfumery and modern industry to scent products such as paper towels, laundry detergents, and air fresheners. The plant was especially popular in the hippy movement of the 60’s and 70’s, and referred to as “the Peace Flower”, as its rich delicate scent was said to inspire feelings of peace and calm.
Extraction of essential oil
Some strains of the herb are cultivated especially for their oils, known as Patchouli oils. The oils are extracted by steam distillation from the leaves. Both dry leaves and fresh leaves may be used to extract the oil. What is characteristic for this oil is that it improves with time, since its fragrance is developed with oxidation. Patchouli oil distilled from Pogostemon cablin is considered to be the highest in quality. The oil can be pale yellow or reddish brown, depending on if it was distilled in a stainless steel vessel or an iron vessel.The color of the oil is not an indicator of the quality.
Use in aromatherapy
In aromatherapy, essential oils are absorbed into the circulatory system through the skin or mucous membranes. When the essential oil molecules get into the bloodstream they travel trough the body and make the beneficial effect to organs and tissues.
To inhale Patchouli oil, one should add two or three drops of oil into the steaming water and breathe for a couple of minutes with a towel draped over the head. Vaporization is another aromatherapy method that includes adding pure essential oils to a nebulizing difuzer for dispersing micron-sized particulates into the environment. One can also take a bath and add four to six drops of essential oil to a hot water. The oil can also be absorbed trough skin, using 15 to 20 drops of pure oil in 1 ounce of massage oil base. This is very relaxing method that supports detoxification of the body through lymph drainage.
Benefits of Patchouli oil
In a number of Asian countries, Patchouli is used as an antidote for venomous snakebites. In many cultures it is used to induce relaxation, especially in aromatherapy. Chinese medicine uses the Patchouli herb to treat headaches, colds, nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.