Monograph-Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin)
Images of Patchouli
Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin (Blanco) Benth; also patchouly or pachouli) is a species from the genus Pogostemon and a bushy herb of the mint family, 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 China, Indonesia, India, Malaysia, Mauritius, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam, as well as West Africa.
Origin of the name ‘patchouli’
P. heyneanus, the Indian patchouli plant,
was first described and illustrated as Cot-
tam by van Rheede in 1690 in Hortus
P. heyneanus in 1830 based on the
specimens collected by Heyne from
Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). This plant is
indigenous to peninsular India and Sri
Lanka. It is widely distributed in the
Western Ghats. Earlier, this species was
widely cultivated in home gardens for
medicinal purposes in peninsular
India16,24. Earlier, names such as
‘patcha’, ‘patchapat’ or patchouli were
invariably applied to any plant that had
the characteristic patchouli odour, in the
Indian markets. M. patchoulii and P. hey-
neanus were also sold as patchapat or
patchouli leaf in Calcutta and Bombay
markets respectively. These local names
were exclusively applied to P. heyneanus
in the western part of India16. Therefore,
the name patchouli was used in the
Indian markets even before the patchouli
plant, P. cablin, was described and intro-
duced into India. Further, this species has
never been named as or called patchouli
in the local languages in the Philippines,
China and South East Asian regions. The
name ‘patchouli’ appears to have phone-
tically evolved from ‘pacchilai’ in Tamil.
Since this word [pacchi (pacchai) means
green and ilai means leaf] has been used
for centuries for P. heyneanus25,26, the
name patchouli must have been derived
from Tamil2,10,15,22. The Oxford Advanced
Learner’s Dictionary (7th edn) also
affirms that the word ‘patchouli’ is
derived from the Tamil word ‘pacculi’,
this vernacular name was also used for
P. vestitus Benth27. P. heyneanus is also
called ‘kathir pacchai’ in Tamil28,29.
‘Kathir’ here refers to the spiked nature
of inflorescence that is similar to the
inflorescence of cereals. Therefore, the
name patchouli ought to have originated
from the Tamil name ‘pacchilai’.
Origin of the name ‘patchouli’ and its history R. Murugan and C. Livingstone
Composition and Comparison of Essential Oils ofPogostemon cablin (Blanco) Benth. (Patchouli) and Pogostemon travancoricus Bedd. var. travancoricus
Chemical Composition of Patchouli Oil from Vietnam
Arthritis and rheumatism: Crush leaves and apply on affected part.
Infusion of fresh leaves for given for dysmenorrhea; also as emmenagogue.
Infusion of leaves, dried tops or roots used for scanty urination.
Leaves and tops employed in baths; used for antirheumatic action.
In India, infusion of leaves, flowering spikes or dried tops and root used as diuretic and carminative; used with Ocimum sanctum for scanty urine and biliousness.
In Malaysia and Japan, has been used as antidote for venomous snake and insect bites.
In traditional Chinese medicine, used for colds, fever, headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain.
In Uruguay, infusion of leaves used for nervous troubles; roots considered stimulant.
Essential oil of patchouli used in perfumes and cosmetics.
Also called: Huo xiang, Putcha-Pat.
Oil also used as ingredient in foods and beverages.
An ingredient of East Asian incense.
Had a surge in the commerce of oil and incense during the free love and hippie decades of the 60s and 70s.
Leaves and tops used as insecticide repellant for cockroaches, moths, ants, etc.
Leaves used with gogo for washing hair.
In some countries, used as ingredient in tobacco smoking.
Juice of leaves used to repel leeches (limatiks) in climbing mountains.
Used as hair conditioner for dreadlocks.
Use in Ayurveda:
• All over orient commonly used for Poisonous snake bites and stings of various Animals, Mosquitoes etc. In case of Poisonous snake bites like cobra etc. 100% Pure oil is put on a cotton/cloth and applied on the bitten surface immediately as first aid and until reaching to the doctor or find instruments’ to cut and clean the wound. After that 50% oil mixed with 50% of any base oil such as cold pressed sesame, coconut, Sweet Almond, grape seed, wheat germ or Sandal wood oil is mixed and applied twice daily until the wound gets completely healed. In case of stings of various Animals, Bugs, mosquitos 25% oil mixed with 75% base oil could be applied until gets normal. Both are tribal formulas. Remember you can always decrease the percentage of Patchauli oil mixed with the Base oil depending upon the sensitivity of the skin.
• It has a unique quality of cell regeneration on the skin as well as kills bacteria, mask bad odor of the wounds and helps healing it.
• It has been used as an aphrodisiac for all body types specially for vata/pitta and vata/kapha type people. It could be used as a fragrance, applied on the body 10% dilution with any base oil or concentrated on cloths bed sheets, Burning it in the fragrance Lamp, in bathing water 1 gram with 20 litters of water should be mixed.
• Due to its antifungal action, it has been used for skin infection, eczema, ache, swelling due to infection, specially cracked skin scar tissues and cracked foot collect athlete’s foot.
