Patchouli Essential Oil Benefits
Some would say that patchouli is the most distinctively fragrant herb in the botanical kingdom. The first whiff of its rich, exotic scent never fails to become fixed forever in the olfactory memory.
Patchouli is native to Malaysia where it was used as a traditional medicine and perfume there and also in China and Japan.
Botanists in the Philippines first described patchouli in 1845. Patchouli is a bushy, 3-foot tall plant with small furry leaves and is a tropical member of the lamiaceae family.
Distant relatives include lavender, basil, marjoram, rosemary and many other herb plants associated with more temperate regions. Patchouli seems to have moved south and suffused itself in the mysterious aromas of a steamy jungle.
Today patchouli is farmed throughout tropical Asia. True patchouli has hairy stems, flowers seldom, and is propagated by cuttings. A second species, Pogostemon heyneanus, known as Java patchouli, has smooth stems and flowers reliably.
Java patchouli has an inferior aroma and may show up as an adulterant in the whole leaf form or the distilled oil. Plants available from herb nurseries labeled as Pogostemon cablin often turn out to be Pogostemon heyneanus.
Patchouli is usually grown on small forest plots by individual farmers who harvest and dry the leaves, then sell them to distilleries that buy the leaves from various farmers and combine them into one steam distillation.
Newly distilled patchouli oil has a fresh, slightly harsh aroma. As the oil ages it mellows considerably, becoming sweeter and more balsamic. Patchouli is an oil that, like fine wine, improves with age. High quality patchouli oils emit a suave, fruity, wine-like top note when uncapped.
Patchouli oil is dark yellow. The perfume industry considers the dark oil color undesirable so they usually redistill or adulterate it with cedar wood oil.
Patchouli's musty, sweet, spicy smell evokes strong emotional reactions from both men and women.
Some associate the scent with that of moist earth, while for others the sensual aroma brings back memories of the 60’s hippies. Patchouli's reputation as an aphrodisiac can be credited to its exotic fragrance and relaxing effects.
Traditionally, patchouli was used to perfume fabrics in India. In Victorian times, the English loved shawls imported from India that were permeated with the scent of patchouli as a result of being packed in patchouli leaves to ward off insects.
Patchouli has also been used as an anti-depressant and anti-inflammatory. It is considered a sedative in low doses and a stimulant in high doses, and an aid for dry, cracked skin.
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Pure Essential Oils
The term oil in "essential oils" is not truly accurate but a traditional term.
Essential oils are very volatile fragrances that easily evaporate and greatly differ in character from oils such as olive or safflower oil. Essential oils, derived from plant extracts, are complex mixtures of plant-produced chemicals. Essential lavender oil contains more than fifty plant-produced chemicals.
Pure essential oils are expensive and must be obtained from reputable sources. Adulteration of essential oils is very common since a product like rose oil yields just 0.2% essential oil.
While the finest natural French lavender oils harvested in the Haute Provence are up to 70% linalyl acetate, many lavender oils from France have higher levels of linalyl acetate. However, such oil is fortified with synthetic products and may have no traces of natural lavender. Sandalwood oil can be adulterated with diverse oils such as caster, palm and linseed.
Essential oils are remarkably free of side effects - which is reflected by their long use by humans. Some people may have allergies to oils such as cinnamon oil and juniper berry oil but we do not use these oils.
The best pheromone products consist of essential oils.
Skin Health and Essential Oils
Surprisingly, many of the traditional mood altering essential oils also have been historically used for skin care.
Patchouli has also been used as an anti-inflammatory and an aid for dry, cracked skin.
Oil of lavender has soothing effects on the skin and was used on wounds in ancient Greece and Rome and still is today.
Sandalwood has been used for skin regeneration and to treat acne, dry skin, rashes, chapped skin, eczema, itching and sensitive skin.
Ylang Ylang has been used to treat eczema, acne, oily skin, and irritation associated with insect stings or bites.
Auguste Galopin in "The Perfume of Women and the Sense of Smell in Love"
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Singer AG, A chemistry of mammalian pheromones, J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 1991; 39(4B):627-32.
Nicoli RM & Nicoli JM, Biochimie de l'Eros, Contracept Fertil Sex. 1995;23(2):137-44.
Sobel N, Prabhakaran V, Hartley CA, Desmond JE, Glover GH, Sullivan EV, & Gabrieli JD, Blind smell: brain activation induced by an undetected air-borne chemical, Brain. 1999;122( Pt 2):209-17.
Porter RH & Winberg J, Unique salience of maternal breast odors for newborn infants, Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 1999;23(3):439-49.
Winberg J & Porter RH, Olfaction and human neonatal behavior: clinical implications, Acta Paediatr 1998;87(1):6-10.
Kohl JV & Franceour RT, The Scent of Eros (Continuum Publishing) 1995. This is a very excellent book for the general public on pheromones and behavior.