In India this essential oil with the lyrical name of patcha pat has long been used to keep moths and other insects out of linens and woolen shawls and rugs. It is the characteristic scent found in Indian bedspreads and cottons. Hand-woven silk and wool rugs from Persia, India, and Turkey had dried patchouli leaves laid on them before they were rolled for shipping. Europeans actually refused to buy cheaper local imitation Oriental rugs because they didn’t smell authentic.
To some people the scent of patchouli is exotic, sensual, and luxurious, but to others it’s too forceful and repellent. It is so overpowering that most aromatherapy cosmetics forgo its virtues in favor of other essential oils that are more universally appealing. The leaves of this pretty Malaysian bush carry little indication of their potential, since the scent is only developed through oxidation. The leaves must be fermented and aged before being distilled, which can take as long as 24 hours. Even then, the translucent yellow oil smells harsh.
As it ages, it develops patchouli’s distinctive scent.
Patchouli also has a reputation as an aphrodisiac, a notion that probably originated in India, where it is used as an anointing oil in Tantric sexual practices. Perfumers must think that it works since minute quantities of high quality oil scent such famous perfumes as Tabu and Shocking. All attempts to make a synthetic patchouli have failed utterly.
Principal constituents of patchouli: Patchoulol (up to 50 percent), patchoulene (similar to azulene), pogostol, bulnesol, bulnese, eugenol, cadinene, carvone, and benzoic and cinnamic aldehydes, among others
Scent of patchouli: The odor is heavy, earthy, musty, pungent, and penetrating.
Therapeutic properties of patchouli: Antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antiviral, and antifungal; reduces fluid retention
Uses for patchouli: Cosmetically, the essential oil is a cell rejuvenator and antiseptic that treats a number of skin problems, including eczema and inflamed, cracked, and mature skin. As an antifungal, it counters athlete’s foot. The aroma reduces appetite and helps to relieve headaches, unless the patient doesn’t like it! Add 8 drops per ounce to a hair conditioner to help eliminate dandruff.