• 20% oil mixed with other base oil has been applied on the skin for this purpose. If one has sensitive skin use 10% oil or less.
• It has excellent qualities of which is diruretic, carminative, antiseptic and antiinflammatory. As an antidepressant. It has been mainly used by vata pitta, Vata Kapha people. It could be used for all body types.
• It is good antidandruff. Take any herbal shampoo, use one gram patchouli oil, mix it with 20 grams shampoo and keep it. During bath/shower apply it on your head as well as hair and massage it for a few minutes all over the skull. It will not only kill dandruff but also help skin of the head to grow thick and strong hair. It also helps to keep hair in its natural color, preventing them from getting white.
• Due to its insect repellent action, it has been used to drive away mosquitoes, ants, moths, flies, gnats. To prevent woolen cloths and expensive dresses from ravages of moths and insects. It has been used in wardrobe, almirah etc.
• In scanty urine, ½ drop oil mixed with 4 gram basil seeds powder (ocymum basilicum). This powder has been divided into 3 parts and given three times in a day after meals. It cleans the system and calms down excessive heat of the body.
In several Asian nations, patchouli is added in herbal medications having a status of an antidepressant, aphrodisiac and antiseptic. In addition, the medications prepared with the herb are also applied topically to treat fevers and headaches. The essential oil obtained from patchouli is utilized in aromatherapy for healing skin disorders. It is commonly believed that patchouli possesses a recovering or renewing impact on the quality of the skin and aids in dispelling skin conditions like eczema and acne. Some herbalists also recommend the essential oil for treating medical conditions, such as hemorrhoids and varicose veins.
In Japan, Malaysia and many other Asian nations, people also use patchouli as a remedy for poisonous snake bites. According to traditional medicine, while the herb and the essential oil obtained from it possess numerous benefits for the health, the aroma of the flowers is made use of to encourage relaxation. Chinese herbal medical practitioners use patchouli for treating nausea, colds, headaches, diarrhea and soreness in the abdomen. The essential oil obtained from the herb is available commercially in the form of an aromatherapy oil and one can buy it from any ordinary Western pharmacies as well as stores selling medications for alternative therapies.
The herb is also extensively used for various purposes by the contemporary industries. In the East Asian nations, patchouli forms a significant element in production of aromatic incense sticks. In addition, manufacturers of air fresheners, laundry detergents, paper towels and other similar products use the aroma of the plant to add fragrance to their products. Chemical analysis of the essential oil obtained from patchouli has revealed that it contains two significant elements - norpatchoulenol and patchoulol.
The leaves of the patchouli have been used by the Chinese silk merchants travelling to the Middle East way back in the 18th and 19th centuries to protect their merchandise from decay. Precisely speaking, these Chinese traders placed the leaves of patchouli leaves between the bundles of silk with a view to protect them from damage by eggs laid by moths on the fabric. Quite a few historians guess that patchouli’s association with luxurious merchandise from the East prompted many Europeans of that period to believe that the scent prepared from the herb was a very lavish item. According to a number of accounts regarding the British royalty, patchouli was made use of in this manner in the linen chests of Queen Victoria!
Another plant which is well known and used commonly for its scent is patchouli(pogostemon cablin), the scented essential oil of which is obtained by steaming the plant and collecting the oil which emerges. The plant is a member of the mint family, and its actual origin is India, where its scent can be found even in the famous Indian ink. Patchouli leaves used to be placed between carpets and rugs made in Iran and Turkey to protect them from any harmful pests or insects before they were sent to Europe. During the Victorian period carpets, shawls and rugs exported from India were also sprinkled with the fragrance of patchouli to protect them from moth, In fact any carpets, rugs or shawls that did not have the scent of patchouli were not favored because they were believed to have been manufactured in Europe. The fragrance of the plant, which is longer lasting than most other scents, is believed by the Chinese, Japanese and Arabs to prevent the spread of infectious diseases and also used frequently in perfumes and soaps. Widely used in Europe in the eighteen hundreds, patchouli became the most popular fragrance of the generation in America in the sixties.
The first crop is usually ready for harvest in the 4-6 month period when the plants are approximately 3 feet high. The foliage at that time is pale green to light brown. Subsequent harvests occur every 3-6 months during the productive life of the plant. One thing which could potentially improve the quality and quantity of oil is periodic foliar feed with kelp based products. I am not aware of any research that has been done in this area but with the thick foliar nature of the plants the micro nutrients contained in the kelp could greatly assist in the overall health of the plant and its subsequent oil. In order to produce oil of the highest quality only the three to five uppermost pairs of mature leaves should be harvested as this is where the highest concentration of oil is found in its purest form. This practice is only possible among small landholders and is seldom followed. From the level of the plant this method is ideal as it allows more rapid regrowth of the plant as their is a greater volume of remaining herbage to promote photosynthesis. It also is practical as the small local stills are often not equipped to handle large amounts of material as may happen when more vigorous harvesting techniques are followed. Generally speaking farmers tend to cut the plants 4-8 inches above the ground which means that included with leaves is a good deal of stem material. Ideally this should be separated out at the distillery but in fact is often included in the distillation process. Harvesting should not occur after rain or in the early morning when the leaves are wet with dew. The amount of material yielded by one acre is 2-4 tons in the first year under good conditions. A smallholder harvesting only the top sets of leaves obtains considerably less(although of higher quality). The yield is from 400-1100 kgs of material.
