Patchouli is a potent essential oil and works well in very small amounts. It can offer tremendous stress relief and relaxation, yet with the ability to feel stable and grounded at the same time. It is probably best used as a skin tonic for all sorts of topical complaints. The aroma is very strong and long-lasting.
Of all the essential oils available, patchouli has one of the most distinctive fragrances. It has strong and musky notes and deep and earthy undertones. Native to India and Malaysia, dried patchouli leaves were commonly used as packing materials to protect Chinese silk and Indian cashmere from moths during transit. As these shawls and scarves made their way to Victorian England, patchouli gained a reputation for being a luxurious fragrance only available to high society. In Southeast Asia, it was commonly used as a way to kill bed bugs and repel mosquitoes. From its sedative effects to its ability to alleviate stress and infection, it's easy to see why it is commonly referred to as “liquid gold.” 1
The History of PatchouliThe uses of patchouli predate recorded history. Although it is known to originate in Southeast Asia, the earliest documented records of its existence come from ancient Egypt. This means trade in patchouli was well established during this time. Additionally, 10 gallons of patchouli oil were found buried in King Tut’s tomb in ancient Egypt. Patchouli also has a long and vibrant history in China, where it made its appearance during 420–589 CE. It was commonly used for medicinal purposes, such as regulating vital bodily energies or for treating the common cold. At the turn of the 18th century, its insecticidal properties were realized by Chinese silk merchants, who took to wrapping their silks around the dried leaves of the Patchouli plant. This allowed their cargo to arrive in the Middle East undamaged and free from pests. The popularity of patchouli grew during the 19th century, as its scent became associated with luxury and status in Europe. As Chinese silk could only be afforded by the richest members of society, its aroma became a sign of social standing. As the British Empire expanded and global trade spread, patchouli was exported around the world. It became one of the most popular medicinal botanicals available. Today, the largest cultivators of patchouli are Malaysia, Brazil, China, and India. In these places, it thrives in the tropical climate.
Terpene PropertiesA range of terpenes makes up patchouli essential oil. Of these, eight are noted as responsible for their quality, consistency, remedial purposes, and aroma.
- A-Bulnesene is an organic substance produced by patchouli and works as an anti-platelet aggregation agent and antiviral.
- A-Guinane is an anti-inflammatory that has a spicy odor and taste reminiscent of pepper. It reduces inflammation of the joints and muscles to provide relief from aches and pains.
- B-Caryophyllene has anti-stress properties. It also contributes to the sweet notes of the patchouli essential oil aroma.2
- Aciphyllene is an antibacterial agent that contributes to the fragrance of patchouli.
- B-Patchoulene possesses antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties that eliminate fungal infections while reducing inflammation in the body.
- A-Patchoulene acts as a sedative, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. It can induce and improve sleep, eliminate fungal infections, and reduce inflammation.
- Seychellene is a potent anti-inflammatory and antiseptic that also contributes to the scent of patchouli.
- Patchouli alcohol is the compound that provides the majority of patchouli essential oil’s healing properties. These include acting as an antiviral, antibacterial, sedative, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiseptic, and antifungal.3
Uses for Patchouli Essential OilThe health benefits of Patchouli essential oil are vast, with therapeutic qualities targeting various ailments and conditions. It possesses aphrodisiac, antidepressant, antiseptic, astringent, antiphlogistic, cytophylactic, cicatrizant, diuretic, deodorizing, fungicidal, febrifuge, insecticidal, and sedative properties. As noted toward the start of this guide, its ability to work as an insect repellent has been known for centuries. But its value as a medicinal botanical is rapidly expanding. As further studies are performed on the actions of patchouli oil, more health benefits are being discovered every year. Thus it is one of the most celebrated and versatile essential oils around. So, what exactly can this liquid gold in a bottle help with? Well, to give you a rough idea, we will first highlight some of the most notable benefits, which include;
- Sedative actions on hypersensitivity
- Anti-inflammatory properties 4
- Boosts blood circulation
- Provide relief from mood swings
- Improve healing
- Deodorizing properties
- Eliminate insects and mites
- Fever fighting abilities
As you can see from above, Patchouli essential oil is able to work from head to toe. It can act as a natural treatment eliminating the need for harsh pharmaceutical medications. Of course, these are just a few of the many ways in which this essential oil can benefit your health. To get a better understanding of its most valuable actions, we are going to take a further look at how it helps treat some of the more severe conditions while bringing your senses to life.
