Patchouli grows best in zones 10-11. This herb does well in full to partial sun, and can grow up to 3 feet in optimum conditions (1). The shrubby plant’s small seeds are best sown in warm soil, and germination typically takes one to three weeks. Patchouli thrives when cared for, and requires daily watering. It is recommended to grow Patchouli in a pot outdoors, so that it can be easily transported indoors for the winter. Patchouli is sensitive to it’s growing conditions, and can easily sunburn if not protected by shade. Patchouli is of used as a crop in Indonesia, where it is grown as an understory in teak wood forests. There, the plant thrives in the shade, which explains its sensitivity to too much sunlight. Being a tropical perennial native to Asia, Patchouli grows well in rich, moist soils along with humid conditions. Though not commonly associated, Patchouli is a member of the mint family, and it’s genus, Pogostemon, contains between 30 to 40 species of shrubs native to tropical Asia. The name Patchouli means “green leaf (2).” The leaves are egg-shaped and can grow up to 4 inches long. Flowers of Patchouli are white, and have little fragrance.
Patchouli is most popularly used as an essential oil, which is derived from only 2 of the 40 species of the plant. The leaves are highly aromatic, and can be described as “deep and woody, spicy, almost dry and earthy (3).” Patchouli is a staple of the cosmetics industry, being produced on a global scale by countries such as China, Brazil, India, Malaysia, and the Seychelles.The stems and leaves are harvested two to three times a year, and the oil is extracted in a steam-distilling process. Patchouli blends well with other fragrances such as basil, bergamot, geranium, juniper, lavender, myrrh, neroli, sandalwood, pine and rose. The color of Patchouli oil ranges from dark-yellow and orange with a dark-green tint, to dark-brown, and is one of only a few oils that improves with age(4)(7). The herb has been used as a beauty product for thousands of years, and the oil is commonly used in soaps, lotion, and perfumes.
Culinary and Medicinal Uses
The effects of Patchouli have historically been gained through use of the oil, consumption of tea, and smoking. Patchouli is said to be both a stimulant and antidepressant, and can be used to induce relaxation. Patchouli is widely known for its strong antidepressant powers, and the oil works well for people experiencing depression and associated feelings of sadness. Beyond it’s support of the nervous system, Patchouli has long been used for its healing effect on skin, and can help with acne, eczema, inflammation, as well as cracked, dry, and irritated skin (8).Patchouli has a wide range of medicinal powers, and is used in Asian countries to heal snakebites. Traditional Chinese Medicine considers Patchouli an aid in healing headaches, colds, nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal troubles (5).
Significance to Cultural Communities
Patchouli is native to Southeast Asia, and has historically been used as a Traditional Medicine in China, Malaysia, and Japan. One of its many uses was as a moth repellant in the 19th century, and its smell became associated with clothing exported from India. Patchouli was introduced to Europeans when products like India Ink and silks were exported from India to Europe. The scent became an indication of genuine ‘Oriental’ products, and French and English merchants began to add the scent of Patchouli to their garments in order to be received by consumers (6). In Indian cultures, when used in combination with Holy Basil, or Tulsi, the two are said to enhance dreams and improve meditation. Patchouli is a common ingredient in Indian incenses, as well.
(1)"Pogostemon Heyneanus Patchouli." Pogostemon Heyneanus Patchouli. Web. 09 Sept. 2014. <https://www.mountainvalleygrowers.com/pogheyneanus.htm>.
(2)"Patchouli, True (Pogostemon Cablin), Packet of 10 Seeds, Organic."Patchouli, True (Pogostemon Cablin), Packet of 10 Seeds, Organic. Web. 09 Sept. 2014. <https://www.horizonherbs.com/product.asp?specific=2723>.
(3)"Plant Profile: Patchouli Herb." Mother Earth Living. Web. 09 Sept. 2014. <http://www.motherearthliving.com/gardening/plant-profile/patchouli-herb-zmaz91djzgoe.aspx#axzz3CTfRLiLo>.
(4)Essential Oil of Patchouli. American College of Healthcare Sciences. Web. <http://files.achs.edu/mediabank/files/achs_patchouli_monograph.pdf>
(5)"Pogostemon Cablin - Patchouli." Entheologycom RSS. Web. 09 Sept. 2014. <http://entheology.com/plants/pogostemon-cablin-patchouli/>.
(6)"Patchouli's History and Use." Patchouli's History and Use. Web. 09 Sept. 2014. <http://www.incensewarehouse.com/Patchoulis-History-and-Use_ep_25-1.html>.
(7)"Aura Cacia Patchouli Essential Oil." Aura Cacia Patchouli Essential Oil. Web. 09 Sept. 2014. <https://www.auracacia.com/auracacia/aclearn/eo_patchouli.html>.
(8)"About Patchouli Oil." About Patchouli Essential Oil. Web. 09 Sept. 2014. <http://www.edenbotanicals.com/patchouli-essential-oil.html>.