The percentage of moisture in the fresh patchouli cuttings is 80-85% with an oil yield of .5-1.2%. It means that 150 kilos of air dried material is realized from 1000 kilos(1 metric ton) of fresh material and from this 1-2 kilos of oil is obtained. This is based upon Indonesian growing and harvests techniques. In Malaysia the yield is a bit higher with 200 kg of air dried leaves being produced from 1000 kg of fresh materials resulting in 2-3kilos of oil. Indian grown patchouli has shown to be the richest in oil with 200 kilos of air dried leaves producing 3-4 kilos of oil. After the first harvest their is a significant decline in production of fresh leaves. It can fall from 20-50% of the initial crop.
Ernest Guenther-Volume 3 Essential Oils
Drying of the leaves
Once the material is harvested there is the critical issue of how they should be properly dried. Fresh patchouli leaves are seldom distilled(although it can be done with the proper equipment) The essential oil bearing glands of the fresh leaves are not easily ruptured by conventional distillation techniques but drying and light fermentation does allow regular steam distillation to occur. The proper drying and fermentation of the leaves goes a long way towards determining the quality of the oil. "After cutting, the stems and leaves are spread out to dry in thin layers on a hard, dry surface, usually in front of native huts or , more rarely on concrete floors. In Sumatra, the native growers frequently use bamboo racks. Proper drying is of great importance for the quality of the leaves, as well as that of the oil. During the process, the material should be frequently turned over by hand or with sticks in order to promote even and thorough drying and to prevent (rapid)fermentation. Drying is done directly in the sun, although shade from a shed with air freely circulating would be preferable . Sun drying doubtless causes some loss of essential oil by evaporation and, furthermore, leaves dried to quickly become brittle and easily turn to dust. On the other hand when dried too slowly the leaves remain damp, and develop the disagreeable moldy odor which remains predominant and is imparted even to the oil(Sun dried herbage may also become over dry, with subsequent loss of oil or leaves through shattering, while a dry temperature about 40 degrees Centigrade in Malaysia resulted in 80% loss of oil-E. A. Weiss)Depending on sunshine and atmospheric humidity, drying requires about three days, when leaves develop a strong characteristic patchouli note which is much less noticable in the fresh leaves. Careful growers spread their leavesupon grass mats and cover them with during rain showers, or take them under sheds or inside the huts upon indication of rain. The same is done as a protection from due. During the drying , it is most important to avoid fermentation whch readily takes places if the leaves are not spread out but stacked in wet condition. Rain showers may by sheer force through particles of earth or dust upon leaves while spread on the ground; this accounts in part for the small percentage of earth or little stones sometimes found in bales of dried patchouly. Improper drying is not always due to bad will on the part of the growers, but often to weather conditions beyond their control. Even well dried leaves, if stored loosely for a prolonged time, may on account of prevailing atmospheric humidity, develop that moldy odor which is so objectionable...."-- Ernest Guenther-Volume 3 Essential Oils
"The art of distilling patchouly involves considerable experience and is of paramount importance for producing a high grade of oil. Each lot of leaves requires special distillation methods, according to its condition. A lot containing much stalk material must be treated differentlh from consisting mostly of leaves. A lot containing much dust resulting from too brittle leaves again requires a different treatment.. There exists no general and fixed rules by which a high-grade oil of patchouly can be obtained, the working methods depending upon the type of still employed and upon the condition of the plant material. It can only be said that too short a distillation gives oil of low specific gravity ; whereas too high steam pressure or to long distillation may yield oils that contain resins of disagreeable odor. The difficulty lies in finding the optiumum and the proper point at which distillation should be stopped. The extreme limitations of distillation vary within 6-24 hours....
The bulk of patchouli oil is produced by smallholders and the crude oil sold to larger operators for cleaning and refining. Many small producers use direct-fire stills with leaves kept above the water level by a grill and a second grill may be used to keep layers of the leaves separate. ...A charge is normally 75-100 kilos of dried leaves which may be moistened with water during filling. In these still distillation time is generally 6-8 hours but up to 24 hours depending on the skill of the operator, since the most desirable oil fractions distill over last. Oil yield averages 1.5%-2.5% and is directly influenced by the amount of non leafy material included in the charge, depth of charge or amount of heat used to boil water or steam temperature...."-- E.A Weiss-Essential Oil Crops
Distillation Techniques for Patchouli
Harvesting, Cutting and Drying
Colors of Patchouli Oil
Manual on Patchouli Oil Production