Originally from tropical Asia, mostly Indonesia and the Philippines. Still cultivated in these countries as well as India, China, Malaysia and South America.
The essential oil is obtained by steam distillation of the dried and fermented leaves of the plant.
Patchouli is a bushy herb which belongs to the mint family. It grows up to 3 feet high and produces small, pinky-white flowers. The plant is ready for harvest about 5 months after planting and then every 3-4 months subsequently. Each plantation lasts around 3 years in total. The leaves are allowed to mature until they become pale green to light brown and emit the instantly recognisable patchouli odour. The leaves are then laid out in the shade and turned regularly to ensure they are thoroughly dried.
Antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiphlogistic, antiseptic, antitoxic, antiviral, aphrodisiac, astringent, bactericidal, carminative, deodorant, digestive, diuretic, febrifuge, fungicidal, prophylactic, nervous stimulant, stomachic and tonic.
Patchouli is fairly unusual among essential oils in that it improves with age. It should be used in small amounts. In aromatherapy massage blends it's used on scars, chapped skin and to encourage cell growth. It's also used to relieve stress and related conditions, anxiety and to stimulate the digestive system.
In a cream or lotion Patchouli is often used against fungal infections such as athlete's foot. It is also used to fight skin infections, regenerate the skin, speed up healing while lessening the chances of unatractive scars appearing and also to treat acne, eczema, ulcers and scalp disorders.
When burned or vaporised Patchouli is regarded as a good stress reliever and is used to relieve lethargy and anxiety. You may also find that it helps to create a romantic atmosphere and it's also a good insect repellent.
Organic version also available.
You may find that Patchouli blends especially well with bergamot, clary sage, geranium, lavender and myrrh.