When used in aromatherapy, the terpene constituents in patchouli essential oil stimulate the production of pleasure hormones such as dopamine and serotonin, which help eliminate feelings of anger and stress. The release of these hormones helps relieve tension and stress, which can also result in improved sleep quality. The combination of better sleep with dopamine and serotonin release can uplift mood and bring an overall more positive outlook on life.
The sedative effects provided by patchouli oil on hypersensitivity work to relieve convulsions and coughs induced by hyperreactivity or hypersensitivity of the nerves. Typically, the main culprit for this hypersensitivity is inflammation, which patchouli is able to relieve because of its anti-inflammatory properties. The sedative effects of patchouli essential oil relax the body and mind while encouraging restful and healthy sleep. This proves to be especially beneficial for those who suffer from insomnia and can lead to improvements in metabolic rate, cognitive function, and mood. Its sedative effect on hypersensitivity can also reduce and prevent allergic responses or breathing difficulties while helping to boost overall immune health.
Patchouli essential oil has been shown to inhibit the growth of fungal infections.5 This proves beneficial for treating issues such as ringworm and athlete's foot. By applying patchouli diluted in a carrier oil to the affected area, its antifungal properties can take effect within minutes. In terms of fungal infections of the respiratory system, patchouli essential oil can effectively limit their spread and growth. Respiratory fungal infections can be serious and are the result of inhaling fungal spores during normal breathing activities. They can potentially be relieved by inhaling the patchouli essential oil as a vapor. To get maximum benefits from patchouli essential oil for respiratory infections, it is best to use a vaporizer. This allows for maximum distribution and absorption of the potent vapors. If you do not have a vaporizer at hand, a steam bath with a few drops of the oil is also effective.
Both historically and in the modern-day, patchouli essential oil can act as a strong and effective insect repellent. It has been used since ancient times to keep mosquitoes, bed bugs, ants, flies, moths, and fleas away and provides a natural way to eradicate pests. This is especially useful for those who live in countries where diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, and Lyme disease are prevalent. Repelling mosquitoes and ticks minimizes the risk of developing these diseases. In fact, the insecticide properties in patchouli essential oil are so effective that it has become one of the most used ingredients in fumigants, as well as mosquito repellent sprays, body lotions, incense sticks, and vaporizers. It is important to remember that a little goes a long way with patchouli essential oil. To prevent the scent from lingering for an excessive period of time, products containing it, especially room diffusers, should not be used in enclosed spaces.
Patchouli oil has proven to be an effective diuretic that stimulates the quantity and frequency of urination.6 This is important for a range of health conditions related to water retention. It has also proven beneficial for other conditions, such as increasing appetite, reducing uric acid levels, and removing toxins from the body. The reduction of uric acid reduces the risk of developing kidney stones, gallbladder stones, and gout.
While patchouli essential oil provides outstanding health benefits, this should not distract you from the fact that it also possesses potentially irritating side effects if used incorrectly. If used as directed, patchouli essential oil can become an important part of your daily health and wellness routine and prove invaluable in remedying a range of ailments. Due to the concentrated nature of this essential oil, it is important to dilute the oil in a carrier oil or lotion and be careful when using the oil topically on the skin. Patchouli essential oil should never be ingested as it can prove hazardous when taken internally. If the essential oil is accidentally ingested, never try to induce vomiting to remove the oil from the body, as this could allow the oil to enter the lungs. Instead, the nearest poison control center should be contacted for further assistance. For some individuals, an excess of patchouli essential oil can lead to vomiting, dizziness, and coughing. If you experience any of these symptoms, moving to a well-ventilated location away from the oil will help to alleviate them. The undiluted oil should never be applied directly to the nostrils, as this could result in a burning sensation. This oil is known to combust at high temperatures and should always be stored away from open flames or high temperatures. If the oil should ever ignite, water should not be used to extinguish it as this can cause the fire to spread. There have been no clinical or scientific studies on the effects of patchouli oil during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Therefore it is best to avoid its use if pregnant or breastfeeding.
Safety and Precautions
The rich, amber color of patchouli oil, combined with its fragrance and healing properties earned it the name “liquid gold.” In ancient history, patchouli oil was literally worth its weight in gold because of its high demand by kings and queens in ancient Egypt. Although some find the initial scent of patchouli essential oil to be overpowering, it does dry down to a sweet and musky fragrance that stimulates the release of dopamine and serotonin, the pleasure hormones. Its versatility and distinct aroma make it a popular addition to perfumes, while its insecticidal properties keep many insects away. Once the reserve of the rich and famous, then a favorite of the hippie movement, patchouli oil is now seen as a powerful healing agent whether used topically when diluted with a lotion or carrier oil or in aromatherapy in a room diffuser.
Final Thoughts About Patchouli Essential Oil
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