Patchouli aromatherapy oil is an essential oil made from the leaves of the patchouli bush. Patchouli aromatherapy oil is an amber-colored liquid that may be used for both therapeutic and cosmetic purposes. The aroma of the oil may be described as earthy, woody and spicy. When used in the practice of aromatherapy, patchouli oil is believed to have a sedative, emotionally-calming effect.
In botanical terms, the patchouli bush is classified as Pogostemon patchouli. It grows to a height of about 3 feet (1m) and has fuzzy leaves and pale pink or purple flowers. Patchouli is native to the tropical climates of Southeast Asia, especially the Pacific islands of the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. It is also widely cultivated in Africa, South America and the Caribbean. The word “patchouli” is derived from the Tamil words “patchai,” which means green, and “ellai,” which means "leaf."
Several species of Pogostemon may be used to produce patchouli aromatherapy oil—the Pogostemon cablin variety, however, is considered to be the best quality. To produce patchouli aromatherapy oil, the leaves of the patchouli bush are harvested and then dried or fermented. The patchouli essential oil is extracted through the process of steam distillation. The oil may also be aged to enhance and intensify its aroma.
When used for therapeutic purposes, patchouli aromatherapy oil is often combined with neutral carrier oils or unscented lotions. Massage therapists use the patchouli-scented oils or lotions to massage the skin and muscles. Patchouli aromatherapy oil may also be warmed in a fragrance diffuser over a small flame to release the aroma of the patchouli into the air. Other aromatherapy techniques include the use of patchouli oil in soaps, bath oils, perfumes and incense.
Aromatherapy oils are chosen by aromatherapists according to clients’ specific conditions and symptoms. Patchouli aromatherapy oil is usually chosen for emotional and nervous disorders such as anxiety, depression and stress-related conditions. It may be used in small amounts as a stimulant, or in larger amounts as a sedative. Patchouli aromatherapy oil is also regarded as an appetite stimulant and as an aphrodisiac.
Patchouli aromatherapy oil may also be used to treat headaches and nausea. When applied to the skin, patchouli aromatherapy oil acts as an antiseptic, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory agent for the treatment of acne, eczema and fungal infections. Patchouli is generally considered non-toxic—however, it is advisable to consult with a physician before ingesting, inhaling or applying topically.