Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. It is not to be used as a prescriptive tool. Colvin Curiosity
does not recommend the ingestion of essential oils nor using essential oils topically without dilution. For inquiries
corresponding to the medicinal usage of herbs or essential oils, contact a doctor and/or aromatherapist.
Not your typical mint
Pogostemon cablin Benth, or patchouli, is an herb that grows in the tropical regions of Asia. While native to India and China, it is cultivated all over the world. One may not expect an herb with such an earthy, herbaceous aroma to belong to the mint family, but they are biologically related. Patchouli’s name comes from the dialect of Singapore and Sri Lanka: Tamil. “Patchai,” meaning “green,” is combined with “ellai,” meaning “leaf.”
Uses before the hippies
Much of its fame today comes from its popularity during the hippie movement, when some people would use it to cover up the smell of another famous herb. However, it was made famous about 2000 years earlier when traders used it along the Silk Road. It was common practice to use it as an insect repellant, so silk traders would pack patchouli leaves with the silk to keep moths from getting into it. The leaves’ odor would keep the moths from mating on it and also keep them from laying eggs in the silk. This practice imbued the silk with a characteristic smell which acted as a marker for its authenticity.
While useful for insect repellant, it can aid in healing insect bites as well. Its antiseptic properties have made it useful for treating wounds while its cell rejuvenation helps form healthy scars. Some skin irritations could be remedied by patchouli, including dandruff, dermatitis, acne, and eczema. Its moisturizing capability can also help with dry skin, while its astringency aids with oily skin. Certain fungal infections could be alleviated with patchouli. It has been shown that patchouli oil is effective against numerous viruses, fungi, and microbes including Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pyogenes, Escherichia coli, anti-influenza A (H2N2), and Aspergillus niger (black mold).
Patchouli has many properties, including:
- Insect repellant
Patchouli has about 39% patchoulol, 20% alpha-bulnesene, 12% alpha-guaiene, 8% seychellene, 5% alpha-patchoulene, among other chemicals. Patchoulol and alpha-bulnesene are discussed due to lack of information on the other primary constituents.
Patchouli alcohol (Patchoulol)
Patchoulol is a sesquiterpene alcohol partly responsible for patchouli’s scent. It is used in the synthesis of the chemotherapy drug Taxol. It has been shown to be an effective termite repellant and exterminator.
alpha-bulnesene has been shown in rabbits to have an inhibitory effect on platelet-activating factor (PAF) and arachidonic acid (AA). Since PAF is involved with mediating white blood cell actions, blood platelets clumping and separating, inflammation and allergic reactions (anaphylaxis), alpha-bulnesene could be used to inhibit allergic reactions. AA is involved with cellular signaling, inflammatory mediation, and vasodilation, giving further support to alpha-bulnesene’s possible anti-inflammatory activity.