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"Libraries: The medicine chest of the soul."
Library at Thebes, inscription over the door
Patchouli has traditionally been used in the East for both medicinal and aromatic purposes; it enjoyed a revival in the “hippie” era of the 1960's and today is used in aromatherapy for a number of problems.
Patchouli in Asian Medicine
Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin) is a native of Malaysia but it has been used traditionally by a number of Asian countries; patchouli was used to scent clothes and laundry, in the belief it would help prevent disease. It has also been used in the treatment of nausea, headaches, colds, abdominal pain and diarrhea. In traditional Chinese Medicine, the dried leaves and stems of Patchouli are used to normalize the flow and balance of 'chi'.
Patchouli has been used to treat poisonous snake bites in Malaysia and Japan. Today, Patchouli is cultivated in Malaysia as well as China, India, the West Indies and South America; the United States and Europe distill its dried leaves to make the essential oil. The leaves are often fermented to weaken the leaf cell walls to produce a better yield.
Patchouli in Perfumery
Patchouli is a 'heavy' oil and is described as a base note oil in aromatherapy; patchouli has a reputation as an aphrodisiac and it is used frequently in perfume and cosmetic applications. It has a rich, earthy aroma and blends well with other 'oriental' aromatherapy oils, in addition to rose, bergamot and lavender. Patchouli oil matures with age and it is either profoundly liked or disliked by people, due to its tendency to linger.
The Introduction of Patchouli Into Europe
Patchouli was introduced to Europe in the early 1800's; the exotic aromatic oil was imported with silk shawls and Indian ink. It was then used as a fixative in exclusive perfumes and cosmetics creating the industry of patchouli farming and distillation in Asia that is still thriving today. Patchouli gained further popularity in the 1960's as incense became part of popular culture.
Uses of Patchouli Essential Oil in Aromatherapy
Patchouli is a good essential oil to use in skin care and can help with acne, dermatitis, eczema, oily skin, sores, wounds, scar tissue and wrinkles. It is also used in the treatment of depression, stress and other nervous disorders. Other uses of patchouli include use as an insect repellent, help with menopausal sweating and varicose veins. It can also be used as a masking agent for unpleasant tastes and smells.
The properties of patchouli oil include antiseptic, antiviral, astringent, digestive, bactericidal, carminative, anti-inflammatory and a tonic. The chemical element of patchoulene, present in the oil, is very similar to that of azulene found in chamomile and presents the same anti-inflammatory properties.
The properties of patchouli are versatile in that the oil is sedative at a low dose or stimulating at a higher dose.
Caddy, Rosemary 1997 Essential Oils in Color UK: Amberwood Publishing Ltd
Davis, Patricia 2005 Aromatherapy An A-Z London:Vermilion
Lawless, Julia 1995 The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils London: Element
This article was written by Sharon Falsetto and appeared in its original format on Suite101 as Patchouli Essential Oil
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